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State objects to proposed city in Volusia and Brevard


November 30, 2009

A proposed city in the woods, with 20,000 or more homes on remote timberland west of Interstate 95, would create sprawl in vital bear habitat and would bring unneeded development, state officials said after reviewing the project.

The state Department of Community Affairs, which reviews proposed changes to local growth plans, had several major objections and recommended that Brevard County reject the development proposal from the Miami Corp., one of the biggest landowners in Central Florida.

The company, which owns 94 square miles of land in Volusia and Brevard counties, has offered to preserve 75 percent of the property, more than 40,000 acres, but wants the right to intensely develop the rest. The town center and clustered communities could compose a city the size of Ocala.

The proposed city called Farmton already passed its first hurdles at the local level. Brevard and Volusia officials voted to change their comprehensive plans to include the project before sending it for state review.

The state's objection could lead to a standoff in court if the counties don't change course.

Though a review of Volusia's portion of Farmton hasn't been completed yet, the state's review of the Brevard section recommends that the project be rejected. State officials said the review of the Volusia section is expected about Dec. 24.

State officials found that for the Brevard portion, the new city has the earmarks of sprawl and isn't needed, based on the latest population projections for Brevard County. State officials also found that the scale of the development wouldn't be appropriate for the critical Florida black bear habitat, as well as vital to other protected species.

Also, more than a third of the property is within the 100-year floodplain, and the overall plan is too vague about how or when all the major infrastructure, namely roads and utilities, would be built to support the new development.

"The size of the development area…and its configuration reflect a pattern that threatens natural resources, and represents sprawl and inefficiency," the state report said.

Glenn Storch, the attorney for the Miami Corp., said he was surprised by the state's report, especially because state officials didn't have major questions about it during a recent presentation.

"We can certainly clarify the questions, but I'm surprised that their main recommendation was to not adopt it," Storch said. "We're trying to resolve so many issues — preserving vast areas for free, clustering the development, providing mixed use of residential and commercial to avoid sprawl."

Brevard County officials have three months to decide whether to change the proposal or to adopt it as is. If county officials approve the project without changes, that could trigger an administrative dispute with the state, which would have to be resolved before an administrative law judge.

For example, state officials objected to the Restoration development in Edgewater, a proposal which could bring 8,500 homes to a 5,000-acre site in a small city in southeast Volusia County. Edgewater officials approved the plan in February against state recommendations, and the case is still pending before an administrative law judge.

Ludmilla Lelis can be reached at or 386-253-0964.

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