News / Events

Volusia approves project


October 16, 2009

DeLAND - A potential city in the woods, with more than 20,000 homes proposed on remote timberland west of Interstate 95, passed a key hurdle Thursday.

The Volusia County Council gave its approval to Miami Corporation's plan that would open up development for its massive 94 square miles of land in Volusia and Brevard counties.

The Farmton plan, approved last month by Brevard County officials, would conserve 75 percent of the timberland, saving key wildlife corridors. However, the company wants to increase the housing density and allow commercial development, clustering villages and business districts on the rest.

With Thursday's approval, the plan moves on to the state Department of Community Affairs for review.

Based in Chicago, the Miami Corporation is run by the Deering family, heirs to the International Harvester fortune. The family has owned the land for more than 80 years, managing it as a tree farm.

It covers nearly the same area as Orlando and contains vital wildlife habitat. The proposal would preserve more than 40,000 acres. If it were bought as part of a conservation land deal, it would be the biggest such deal in Florida history, said Clay Henderson, attorney for the company. But it could eventually have more homes than Ocala has now.

Because there aren't roads, utilities or enough schools, only a "gateway district" near the intersection of I-95 and State Road 442 in Edgewater would be built within the first 15 years. The remaining development would be built only after all the infrastructure is in place.

Several speakers, including those representing some of the local environmental groups, criticized the project, saying there is no need for it, especially in the current glut of empty houses and vacant commercial space.

But the potential to save the wildlife corridors has won a few backers, including Laurilee Thompson, member of the Brevard Local Planning Agency, who spoke at the Volusia meeting.

"All the conservation lands you get is worth the gamble if the development doesn't take place," she said.

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