News / Events
Volusia OKs massive Miami Corp plan
BY DINAH VOYLES PULVER, ENVIRONMENT WRITER
October 16, 2009
A plan for future development of a new town on 59,000 acres between Osteen and Edgewater won its first approvals from the Volusia County Council on Thursday.
The council voted 6-1 to forward the request to change the county's land use plans to the state Department of Community Affairs for review.
The plan covers a 92-square mile area in Volusia and Brevard counties owned by the Miami Corp., a Chicago-based family land trust. If adopted next year, it will eventually put more than 40,000 acres of land into permanent conservation and wildlife corridors. It also includes plans for 29,600 homes and more than 4 million square feet of office, retail and possibly light industrial space.
Council member Andy Kelly cast the sole no vote.
"This is almost a great plan," Kelly said. "I just can't go to that density level. It just doesn't seem fair."
County Chair Frank Bruno said the plan is a perfect example of the smart growth principles the county and region has been talking about.
"We should have been doing this many, many years ago where we can cluster and preserve green space and protect the wildlife," Bruno said.
The landowner's representatives wrangled over details in the proposal with county staff for more than 10 months, changing the proposal dramatically in the process, said Greg Stubbs, director of the county's growth and resource management department.
After state officials review the plan, Stubbs said, it will undergo many more changes before it comes back to the council for final adoption sometime early next year.
The opportunity to put so many acres into preservation without buying it or managing it is a "win-win," Stubbs said. It provides "wildlife corridor connectivity though the entire central core of the county."
The project does not require any financial investment by the county because the developers would be required to build and pay for the network of roads and sewers to serve the development, Stubbs said. Each proposed phase of future development would undergo the full county and regional review process.
The plan calls for conservation-oriented development that ties job creation to home construction, requires water and energy conservation and environmentally friendly building practices.
Twenty-one speakers addressed the council, with 12 speaking in favor and nine asking for a no vote.
Among supporters were representatives of local and state Audubon groups and several local farming families, including Lisa Ford Williams of DeLand.
"Twenty years from now you all will look like heroes," Williams said.
Also speaking in favor was Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida.
"In the 37 years I've been doing this I've not encountered a process that has in a single sweeping tone incorporated all of the right things in the way this one has," Lee said.
Opponents voiced concerns about the size and scope of the development, putting homes in the midst of what is now a vast wooded area, and further increasing water use.
The county already is "running out of water," said speaker James Virene.
"Dropping 23,000 new residences into our heartland of this county is going to further the degradation of our aquifer," Virene said. "We're going to be rushing headlong faster and farther toward dry wells and saltwater intrusion."
Sierra Club member Elizabeth Camarotta of DeLand compared the company's request to setting a liquor store down in the middle of a residential area.
"You're arguing it's ridiculous," Camarotta said. "What Miami Corp. is asking is ridiculous, too."
Councilwoman Pat Northey said her affirmative vote was a "hard yes."
But, in the end, the planned conservation of more than 40,000 acres proved a key issue for Northey, who has long advocated land conservation and recreational trails.
"My grandbaby will continue to be able to go out there and enjoy the rural heart of this county," she said.
Northey, Kelly and Jack Hayman said they hope to address other areas of concern to them before the plan comes back to the council for a final vote early next year.
Now that the Volusia County Council has approved the Miami Corp.'s request to amend the county's long-term land use plans, what's next?
- The proposed amendment will be forwarded to the Florida Department of Community Affairs, which has 60 days to respond to the county with an Objections, Recommendations and Comments Report. The department already has received the documents from Brevard County.
- Once the county receives the report, it has 60 days to decide whether to adopt the amendment, adopt the amendment with the department's proposed changes or reject the amendment.
- Should the county decide to adopt without making the department's suggested changes, the county and the state could wind up in mediation talks or before a state administrative hearing judge.