News / Events

Counties team up on land's future

BY RICK NEALE

October 16, 2008

Brevard County commissioners appear poised to help draft a long-term strategy for the property -- perhaps looking 50 years ahead -- with their Volusia counterparts and the Chicago-based family trust.

The Miami Corp. tract could spawn massive, sprawling housing and commercial development.

But Glenn Storch, the company's Daytona Beach lawyer, said his board of directors blanched at the notion of simply converting its land into unregulated 5-, 10-, 20- or 25-acre "ranchette" subdivisions.

"I think they would like to see some sort of legacy, as opposed to thousands of ranchettes. At some point, there's going to be a decision made," Storch said.

On paper, Brevard County Commissioner Truman Scarborough said the Miami Corp. holdings are expansive enough to build three Vieras. He said he supports an orchestrated Brevard-Volusia planning campaign.

"What happens across the border matters tremendously. And we've seen this with the conflicts with our cities in Brevard County," he said.

During Tuesday's Brevard County Commission meeting, Volusia County Councilman Jack Hayman publicly asked his neighboring counterparts to "join hands" on a growth-management strategy for the sprawling property northwest of Mims.

"It's time for Brevard County, Volusia County and the Miami land corporation to sit down at the table, and to begin the dialogue and begin the process that will produce some sort of joint planning agreement," Hayman said.

Miami Corp. has offered to pay for a third-party architectural and engineering firm to work with Brevard and Volusia planners, said Hayman, a former Edgewater mayor, whose district borders Brevard.

Brevard commissioners were receptive to the overture.

By a unanimous 4-0 vote, they decided to draft a formal memorandum of understanding to proceed. Commissioner Helen Voltz was absent Tuesday.

An Oct. 28 vote appears likely.

Interviewed Wednesday, Storch said: "The tree-farming business has been going downhill for the last decade."

That's because of distant sawmills, rising gasoline prices and North American Free Trade Agreement regulations, he said.

"This is probably the last generation of tree farming," Storch said.

Hayman called the Miami Corp. proposition an exciting opportunity -- but significant issues and obstacles remain unresolved, particularly:

  • Water supply
  • Roads and traffic
  • Utilities
  • Growth management

"We know that we have a tough row to hoe," Hayman said, referring to future scrutiny from the Florida Department of Community Affairs. "We're running out of water. We're running out of transportation partners. We're running out of money to do the infrastructure that we need to do."

The city of Titusville racked up at least $3 million in legal bills the past seven years fighting Miami Corp. for the right to install six water wells on company property. A proposed settlement remains under review, Titusville City Attorney Dwight Severs said.

November 2010 looms as a potential planning deadline, Storch said.

That's when the Hometown Democracy constitutional amendment may appear on the ballot. This initiative would require voter approval of future land-use changes -- which could doom Miami Corp.'s development prospects.

 


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