News / Events

Farmton land-use plan turns the bend

Staff Editorial

April 12, 2011

With approval from the Volusia County Council, the owners of the 59,000-acre Farmton property can soon begin preparing for the new development to the southwest of Daytona Beach.

The 94 sq.-mile tract extends from State Road 442 to Titusville.

The landowner, Miami Corp., still needs to get a final determination from the state Department of Community Affairs on compliance -- a formality, at this point -- and then may need to attend a final hearing in Tallahassee with one of the opposing parties. Brevard County has given all of its approvals.

The Farmton plan, which may not begin to take shape until 2016, has been controversial.

Critics said the proposed development was too dense and not sensitive enough to wildlife and the migration routes of animals. The state triggered a hearing process that addressed these issues and many more, including the habits of bears.

In the end, a lot was accomplished for the future of Volusia and Brevard counties.

While critics said that the size of Farmton was itself a problem, Farmton's owners agreed to conserve 75 percent of the 59,000 acres. In Volusia, that means 35,700 acres will be set aside, with 11,300 acres used for development.

The planners have pledged to make Farmton a self-sustaining community, with its own utilities and employers.

Migration routes and habitat corridors for wild animals will not only be protected, but preserved in covenants. That was important to many as the Farmton land has many bears, deer and alligators.

Much of the development will occur on about 20,000 acres of higher land away from the flood plain.

Over time, Farmton may have up to 23,000 residences -- but that's over decades.

The agreement Miami Corp. struck also dissolves all existing planning for residential subdivisions in the Farmton area. And it means no more "ranchettes," the large tracts of land that allow homes to be built on 5 acres or more.

While ranchettes once sounded like a way to conserve land and force future planners to think again about developing in rural areas, the ranchettes eventually began to have a negative impact on the environment, especially wildlife.

What developers learned is that if you give homeowners such land within a confined area, they will clear it, destroying habitats for animal life. Landowners will also add barriers such as fences.

Floridafaces all-but-certain residential growth. The Sunshine State is down but not out.

New residents will come again in the numbers with which we are accustomed. Farmton provides a responsible blueprint for future growth in a large area of Volusia County.

Farmton started off years ago as a tree farm purchased by wealthy Chicagoans. It will still be used as such, and some hunting will also be continued.

The new development could add millions of dollars annually to the local economy. Farmton officials agreed to add one job for every house they build. In Volusia County, the plan is to build a maximum of 21,300 homes. Job creation cannot fall below a job-to-home ratio of 0.65, or the growth of Farmton is temporarily suspended.

To assist with job creation, Farmton officials will build 4 million square feet of space for office, commercial and other nonresidential uses.

But a lot of the land there will be used mainly by trees, plants, bears, gators and deer. That's a compromise that's good for our region.