News / Events

Farmton Plan inches forward

By Joe Crews, for Hometown News

June 15, 2012

DELAND - It was another piece added to the puzzle last week as local officials continue to forge a plan to manage conservation areas that will be set aside when Miami Corp.'s massive tree farm in southeast Volusia County is developed.

At a meeting last week to discuss public access to part of the Miami Corp. property, a 12-member Farmton Local Plan Task Force, comprised of local and statewide environmental experts, unanimously approved a six-part proposal to open up a portion of the Miami Corp. property for public hiking/equestrian trails and canoe/kayak launches on Deep Creek.

The proposal will be just one of a number of recommendations the task force will present to the Volusia County Council later this year, said Stephen Kintner, the task force chairman.

Randel Sleister, Volusia County's Land Management supervisor, said none of the proposed trails would be paved, nor would any roads be paved to any parking areas at launch sites for canoes or kayaks on Deep Creek, which flows south to Lake Harney.

"We tried to use existing logging roads to avoid cutting new paths, although we might have to work around existing features on the ground," Mr. Sleister said of the proposed trails.

The public access recommendations include:

.Trails and/or canoe launches should be built within two years;

.There should be two trailheads on a separate, paved cross-county trail that will be built in a former railroad corridor just south of Osteen Maytown Road;

.A 3.1-mile trail should loop south from the regional cross-county trail and back;

.Two more trails, one 4.6 miles long and the other 5.4 miles, should link the cross-county trail with an abandoned railroad corridor owned by the Florida Department of Transportation that forms the southern boundary of the Farmton property just north of Lake Harney;

.Another trail should extend north from the cross-county trail to conservation areas on the north end of the Farmton property.

The Farmton Local Plan should ensure conservation efforts in Farmton have "connectivity" with adjacent conservation lands.

However, Glenn Storch, Miami Corp.'s local attorney, said the area between Osteen Maytown Road and Lake Harney originally had the highest amount of environmental protection, and the public access plans weren't compatible.

"It's the most pristine section of Farmton and it's also black bear habitat and contains part of Farmton's mitigation bank," Mr. Storch said. "The whole purpose of 'giving away' this area was to maintain it as-is in perpetuity."

Logging trucks and hunters also use the area, he said, which could open Miami Corp. to liability issues.

But task force member Vickie Larson said any roads to parking areas at the canoe/kayak launch sites could be closed while logging activity or hunting are underway.

Three potential parking lots and launch sites were selected by county staff, but the task force didn't choose which, if any, should be built.

The task force was appointed by the Volusia County Council last July to oversee the creation of a management plan for conservation areas within the Miami Corp. property.

In addition to Mr. Kintner, a retired environmental manager for Volusia County, and Ms. Larson, a biological consultant from Brevard County, the panel includes Alan Alshouse, a DeLand resident who works with an environmental and engineering consulting firm and is the panel's vice-chairman; Mike Kuypers, chief of the Florida Forest Service district that includes Volusia and Flagler counties; and Mike Brown, a property manager for Miami Corp.'s Farmton Tree Farm.

Also on the task force are Pierce Jones, director of the University of Florida's Program for Resource Efficient Communities; Preston Robertson, vice president and general counsel for the Florida Wildlife Federation; George Tanner, a retired UF professor who serves on the board for Babcock Ranch; Adele Mills, an employee of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; and Mark Asleson, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Also serving are Robert Christianson, director of operations and land resources for the St. Johns County Water Management District; and Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida. The water district and Audubon, jointly with Volusia County, are expected to hold the conservation easements once the Farmton Local Plan is approved by the County Council.

Farmton Facts

The Farmton Tree Farm totals 92 square miles, or 59,000 acres, in southeast Volusia County and northwest Brevard County. About 49,000 acres are in Volusia, the rest are in Brevard.

The property has been owned since the 1920s by Miami Corp., a Chicago-based family trust overseeing the long-term investments of the Deering family of philanthropists, who donate thousands to charities every year.

The Farmton land has been used primarily to grow timber products, but there is also a wetlands mitigation bank and a hunt club has leased part of it.

Before Miami Corp. proposed developing Farmton, the Volusia County portion was zoned forestry, agriculture and environmental systems corridor, which would have allowed for up to 2,236 "ranchettes" of 5 to 25 acres apiece.

The Farmton Local Plan, which regulates development on the Volusia County portion, allows Miami Corp. to build 23,000 homes and 4.1 million square feet of commercial space.

Eventual development would be limited to 19,000 acres, with the remaining 40,000 acres reserved for conservation.

The plan includes a moratorium on building in a Gateway portion near Edgewater until 2016. No development between Edgewater and Osteen will be permitted before 2026.

The Farmton Local Plan is expected to be finalized by the end of this year.