In Government, Litigation, News & Updates, Property

On January 24, 2012, Administrative Law Judge David Maloney issued a recommended order finding the Farmton Local Plan (FLP) incorporated into the Volusia County Comprehensive Plan as “in compliance” with the Community Planning Act.

Farmton encompasses 59,000 acres west of Interstate 95 in northern Brevard and central Volusia counties. Plans call for 23,000 homes and more than 4 million square feet of commercial space to be built over the next 50 years on a remote tree farm. More than 75 percent of the land will be permanently conserved, with development concentrated in several clusters.

Edgewater resident Barbara Herrin, the Sierra Club of Florida and the Edgewater Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development had challengedVolusiaCounty’s approval of the FLP by Miami Corp., which owns the Farmton tract.

Volusia Countyinitially approved the proposed development plan over objections by environmentalists in 2010. State planners with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), under Gov. Charlie Crist’s administration, rejected the plans as sprawl and challenged the plan as “not in compliance” with state law by filing a petition for formal administrative proceedings with the Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).

Pursuant to a settlement agreement among the parties that sought the placement of the case in abeyance, the County adopted remedial plan amendments to meet the compliance concerns initially raised by the State.

However, under Gov. Rick Scott, state planners with the newly created Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) approved the remedial plan and found it to be “in compliance” with state law.

In 2011, the Florida Legislature substantially overhauled the state’s growth management laws with the enactment of Chapter 2011-139, Laws of Florida, which redesignated the “Local Government Comprehensive Planning and Land Development Regulation Act” as the “Community Planning Act”.

This reflects the shift from State oversight to local government control of the planning and growth management process. The State’s new role is to focus on protecting the functions of important state resources and facilities.

In challenges filed by an affected person, the comprehensive plan or plan amendment must be determined to be in compliance if the local government’s determination of compliance is fairly debatable.

Judge Maloney determined the new law applied to the proceedings both procedurally and substantively.

The environmental groups argued the FLP represents the very essence of sprawl, but in one of the key findings Judge Maloney ruled the Petitioners failed to prove “beyond fair debate” that the FLP fails to discourage the proliferation of urban sprawl based upon the new definition and factors set forth within the new law.

The judge’s recommended order will be forwarded to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for approval.

You can read a copy of the Recommended Order here.

Author(s): James E. White

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