Edgewater is moving closer to becoming the gateway to one of the largest single pieces of real estate in Florida.
After nearly a decade of facing court challenges and clearing monumental regulatory hurdles, the northern gateway to the 94-square-mile Farmton property is ready for development.
“It took more than seven years,” said Farmton LLC attorney Glenn Storch. “It seemed to take forever.”
And that was just to get the legal right to develop and conserve Farmton’s 59,000 acres as a single project instead of selling the land off for 3,700 individual “ranchettes” as advocated by critics in an unsuccessful court challenge.
Addressing state, county and city regulators and government officials attending a “pre-application” for development conference Jan. 26 at Edgewater City Hall, Mr. Storch praised supporters of Farmton’s efforts to conserve the majority of the land for posterity.
In partnership with Volusia and Brevard counties, Miami Corp., which owns and manages the land, created the Farmton Local Plan, described as an innovative 50-year vision for the future to place nearly 80 percent of its 44,000 acres into conservation, including a critical regional wildlife corridor and environmentally significant habitat, according to Mr. Storch.
Initially, the Miami Corp. balked at efforts by critics to limit the development of the massive property to unregulated 5, 10, 20 or 25-acre "ranchette" subdivisions.
A years-long court challenge ended in Miami Corp.’s favor.
“If the property had been divided into ranchettes, it would have been fragmented forever,” Mr. Storch told those attending the Edgewater conference. “We were concerned with that possibility and Miami Corp., acted to do the hard thing and preserve the undeveloped property for the future.”
The Farmton plan has been recognized nationally as a model for large-scale and long-range planning efforts, by protecting the environment by preserving natural habitat while creating a sustainable community that provides residential areas, commercial space, jobs and recreation.
Most of the Farmton acreage available for development can’t be touched until 2026, Mr. Storch pointed out.
However, limited areas that have been eligible for development since 2017, including 880 acres in Edgewater west of Interstate 95 and south of the Indian River Boulevard Extension.
On that property, Farmton plans to construct Deering Park Center, an environment-friendly, master-planned community, which will serve as the northern gateway to the company’s vast property holdings that extend south to Maytown Road in Volusia County and beyond into northern Brevard County.
Although Deering Park Center is permitted for up to 4,692 dwelling units, Mr. Storch said only about 600 will be built in the first stage, with 820,000 square feet set aside for nonresidential use, such as shopping centers, public facilities and a school. The planned development property has already been annexed into Edgewater.
Because of the number of agencies and governments involved in planning and implementing the nitty-gritty details of turning the Deering Park Center property into a showcase development, the Edgewater conference was conducted to update regulatory officials how plans for the property would be implemented.
The keywords stressed at the meeting were “incrementally” and "segmented." Development will occur as needed, in phases, but not on any particular timetable.
Attending the conference were Edgewater and Volusia County officials, school board representatives, engineering firms, environmental service engineers and officials, regional planning agencies, and state and Brevard County representatives.
“By the large number of you represented here today, you can tell how important the Farmton project is to so many people and governments across the area,” Mr. Storch said. “We are working together to make this important project possible.”
Critical to providing access to the Farmton gateway property will be a 3,000-foot extension of Indian River Boulevard west of I-95. Construction of the four-lane road by the City of Edgewater would open access to Farmton and other properties and stimulate development in the area.
City officials said the project is scheduled for construction bidding.
Eventually, a major four-lane road will be necessary to move traffic south to the Maytown Road.
While planning an I-95/Maytown Road interchange has been ongoing for about a decade, Mr. Storch told the Edgewater City Council it could be another 10 years before that construction begins.
Mr. Storch said Miami Corp. has agreed to pay for the interchange.
Also in the long-term planning stages is a multi-lane widening of Maytown Road from I-95 to Osteen, turning the route into, what one report called, a “scenic conservation" parkway.