HGS serves as lead counsel for the 133,000-acre North Ranch Master Plan in Osceola County.
Hopping Green & Sams (HGS) attorney David Powell joined two other experts in a presentation to Florida environmental lawyers about the proposed land use plan for a major portion of Central Florida’s 250,000-acre North Ranch, owned by Farmland Reserve, Inc., doing business as Deseret Ranches of Florida, Inc.
Deseret and Osceola County’s Office of Strategic Initiatives are jointly requesting approval for the North Ranch Master Plan for 133,000 acres of Deseret’s North Ranch, located in Osceola County. It is believed to be the largest land use plan ever proposed in Florida and one of the largest ever proposed in the U.S.
Joining Powell in a presentation to the annual meeting of the Florida Bar’s Environmental and Land Use Law Section in Amelia Island were Mike Dennis, Ph.D., an environmental consultant with Breedlove, Dennis & Associates of Orlando; and Chris Sinclair, AICP, a transportation and land use planner with Renaissance Planning Group of Orlando. They are part of a larger team of lawyers and consultants that has worked with the landowner for years on this and other planning initiatives for the ranch.
The North Ranch Master Plan is the largest project to date to utilize Florida’s sector planning law, which was created by the Legislature as a pilot program in 1998. In 2011, the Legislature revised the statute to make it a generally available tool for landscape-scale planning for conservation, development and agricultural uses over periods of 50 years or longer.
The North Ranch Master Plan was prepared in response to Governor Scott’s Executive Order 13-319, which created the East Central Florida Corridor Task Force for the purpose of evaluating “future transportation corridors serving established and emerging economic activity centers” in Brevard, Orange and Osceola counties.
The Governor asked the task force to address a “regional connectivity gap” between Orlando International Airport and Medical City in southeastern Orange County and the high-technology job core in Melbourne and southern Brevard County. Because the North Ranch lies between these existing and emerging job cores, the Governor asked Deseret to work with local governments to create a master plan for the ranch that would address regional transportation issues within a larger context of long-term conservation, development and agricultural uses.
The task force began work earlier this year and is expected to file its final report by December 1, 2014.
The plan will expand Osceola’s Urban Growth Boundary to include the 133,000-acre planning area and designate it as a mixed use district under the county’s comprehensive plan. The plan identifies 46% of the planning area for long-term conservation and agricultural uses with protection through conservation easements and restrictive covenants. Another 15% percent is planned for greenways and trails, parks and open space. The remaining 39% is net acreage for urban development and transportation rights-of-way. The plan is based on a projected population of 490,000 at 2080.
The North Ranch Master Plan uses Osceola’s seven mixed-use place types to create 16 centers linked by a multimodal transportation system. The centers will have an overall residential density of 5 units / acre. Major centers are planned for densities of at least 12 units / acre in order to facilitate transit as an alternative to private motor vehicles. The plan sets aside a minimum 320 acres in the central business district for a new higher-education campus next to a planned research park.
When implemented, major transportation components of the North Ranch Master Plan will significantly reduce travel times between existing and emerging job cores west of the ranch in Orange and Osceola and those east of the ranch in Melbourne and southern Brevard. Economic development professionals say reduced travel times will help to grow these job cores by facilitating interaction among companies, researchers, employees and suppliers.
The landowner has stated that it will work with Orange County to prepare a similar master plan for the 72,000 acres of the North Ranch located in Orange, if Orange County officials decide they want to do so. The landowner expects the 20,000 acres of the North Ranch located in Brevard County—which are among the most productive grazing lands on the ranch—to remain in long-term agricultural use.