October 21, 2021

Rural Florida

Duda's agribusiness development reach

Part 4: Profile of Viera

Jason Garcia | 8/28/2017

Issues

The Challenges

Deseret vs. Duda

The single-most expensive piece of infrastructure on the drawing board of the Central Florida Expressway Authority right now is a 30- to 35-mile toll road running from the Orlando International Airport/ Lake Nona region in south Orlando to southern Brevard County. The road, which carries a preliminary price tag of between $1.3 billion and $1.7 billion, is crucial to Deseret’s long-term plans, as the highway would serve a number of the dense urban centers in both Sunbridge and the larger North Ranch sector plan. Ranch leaders have pushed for a route that would end at I-95 just to the north of Melbourne. But A. Duda & Sons has objected because such a road could run into its own Viera development, which is much further along than any of Deseret’s plans, and dump extra traffic onto I-95. Tracy Duda Chapman, Duda’s chief legal and administrative officer, says the company doesn’t object to a new toll road, provided planners can find a way to build it without interfering with Viera. But she also notes, “Our development doesn’t need a connection” to Orlando. Erik Jacobsen, who runs Deseret Ranch, predicts a compromise will be found. “There’s been a little bit of work done on that,” he says. “But I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult to work through to figure out how to make that connection on the east side.”

The St. Johns River

Even if there’s a route that satisfies both Deseret and Duda, an Orlando- Melbourne expressway will still involve building a bridge over the St. Johns River, which slithers 310 miles north from its marshy headwaters in Indian River and Brevard counties to Jacksonville and the Atlantic Ocean. Right now, the St. Johns flows unimpeded for nearly 20 miles between U.S. 192 to the south and S.R. 520 to the north. A road and bridge would impose another wildlife barrier and consume valuable habitat for retention ponds and associated infrastructure. An environmental lawsuit seems certain. “That’s going to be a big battle,” says Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida.

The Environment

One of the biggest challenges to developing Deseret will be ensuring it doesn’t isolate wildlife or choke off larger ecosystems. Environmentalists generally agree that large-scale, long-term sector planning like Deseret Ranch has done is much better, ecologically, than piecemeal development. “But with that said,” says Audubon’s Charles Lee, “no matter how good it is compared to the rest of what’s already developed in central Florida, it still sacrifices a

Colliding Bureaucracies

A large number of governments exercise some form of growthmanagement jurisdiction on the eastern half of Orlando — three counties, two roadbuilding agencies and several municipalities among them. And they don’t always cooperate. An example: One of the first major infrastructure expansions to happen in the eastern half of Orlando will likely be an eastern extension of the East-West Expressway — the region’s busiest toll road. The Central Florida Expressway Authority was moving forward with plans to extend the road along the existing S.R. 50 corridor. Until, that is, the Florida Department of Transportation announced last year that the expressway authority couldn’t use the state-owned corridor. Now FDOT is looking at having Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise build some sort of tolled extension in the corridor — dubbing the project Colonial Parkway — while the expressway authority has begun moving forward with another possible route for its own extension that, instead of using an existing corridor, could cut across valuable conservation land.

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