Landowner wants to remove and sell 1.3 million cubic yards of soil
To satisfy a growing local need for dirt, the Volusia County Council has approved the digging and removal of large quantities of soil in Osteen.
The big dig will be the last borrow pits approved under a now-defunct county ordinance.
The property owner’s attorney, Glenn Storch, told the County Council there will be no adverse effects on the land, the environment and wildlife from three borrow pits the County Council approved.
“This does create habitat,” he said, explaining that the excavations will create about 61 acres of lakes. “There is not a single wetlands impact on this site.”
Storch noted there is a growing need for dirt locally.
“In Volusia County, we are running out of fill material. You’re bringing fill material on our roads from Lake County, Flagler County,” he said.
On Jan. 18, the County Council voted 5-2 to permit the three pits on Susan Toni McCaskill’s 189 acres of farmland, with several conditions, including a requirement for the reclamation of the site.
The property is east of State Road 415 and south of Black Lake Road. Both the excavation and the reclamation must be completed within five years of the start of the actual digging.
The landowner must also provide a minimum separation of 150 feet between the edge of each excavation and any wetlands on the property.
McCaskill’s application for a special exception in zoning for the borrow pits was filed with county planners before the council enacted a more stringent ordinance on so-called nonexempt excavation. A nonexempt excavation is a removal of dirt for movement elsewhere, such as to raise or firm up a building site.
The county’s new excavation ordinance, passed on second and final reading Dec. 14, now requires a minimum separation of 250 feet between the edge of a borrow pit and wetlands.
McCaskill submitted her application for a special exception for the planned borrow pits on her property while the former ordinance was in effect, and therefore her request was processed under the former standards.
The county planning staff’s report on the landowner’s request for a special exception notes, “The properties proposed for the excavation are undeveloped and include freshwater forested, shrub, and wet prairie wetlands, including cypress and bay heads. There are unpaved vehicular trails throughout.
“According to the county’s Geographic Information System, the parcels are not located within a floodplain or within a wellhead protection zone. They are subject to environmental review since they are situated in the county’s Natural Resource Management Area and have an ECO [Environmental Core Overlay] Overlay.”
County Chair Jeff Brower raised concerns about the volume of soil to be mined.
“You’re pulling out of the ground 1,270,813 cubic yards,” he said. “I cannot understand you can pull out that much material and not have an effect on wetlands.”
Warning there may be “unintended consequences,” Brower recalled what happened once near his land in DeLeon Springs.
“About 30 years ago, someone dug a pit, and my well went dry, and I’m pumping up sand,” he said.
“If there are unintended consequences,” attorney Storch promised, “we stop.”
The council approved the special exception for the excavations on a 5-2 vote. Brower and Council Member Heather Post voted no.
The approval of the special exception for the digging comes with several conditions, including:
— A 50-foot landscape buffer
— Approval by the City of Deltona for access to the property within the uninvolved area of the county
— A five-year life span for the excavations and reclamation to be completed
— Work on the site may be done only between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday; no work on Saturdays, Sundays or federal holidays
— The applicant must provide water-quality samples and additional water-quality monitoring at the county’s request, to be tested by a third party of the county’s choosing.