Ormond Beach, Hunter's Ridge developer and Flagler County work toward a lawsuit resolution

The lawsuit was filed last year after the Ormond Beach City Commission found the developer to be in noncompliance with the 1991 Hunter’s Ridge Development of Regional Impact.

The Hunter's Ridge Development of Regional Impact dates back to the 1990s. About 1,100 homes have been built so far. Photo by Jarleene Almenas
The Hunter's Ridge Development of Regional Impact dates back to the 1990s. About 1,100 homes have been built so far. Photo by Jarleene Almenas
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The city of Ormond Beach, Flagler County and the developer of Hunter's Ridge are steps away from reaching a resolution in a lawsuit involving conservation lands and a road easement west of I-95.

The Ormond Beach City Commission, the Flagler County Board of Commissioners and the developer, U.S. Capital Alliance, all met on Thursday, May 16, to discuss a three-pronged approach to settling the lawsuit filed between the parties on Oct. 27, 2023. The lawsuit was filed after the commission found the developer to be in noncompliance with the 1991 Hunter’s Ridge Development of Regional Impact. This was due to the fact the developer has yet to grant almost 300 acres of conservation lands to the city and because it issued Flagler County a 60-foot wide road easement for a logging road, known as the 40 Grade, in 2017.

After the lawsuit was filed, Flagler County invoked the Governmental Dispute Resolution Act, requiring a conflict assessment meeting — or mediation — between the governing bodies, alongside the National Audubon Society and the St. Johns River Water Management District. 

"I do feel like we can work this out without litigating," Flagler County attorney Sean Moylan said.

Moyland and attorney Cliff Shepard, who is representing Ormond Beach, proposed an agreement that would involve Flagler County deeding the road easement back to the city so that the developer can then convey the conservation parcel to the city, as required by the DRI. Once that is completed, then the city will convey to Flagler County an easement to access the 40 Grade for logging purposes. The easement would still span 60 feet wide to allow Flagler County to maintain the swales and keep the road functioning. 

Shepard and Moylan also sought feedback from the commission on whether Flagler County should be allowed to shell the road as needed; the City Commission agreed. As part of the new easement to be granted to Flagler will be a provision that county staff give the city a heads up when they intend to use the 40 Grade, which spans one-third of a mile.

"The words that have been used by us ... is not permission, but coordination," Shepard said. "And it's because, again, I cannot underscore this part enough from my client's view — it's our sovereign land, not yours." 

This would also allow the city, Shepard added, to ensure that anything Flagler County is doing won't conflict with any operations the city has on deck in that area. 

The city also previously claimed that the developer failed to prepare a hydroperiod restoration plan for the conservation lands. The developer has always argued this was done as dictated in the DRI. Shepard said that there was no evidence it was completed, but that St. Johns River Water Management District believed it was completed and no proof provided. The district is "OK" with it, Shepard said, so the city won't pursue the matter further.

Kim Booker, the attorney representing the developer, argued that the city has received reports on the DRI since 1991, and one of the reports indicated that the work was completed and that SJRWMD had a permit for it. 

"The only issue was they could not find an as-built survey that was done back in that time, which we have ordered, so that we can present it to St Johns and close it out, because the weir and all the work is there on the ground and St. Johns has inspected it," Booker said.

Booker also sought confirmation that the developer would retain rights to access to the conservation area for management responsibilities. 

The developer, Shepard said, is also agreeable to dropping his compensation claim as part of the resolution for the lawsuit.

Mayor Bill Partington said he appreciated everyone coming together to seek a resolution. 

"Obviously, 34 years ago, none of us, I don't think, were here, and with new commissioners on both sides through the years, new attorneys on both sides through the years, new developers, it's just turned into a Gordian knot that really was not looking good as far as a way to unwind, but with the hard work of counsel, we've been able to make a great deal of progress," Partington said. 

The Ormond Beach mayor hopes it will be an agreement that "will stand the test of time."

It won't be the last time the city and Flagler County will need to work together on an issue due to their common boundary, said Flagler County Commission Chair Andy Dance.

"None of us will be here for eternity — it's going to pass on to different people, and we just want to make sure something can live in perpetuity," Dance said.


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