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Kutak Rock Attorneys Lead Single Largest Special District Bond Validation in Florida History

News | April 11, 2024

Kutak Rock attorneys Jonathan Johnson, Elizabeth Fite and Kate John, representing The Deering Park Stewardship District, led the single largest special district bond validation in Florida’s history. The team filed the complaint in the Seventh Judicial Circuit in Florida. The State was represented by the state attorneys from both the Seventh and Eighteenth circuits, as the property spanned both jurisdictions. After a hearing on January 17, 2024, the circuit court entered a final judgment authorizing the Deering Park Stewardship District to issue bonds up to the full requested amount of $23,602,603,500.

The Deering Park Stewardship District was established by the Florida Legislature in 2020 and consists of approximately 64,000 acres of land located in Volusia and Brevard Counties and the City of Edgewater, Florida. The land within the District is owned by an affiliated group with the majority of the land being held for more than 80 years.

The Deering Park Stewardship District lands include the Farmton Local Plan (FLP) area, Deering Park North PUD and Deering Park Center PUD.  The FLP evolved from years of meetings with representatives from state and local government, businesses and environmental groups, and interested citizens. The FLP takes a 50-year, vision-based approach to comprehensive planning for the natural and built landscape. The FLP is made up of two primary components, the GreenKey and the Sustainable Development Areas.  The GreenKey lands were designated through greenprinting – a process that identified the most significant ecological treasures. The GreenKey areas were vetted with The Nature Conservancy, Audubon of Florida, Volusia Forever, and Brevard Environmental and Endangered Lands. The GreenKey areas are now in permanent conservation easements, held jointly by Florida Audubon, Volusia County or Brevard County, and St. Johns River Water Management District, and reviewed annually to ensure compliance with the Conservation Management Plans. Sustainable Development Areas (SDA) will adhere to high standards for sustainability and will be planned with core values of Smart Growth, Traditional Neighborhood Design, Transit Oriented Development, walkability, green building, and water and energy conservation measures.

The Deering Park Stewardship District provides one local entity to manage and fund the conservation areas on a going forward basis, work in the Sunshine with the Counties and the City, and provide a transparent and bankable entity to ensure the fulfillment of the obligations contained in the development approvals. Over 45,000 acres have already been protected in perpetuity through a number of recorded conservation easements.

In order to begin implementing and fulfilling its role in these plans, the Deering Park Stewardship District was first required, by Florida law, to validate its proposed issuance of bonds in the circuit courts for the affected jurisdictions. In order to do so, the Kutak Rock Stewardship District team, which also included members from Bryant Miller & Olive as bond counsel, Wrathell Hunt & Associates as management and economic consultants, and the engineering firm of England-Thims & Miller., worked with the client and consulting team to develop a Capital Improvement Program for the lands within the 64,000 acre footprint which would adequately serve those lands over the expected 50+ year life of the project. The Stewardship District’s economic consultants provided advice regarding how many bonds would be required to fund this effort over those 50+ years. That number was $23,602,603,500 over the expected life of the development project.

Kutak Rock represents a wide variety of special districts all around the country including Florida, Colorado, California, Nebraska, Washington, Utah, and Virginia, among others. Kutak Rock’s Florida office consists of 16 attorneys who specialize in the establishment, operation and review of a wide variety of land-secured financing districts including community development districts, stewardship districts, improvement districts and others.