I don't know much about automounting -- I've never tried that because I've heard it's a very error-prone method to handle mounting. But perhaps I can help with the mounting devices as non-root user issue. All I had to do to use my usbkey was that I added the following line to fstab:
/dev/sda1 /media/usbkey vfat rw,user,noauto 0 0
Now mounting my usbkey is as simple as plugging the usbkey into the correct port and writing (as normal user) "mount /media/usbkey" (actually it's even simpler because I use a graphical frontend for the mount command, "xvmount"). It works perfectly here.
Additional info: I use Debian Sid with kernel-image-267-1-686 and I've installed Debian using the Sarge beta4 installer. I haven't installed any additional usb related packages (because usbkey is currently the only usb device that I use), I just have hotplug (and dependent packages) that came with the standard Sarge installation. My username is a member in "cdrom" and "floppy" groups, but I don't think this has any effect in mounting usbkey.
If you don't get automounting to work as you wish, you might want to consider using a graphical frontend (like xvmount) for allowing normal users to easily mount devices. Hope this helps and good luck with the new distro!