Here is a video taken by a neighbor on June 14th showing the flooding on the site proposed for the Double Gate ATV Park during a period of normal summer rains.
This small house lot is carved out of the subject property. Here is the picture submitted in the Special Use Permit application.
Here is that same lot, picture taken on June 13th.
Everyone Agrees, It’s Wet
Last week, we blogged a letter from former Soil and Water Conservation District employee Rick Robbins that explained why the proposed location for Double Gate ATV Park in Flemington is not suitable. You can read his whole letter here, but in short, he said that the soils and topography are such that surface water from seasonal rains will travel off the property, affecting neighboring properties and the watershed as a whole. The pictures above show that the seasonal rains are upon us. The locals confirm that the wet look is not an anomaly for this location:
“I worked in this area for 8 years passing this corner property. It was mostly under water in years past.” Anita Weiss
“The property to be developed is located 300 ft. from my property and I fear increased flooding to my home and property.” Sandra Cockefur
Where Will the Water Go?
According to Ryan Smart, Executive Director for the Springs Institute, this property is within the basin for Rainbow Springs and Marion County’s Secondary Springs Protection Overlay Zone.
“Rainbow Springs and River are already degraded and impaired by over-pumping and excessive nutrient loading. In fact, according to the Basin Management Action Plan prepared by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection nitrogen levels in Rainbow Springs are 600% higher than State adopted water quality standards. Any new sources of nitrogen loading over this highly vulnerable portion of the Floridan Aquifer will cause an even higher level of nutrient impairment at Rainbow Springs and River and further endanger on of our region’s most important environmental and economic assets.”
This map (above) illustrates how water moves across the land. The red polygon is the proposed site. Red and yellow hues are higher elevations, green- mid-level elevation, and blue hues are lower elevations. The drainage basin is quite clear.
Now, look at the site plan from the Application submitted by the site’s owner, Blitch Plantation (Rudianyn). Compare the red outline to the photo below. A 50 unit RV site, ATV repair shop, Event Venue and most of the ATV Drag Strip are all located within that drainage basin. Can there be any doubt that flooding and pollution should be a concern?
What Does the Applicant Have to Say?
From the Application: Stormwater/Drainage: The site is located in a FEMA flood zone. All proposed development is required to hold stormwater on-site, up to and including a 100-year storm event, along with meeting other site-specific conditions in compliance with the County’s Land Development Regulations to address flooding issues both on-site and off-site.
Yet there is no plan, no environmental study – nothing to assure the public that water concerns will be addressed. Here is what the Springs Institute said after they read the Application:
“To determine the impact of a proposed development, Policy 7.4.4 requires, ‘an assessment of the development impacts on recharge volume and groundwater quality, with an emphasis on nitrogen to assess whether additional measures are needed and can be provided to mitigate potential impacts.’ The applications fail to include this mandatory analysis. Absent this assessment it is not possible for the applicant to ensure that the proposed development will not impair, diminish, or harm surface and groundwaters within Marion County.
Further, what limited information is provided in the application is a cause of significant concern. Particularly, the application contains no information on how the applicant intends to protect groundwater or surface waters from the proposed “dump tank” and “fueling location.” There is no plan to deal with fuel spills or effluent discharges which could significantly contaminate groundwater and harm Rainbow Springs and River.
In conclusion, the application fails to meet the minimum standards outlined within the Marion County Comprehensive Plan and poses a significant threat to the health of Marion County’s surface and groundwaters. The Florida Springs Council requests that the Planning & Zoning Commission recommend denial of the Comprehensive Plan Amendment, Rezoning Application, and SUP Application.”
Revoke the Permit and Heal the Land?
At the Zoning Hearing June 1, Double Gate representative David Tillman stated that the County could revoke the Special Use Permit for environmental reasons if the County determines that any regulations are being broken once Double Gate is underway. He further said that the land would quickly heal from any damage that may be caused. A recent article in the Ocala Star Banner about ATV damage from illegal routes in the Ocala State Forest challenges that oversimplification.
“Muddy tracks take only five minutes to create but the resulting disturbed land can take decades to fully recover.”
“It’s going to be tens of thousands of dollars in rental fees and paying other people,” says Kyle Titus in the Banner article. “And it wouldn’t be fixed for 50 years if we never touched it again, probably.”
The article goes on to explain that when ATVs dig down into wet areas, they disturb wildlife, create erosion and sedimentation, introduce invasives into the water, and contaminate the water’s surface. This chain of events is not easily healed. The topography of the subject property will make this an expensive proposition, and who will pay once the permit is revoked? And once the permit is revoked, what will become of the property, which will retain the Rural Activity Center zoning? Will the citizens of Flemington be facing a new proposal for a large commercial development?
Finally, it should always be remembered that this property is owned by the Rudianyn family – developers. It is located in the Farmland Preservation Area – a conservation district made in 2005 to preserve farmland, valuable soils and water resources. Converting the 250 acre subject property into an ATV Park will require a land use change, zoning change and special use permit. Three major changes is a lot to ask. Yet the Application specifies no plans to protect the environment that neighboring homes, farms and businesses depend on. The citizens of Marion County are concerned, and justifiably so. The land clearly holds water. The Application does not.
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