Site Plan from the applications. The proposed parking lot had more vehicle storage capacity than the Gainesville Airport. 

On Tuesday, May 21, just about an hour before the start of the Marion County Commission zoning hearing, the applicant, 1415 Brothers Holdings, LLC withdrew all three applications to allow for storage of 500 vehicles on a 15-acre parcel located directly north of the Cross Florida Greenway. This announcement, made as people were arriving to the hearing, did not deter residents and concerned citizens as they filled the County Commission Auditorium. 

All the seats were full on May 21 for the County Commission Hearing.

County Attorney Guy Minter said that by withdrawing the applications, the applicant could re-apply at any time. While the applications were withdrawn, Horse Farms Forever will continue to monitor this property for any potential future applications.

The three applications from 1415 Brothers Holdings, LLC on a 15-acre parcel located on SW Highway 484 adjacent to the Cross Florida Greenway requested to: 1) amend the Future Land Use from Rural Land to Commercial, 2) change the Zoning from General Agriculture (A-1) to Neighborhood Business (B-1) and 3) request a Special Use Permit to allow for outside storage of up to 500 boats, recreational vehicles, and trailers.

Marion County’s Growth Services Staff recommended denial, with their report stating: “The Urban Growth Boundary is approximately a mile east of this property and this is not a designated Planned Service Area. This application does not meet any of the requirements provided above and is, by definition, sprawl.”

The Growth Services Staff report also stated that the applications were not compatible with the surrounding properties, inconsistent with nine provisions of the Comprehensive Plan, and adverse to the public interest.

In addition, the Marion County Planning & Zoning Commission voted unanimously at their April 29 meeting to recommend denial of all three applications. HFF attended the P & Z Commission meeting and spoke in support of the Growth Services Staff recommendation of denial.

Horse Farms Forever’s Pave Paradise campaign to oppose the applications, was based on our position that the Growth Services Staff Report accurately identified the issues with the applications and correctly recommended that they should be denied. To quote one of our members, “These applications should have never seen the light of day. And when they were exposed to it, they quickly moved back into the shadows.”

The campaign also addressed the reality that in rural areas, the County’s policy to only notify neighbors within 300 feet of a parcel is ineffective.  In addition, the placement of a small paper sign in front of a parcel on a busy roadway is not conducive to widespread notification of significant land use and zoning changes. Perhaps this is a matter the County will consider reviewing.

HFF Watchdog Role

Part of the Horse Farms Forever mission is to be watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations, especially in the Farmland Preservation Area.  Thus, we regularly review all applications for land use and zoning change, and special use permits. 

It was during our regular review that the applications from 1415 Brothers Holdings, LLC were flagged for further investigation.  As we have many members and supporters in the general vicinity of this parcel, we studied the aerial maps and put “boots on the ground” driving the area and surrounding neighborhoods. 

While this parcel was not in the Farmland Preservation Area, it was also not in the Urban Growth Boundary; instead, it was in the Rural Area surrounded by rural land with extensive equestrian and agricultural activity.  And as our mission statement makes clear, while we are especially focused on the Farmland Preservation Area, we are not exclusively focused on it. 

Upon further review of the applications, we deemed these changes would set a precedent for urbanization and commercial development of this rural area. The Horse Farms Forever Board of Directors deemed these applications to be firmly in the strike zone of our mission and authorized a campaign to notify the surrounding property owners and our members and supporters of the applications and advocate in support of the Growth Services recommendations of denial. 

We believe that horses create the character and culture that make Marion County unique and special. For there to be horses, there must be horse farms. In Marion County, there is about one horse for every four people. The equine industry contributes about one-fifth of the economy and one-fifth of the jobs. In addition, rural farmland creates open spaces that act as filtration for the Floridian aquifer which is at the source of all life in Florida. Further, the Farmland Preservation Area acts as a protective umbrella for the primary and secondary protection zones for Rainbow Springs and Silver Springs.

Always Watching

We work hard to keep you informed, and to represent our members' interests in preserving our horse farms, farmland and the unique character and culture of Marion County's 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.