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HFF Welcomes Valerie Dailey, Owner of Showcase Properties, as a New Founding Member

HFF Welcomes Valerie Dailey, Owner of Showcase Properties, as a New Founding Member

Dailey is also the President of the Board of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (FTBOA.) and the first woman to hold the post of FTBOA Board President since the organization was established in 1945.

Dailey is a Community Standout

Valerie Dailey, Owner and Broker of Showcase Properties was one of HFF’s first Charter Members and has renewed every year since 2018. This year, the agency renewed and increased their support to the Founder Level! We are grateful for their continued support to help protect Marion County’s horse farms!

Showcase Properties is one of Marion County’s top 5 brokerages in total volume for 2021 with a combined total of over $200M in sales volume. Dailey, a Florida-licensed REALTOR® and owner of Showcase since 2013, specializes in the listing and selling of equine properties, as well as residential, commercial, and agricultural properties.

In 2018, Dailey was recognized as Realtor of the Year by the Ocala/Marion County Association of Realtors®. And in 2019, she was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by the Ocala Women’s Council.

The real estate agency has grown substantially under her leadership. When she joined the agency in 2005, there were only 5 agents; now there are over 40 agents. In 2021, their team helped to close over 440 different transactions both on and off the market and were ranked #1 in farm sales by total transactions.

“To say that 2021 was a fantastic year doesn’t do justice to the hard work and dedication that our team put in, but it was, in fact, a fantastic year!” stated Dailey on the Showcase Properties website.

Her expertise in real estate sales includes being part of the sales of the three highest selling properties in Marion County. One of these properties was Bridlewood Farm as Showcase Properties represented the seller of the farm to John and Leslie Malone in 2013 for $14 million; making it one of the highest-selling farms in Marion County.

The local horse industry breathed a sigh of relief to hear that not only would the operation remain a Thoroughbred farm, but that the Malones would continue to operate it under the Bridlewood name,” states the Showcase Properties website.

FTBOA President and Thoroughbred Breeder

Dailey is also the President of the Board of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (FTBOA.) She is also the first woman to hold the post of FTBOA Board President since the organization was established in 1945. Valerie and her husband Hugh, along with their daughter Samantha, operate a successful Thoroughbred breeding farm called 3D Farm (for the three Daileys.) They have had multiple stakes winners, including a Breeder’s Cup qualifier. She has been a member of FTBOA for over 25 years.

Showcase Properties supported over 30 different charities, organizations, and events in 2021 to help enrich the lives of fellow Floridians. Horse Farms Forever® is grateful to be included as one of their selected organizations. Thank you!

Equestrian culture is so deeply woven into the collective DNA of the area. It’s a collegial, collaborative and inclusive community that is very invested in efficient land use and sustainability. Marion County is known for being a place of incredible natural beauty, with plenty of parks and recreational areas to hike and ride and explore. It’s a wonderful place to live and work.

Valerie Dailey

Owner and Broker, Showcase Properties of Central Florida

Corporate Membership

Looking for a way to promote your business throughout the equine community? Becoming a Horse Farms Forever Corporate Member gives you access to our members in Ocala/Marion County and beyond.  Donating to Horse Farms Forever, a registered 501(c)3 with the IRS, reaches our members, friends, and subscribers though our newsletters, social media, advertising, and events.  To learn more or to join please contact our Executive Director,
Emily Holmes

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.

 

Just What IS The Farmland Preservation Area?

Just What IS The Farmland Preservation Area?

Photo by Elma Garcia Cannavino.

Marion County is home to nearly 4,000 farms including over 1,200 horse farms. Most of these horse farms are in the Farmland Preservation Area. Of Marion County’s 1 million acres of land, the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA) encompasses just under 200,000 acres in the northwest portion of the county. While the FPA is called a preservation area, it’s not protected in the same way government owned lands like the Ocala National Forest are protected. The Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations are guidelines that define rural character and establish compatible uses in the FPA, but they do not prevent subdivision of land or stop development that is deemed compatible by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

The boundaries of the FPA, and the rules that govern it, are at the discretion of the BOCC. While all five current Commissioners are strong supporters of the FPA, as development pressure increases, additional tools are available to help protect the rural character and preserve compatible uses in the FPA.

Preservation and growth have to coexist strategically or neither succeeds. The tools that provide permanent protection for the FPA are in the hands of private landowners.

Conservation County

Marion County is one of the largest geographic counties in Florida. In round numbers, it covers over 1 million acres.  About forty-percent of this acreage is protected from development.

For example, the Marion County portion of the Ocala National Forest covers about 320,000 acres and is owned by the US Forest Service. Established in 1908, it is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River and the southernmost national forest in the continental US. While it is a national forest, there are private and government in-holdings inside its boundaries.

Another example of protected land is Silver Springs State Park, which covers about 4,000 acres and contains one of the largest artesian springs ever discovered. It is owned by the State and managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees 175 state parks, trails and historic sites as part of the Florida State Parks system. In the City of Ocala, an example of protected land is the Fort King National Historic Landmark, which covers about 40 acres and is jointly owned by the City and County.

Of Marion County’s 1 million acres, the Farmland Preservation Area encompasses just under 200,000 acres in the northwest portion of the county. By comparison, the Urban Growth Area is about 125,000 acres, not including the City of OcalaThe remaining 400,000 acres is a patchwork of rural lands and municipalities such as The Villages, Dunnellon and Belleview, and towns, like McIntosh and Reddick.

The Farmland Preservation Area is designated by the red line, the Urban Growth Boundary by the blue line, Public Conservation lands are in green, and the orange areas are privately owned lands that have been conserved with Marion County’s Transfer of Development Rights program with a conservation easement.

The Farmland Preservation Area Is Born

In 2004, the County adopted several amendments to the Future Land Use Element to create the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program to protect farmland and other natural resources. Then, in 2005, the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA) was created by the County to serve as the sending area for the TDR program.

There are three main elements to help preserve farms in Marion County:

  1. a designated boundary on the County’s Future Land Use Map for the FPA,
  2. Objective 3.3 in the Comprehensive Plan that defines compatible rural uses in the FPA, and
  3. a voluntary Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program to incentivize landowners to protect their land with a conservation easement.

The first two elements, the boundaries of the FPA and the policies that govern it, are at the discretion of the BOCC. The third element, the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program, lies in the hands of private landowners. The TDR program is what makes the FPA a true Preservation Area, but it requires private landowners to participate in the program.

How does the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA) protect land?

While the FPA is called a preservation area, it’s not protected in the same way that government lands like the Ocala National Forest are protected. The Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations are guidelines that define rural character and establish compatible uses in the FPA, but they do not prevent subdivision of land or stop development that is deemed compatible by the Board of County Commissioners.

The FPA boundary is a line drawn on the County’s Future Land Use Map and is described in Objective 3.3 of the Comprehensive Plan as “intended to encourage preservation of agriculture as a viable use of lands and an asset of Marion County’s economy and to protect the rural character of the area.”

Policy 3.3.1 defines the Elements of Rural Character: “The County shall preserve and protect rural and equestrian/agricultural character within the Rural Lands, specifically the Farmland Preservation Area, by requiring that all appropriate future development activities within this Area preserve, support, and enhance the fundamental elements of rural character, set forth below, and further requiring that all Zoning Changes and Special Use Permits within the Farmland Preservation Area be consistent with and preserve, protect, support, and enhance the rural, equestrian, and farmland character of the Farmland Preservation Area.”

The Horse Farms Forever® Text Amendment, which became effective on April 30, 2022, enhanced the definition of Rural Character shown above in bold italics by further requiring that all Zoning Changes and Special Use Permits within the FPA be consistent with and preserve, protect and support and enhance the rural, equestrian, and farmland character of the FPA.

TDR Sending Areas

In 2005, the boundary of the Farmland Preservation Area was designated as the original “sending area” for the TDR program, but after the initial designation, this area was extended beyond the FPA boundaries. The sending area site must be 30 acres or more of contiguous land and either located within the designated FPA or have attributes listed in Policy 1.1.2 of the Conservation Element of the Marion County Comprehensive Plan, which include locally significant natural resources, such as certain types of soil, water and vegetation.

 

HFF will be holding our Third Annual Conservation Summit this fall on Tuesday, November 22, at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Arena. The theme will be Transportation. We will release further details as the event nears. Please mark your calendar and join us as we continue this very important conversation to help protect what we love most about Marion County – the open spaces and beautiful places.

Questions About Conservation?

Contact Busy Shires, our Director of Conservation Strategies, by email or by phone 386-853-4437.

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.

TDR Receiving Areas

The “receiving area” is designated on the Future Land Use Map, Transfer of Rights, with the majority of the receiving areas located within the Urban Growth Boundary. The Transferrable Development Credits may be transferred to and used on lands identified on the Transfer of Rights Map.

Transferrable Development Credits (TDC) Have Potential Value

If landowners choose to participate in the TDR program, the BOCC must approve the agreement; then the landowner records a conservation easement on the property and receives the TDCs. To help incentivize participation, the County increased the TDCs to one credit per every acre of sending area land preserved in 2007.

Thus, if a private property in the sending area meets the requirements of the TDR program, in exchange for placing a conservation easement on their property, the landowner receives TDCs that can be sold or utilized.

When the TDR program was adopted, the County set a goal of placing conservation easements on 5,000 acres by 2015. As of today, the TDR program protects about 3,200 acres of land.

One of the properties protected by the County’s TDR program is owned by Dick and Sharon Sawallis. In 2007, they voluntarily protected 93 acres of their land, which is part of the scenic view shed of the Orange Lake Overlook on U.S. 441 just south of the Town of McIntosh.

 “It’s a gorgeous view when the sun comes up, or the sun goes down over that lake. That’s what I want to preserve and not look at a bunch of houses,” Sharon Sawallis said in the Ocala Star Banner article.

Photo by Sean Dowie

Conservation Easements Protect Land from Development

Due to the exponential growth in Marion County, development pressure to subdivide farms in the FPA and alter the FPA boundaries will continue. And because the land located in the FPA is privately owned, landowners have the right to subdivide their land, as permitted in the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations, or approved by the Board of County Commissioners.

Marion County’s TDR program is a good start. The program has protected about 3,200 acres of land in the FPA with conservation easements. Conservation easements are an essential step to protect land from development. In order to truly protect horse farms and other agricultural land in the FPA, the solution is voluntary conservation easements. When a landowner places a conservation easement on their property, they decide the future of their property rather than the government or elected officials.

A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization, such as a land trust or government entity, that permanently limits uses of the land to protect agricultural, ecological, or other natural and historic resources.

Landowners have rights to their land, such as the ability to subdivide, build homes and barns, cut trees, mine for minerals, and other rights. A conservation easement allows a landowner to retain private ownership while restricting some of those rights to protect the property’s conservation values and preserve the agricultural uses. The easement document will identify the rights that the landowner wishes to retain, limit or forgo. Easements are custom-designed to meet the personal and financial needs of the landowner. An easement may cover portions of a property or the entire parcel. The property remains a private holding and is only open to the public at the owner’s discretion.

Conservation easements can provide peace of mind by protecting land in perpetuity, regardless of who owns it in the future. HFF is happy to help facilitate this conversation and provide resources to interested landowners.

Inspiring Conservation

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts in Marion County.

Horses, horse farms and the horse industry create the character and culture that define Marion County. The aim of Horse Farms Forever is to raise awareness and education to ensure that this sense of place is protected for future generations.

The purpose of Horse Farms Forever is to be watchful of government and others in actions pertaining to the character and culture that horses and the Farmland Preservation Area make unique to Marion County. That includes strategies to preserve horse farms and pastureland, especially in the Farmland Preservation Area, for future generations.

We hope you will join Horse Farms Forever and support our mission. 

United Voices Support the Farmland Preservation Area

United Voices Support the Farmland Preservation Area

Aerial view of the 10,125 square foot existing clubhouse at Ocala Jockey Club, which sits on the second highest elevation in Florida and features expansive views and spectacular sunsets. Photo: Sotheby’s

On June 21, the Marion County Commission approved Golden Ocala Equestrian Land’s (GOEL) plans for the World Equestrian Center Jockey Club (WEC-JC). Not everyone agrees with their decision, but important and passionate opinions emerged from the community-wide conversation about this matter: the Farmland Preservation Area is a top priority and one of the reasons why many people have chosen Marion County as their home.

While the Commission’s final vote was 3-2 in favor of GOEL’s plans for WEC-JC, their support of the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA) was unanimous. With that said, there were different opinions as to what protecting the Farmland Preservation Area means, especially when it comes to compatible and non-compatible uses. Over the past four years, Horse Farms Forever (HFF) has been focused on our mission to inspire the conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats.

We believe that the continuation of the Ocala Jockey Club (OJC) as an equestrian event facility under the stewardship of the Roberts family will do more to protect horse farms in that region of the FPA because it is the right type of development to help keep horse farms, as horse farms. And for the most part, the WEC-JC plans aligned with the current use of the property and the former owner’s plans for the property, which included a boutique hotel, retail village, and upscale residential development. The continued use of clustered home sites allows almost half of the WEC-JC property to be reserved for equestrian activities.

You can read our position statement about the plans for WEC-JC here.

You may or may not agree with our position or the Commission’s vote, but of the two most likely current scenarios for the property detailed below, which one does more to protect horse farms in northwest Marion County?

  • Subdividing the entire 1,029 acres into a 10-acre lots?
    • The spectacular view and open spaces would be gone.
    • The 520-acre equestrian event facility and 4-star cross-country course would be gone.
    • The risk of Family Divisions could potentially triple the number of lots.
    • Hundreds of individual wells and septic systems.
  • Clustering 94 lots of 3-acres or more on 420 acres?
    • A higher density of residential areas allows for large, open common areas for equestrian uses.
    • Water and wastewater treatment facility to protect water quality.
    • The 520 acres for open space and the renovation of an existing equestrian event facility.
    • Developing 89 acres to allow for the continued use of the existing clubhouse, adding a RV park and 9 arenas and grand stands for equestrian events (with 9,000 seats total), commercial/retail space, and polo fields.

And there is a third potential future scenario that is most alarming. When a 1,000-acre parcel of open pasture right next to an interstate exit, 20 minutes south of one of the premier universities in the country, and directly next door to Regional Activity Center and designated Commerce/Employment overlay zones is up for sale, our biggest fear is that it will be targeted for commercial development.

If a high-profile company like Microsoft or Apple had partnered with the University of Florida to propose a technology complex there, the economic pressure on the commissioners from the state and the community could have been overwhelming. Especially as we face another potential economic recession.

Population Growth and Supporting the Equine Industry

Our position took into consideration the exponential population growth in Marion County, which is predicted to increase over the next 20 years with 150,000 new residents. This growth will create tremendous pressure on landowners in the FPA to subdivide horse farms and farmland into smaller and smaller parcels. How do horse farm owners resist the pressure to subdivide their land or sell to a developer? Their businesses depend on showcasing the horses they breed, raise, and train at equestrian event facilities.

What would Marion County be without H.I.T.S. and Live Oak International (both located in the FPA), and the World Equestrian Center, Ocala Breeders Sales Arena, the S.E. Livestock Pavilion, the Florida Horse Park, Majestic Oaks, Barnstaple South, and numerous other horse show facilities on private farms, many in the FPA. Now the WEC-JC will be added to this impressive list of facilities and help serve and sustain the growing equine industry in Marion County.

Setting a Precedent

Opening the door to future commercial development in the FPA is a concern shared by HFF, but the majority of the proposed improvements on the WEC-JC property will be to support equestrian events – horse barns, riding arenas, maintenance barns, and restoring the existing cross-country course. The RV parking and multiple arenas and grand stands, plus the addition of commercial space will support the economic viability of the equestrian events. Also, with the WEC-Rural Land Use (see page 4 of the document), this effectively limits the use of the property to equestrian uses only, so the facility cannot be used for rock concerts.

In addition, any future landowner would have to submit an application to change the Land Use to WEC Rural and an application for a Comprehensive Plan Text Amendment to use the WEC Rural Land Use designation for that specific location. Both the Planning & Zoning Commission and the County Commission would evaluate both applications as presented.

The amount and type of commercial uses are consistent with large equestrian event facilities. For example, the Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) covers 1,229 acres and provides space for several tourist attractions and museums, competition facilities, a 5-star cross-country course, 260 RV spaces with a general store and recreational facilities, and office space for more than 30 national and regional equine organizations. KHP also has a 7,400 seat-arena, (Rolex Stadium, main grandstand.)

Let’s look at some of the other issues brought forth, such as the 10-acre lot size requirement for the FPA, the recently adopted HFF Comprehensive Plan Text Amendment, and the existing B-2 Zoning at WEC-JC:

Ten-acre Lots in the Farmland Preservation Area

In the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA), the minimum lot size is 10 acres. While Horse Farms Forever strongly favors maintaining 10-acre or larger parcels within the FPA, there are numerous areas within the FPA where smaller lots exist. For example, there are over 1,000 existing 3-acre lots in the area surrounding the OJC property.

While 10-acre lots are required in the FPA, unless the property is located in a Rural Activity Center (RAC), which allows up to two dwelling units per acre, there is a waiver process in Marion County’s Land Development Code that allows for a Family Division. For example, this waiver enables landowners to divide a single 10-acre lot into 3 smaller lots for the use of immediate family members as their primary residence.

With the Family Division waiver available for landowners, if 10-acre lots were platted on the OJC property, a single 10-acre lot could potentially be further divided into a 4-acre lot, a 3-acre lot and a 3-acre lot, thereby tripling the number of homes. In contrast, the 94 three-acre lots proposed by WEC-JC cannot be further divided, thus ensuring the number of homesites will never be more than 94 lots. In addition, the proposed lots are required to have central water and sewer, which helps protect water quality and spring sheds.

The 94 lots proposed at WEC-JC are consistent with the density allowed on the 1,029-acre property, but instead of being spread out over the entire landscape, they are clustered on 420 acres. This leaves about 520 acres for open space and an equestrian event facility. The OJC property already has 34 existing clustered townhouses, so there is consistency in this planning.

Horse Farms Forever® Comprehensive Plan Text Amendment

The Horse Farms Forever® Amendment, which requires that all Zoning Requests and Special Use Permits be consistent with the goals of the Farmland Preservation Area, became effective on April 30, 2022. The WEC-JC application was submitted before the HFF Amendment became effective, therefore, while all future applications will have to meet this standard, it does not apply to the WEC-JC application.

Nine Arenas with 9,000 Seats TOTAL

The WEC-JC application includes a Development Uses chart with the proposed uses. See page 5 here. There are 9,000 Seats for the: Arena & Event Facilities at WEC with accessory concessionary uses (snack bars, limited retail, etc.) The 9,000 seats will be dispersed at 9 different arenas and several event facilities, and with the WEC Rural Land Use category, the use is limited to equestrian events only. See page 4 and 5 here for the list of proposed arenas at WEC-JC and here for a list of existing arenas at WEC Ocala.

Existing B-2 Zoning at the Jockey Club

It’s important to remember that the WEC-JC has a designated zoning that gives the owner the right to use those property rights. On the WEC-JC property, there is a pre-existing commercial site of 5.84 acres with B-2 Zoning for the clubhouse and surrounding area. B-2 Zoning allows for commercial uses including hotels, nightclubs and RV rentals.

Process and Next Steps

GOEL will submit a Master Plan for approval by the County Commission and a Developer’s Agreement for the water and wastewater treatment plant and the roadway improvements within 6 months. GOEL is responsible for their proportionate share of the roadway improvements.

As part of the state’s review of the WEC-JC application, while there were no objections, several state agencies provided comments and made recommendations including the Division of Historical Resources and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Any potential historic resources or endangered wildlife will be addressed by each respective agency. Also, the addition of a water and the wastewater treatment plant will help protect water quality.

What Makes This Slice of the Farmland Preservation Area Unique?

What makes the OJC’s location in the Farmland Preservation Area unique is threefold:

  1. It is already approved as an equestrian event facility, which includes almost 6 acres zoned B-2 for commercial use and 34 townhouses on clustered residential lots.
  2. It is bordered on 3 sides by existing commercial uses: a teaching veterinary college with dormitory, an active lime rock mine and a 400-lot recreational vehicle park.
  3. It is bordered on the east by overlay zones including a Regional Activity Center and two Future Land Use designations of Employment Center and Commerce District, all slated for high density commercial development.

The 453-acre Irvine/Sunny Oaks Regional Activity Center (RGAC) is adjacent to the Highway 318 interchange on I-75. This interchange includes a Future Land Use Element designation in the Comprehensive Plan that includes an Employment Center, a Commerce District and a Regional Activity Center (RGAC). While this parcel is within the Farmland Preservation Area boundaries, these Future Land Use designations overlay and override the Farmland Preservation Area regulations and restrictions.

As a result of the above designations and classifications, the owner of this I/SO parcel inside the RGAC has a legal right to rezone this parcel from agriculture to an implementing zoning district for the specific Future Land Use designation. This legal right was established in 2012 when the RGAC was created and revised in 2014. While the requested zoning change is to Planned Unit Development, there are other options that would satisfy the legal obligation of the County to rezone the property to an implementing zoning district. Nonetheless, they all allow significant retail, commercial and industrial development.

Regrettably, the fate of the Irvine/Sunny Oaks area was sealed a decade ago by these Future Land Use designations. At that time, Marion County was coming out of a recession and faced with high unemployment.

Finding the Balance

Growth is here in Marion County. With the growth pressures, it’s important to support responsible growth and to find the balance between our urban and rural areas. When there are different opinions on such a divisive issue, a collaborative approach can help find the middle ground and areas that we can agree on, and then, move forward as a community. One of the most significant outcomes of the June 21 meeting is the level of community wide engagement about protecting the Farmland Preservation Area – from the Marion County Commission, to the Ocala Metro Chamber of Economic Partnership, and to environmental groups and landowners.

Every speaker at the June 21 meeting spoke passionately about protecting the FPA. This same strong sentiment was also ranked as the most important issue facing Marion County by over 90 percent of the people who responded, in the recently conducted county-wide Quality of Life Survey, organized by HFF.

Conservation Easements Protect Land from Development

We also hope that landowners who are concerned about future development, will take this opportunity to explore land conservation options to protect their land for future generations. The only way to protect private land from development, in perpetuity, is with a conservation easement. If the previous owners of the OJC had placed a conservation easement on the property, they could have permanently controlled its future development and use.

When a landowner places a conservation easement on their property, they make the decisions about what will happen to their property in the future – not the government or elected officials. We are happy to help facilitate this conversation and provide resources to interested landowners.

In the long term, the community may come to embrace the WEC-JC and see it as positively impacting the FPA and further cementing our brand as Horse Capital of the World®, making Marion County a unique destination unlike any other.

 

HFF will be holding our Third Annual Conservation Summit this fall on Tuesday, November 22 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Arena. The theme will be Transportation. We will release further details as the event nears, and we hope you will mark your calendar and join us as we continue this very important conversation to help protect what we love most about Marion County – the open spaces and beautiful places.

We hope you will join Horse Farms Forever and support our mission.

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.

 

Horse Farms Forever Celebrates Four Years of Big Wins for the Farmland Preservation Area

Horse Farms Forever Celebrates Four Years of Big Wins for the Farmland Preservation Area

Spring Speaker Series at Vintage Farm

On Friday May 20, Horse Farms Forever® (HFF) held our annual Spring Speaker Series at the College of Central Florida’s Vintage Farm. It was an intimate event for our members, guests and other large farm owners to continue the conversation about conservation. We celebrated the organization’s fourth birthday and reflected on the growth and success under the leadership of outgoing Executive Director Sara Powell Fennessy.

“I am so incredibly proud to have played a role in growing Horse Farms Forever into all that it has become,” said Fennessy. “It is hard to believe how far we’ve come in such a short period of time and the mountains we have climbed along the way. My love, dedication, and passion for Horse Farms Forever will live on. I whole-heartedly believe in all that Horse Farms Forever is and will always be its biggest fan and advocate.”

We also welcomed Emily Holmes as our new Executive Director. Emily brings a wealth of experience as the former Events Coordinator and Director of Events at the Florida Horse Park. Holmes is also a freelance organizer of USEA/USEF Horse Trials and FEI Eventing competitions across the country and has her USEF “r” Eventing Technical Delegate’s license. Emily lives in Williston where she operates Five Hound Farm, a sport horse breeding and boarding operation on fifty acres.

“At 12 years old on a vacation from Maine with my aunt, I fell in love with Marion County – the incredible horse farms, the miles of fencing, the wide-open pastures, and the majestic oak trees,” said Holmes. “I welcome the opportunity to work with the dedicated Board of Directors, and everyone involved to preserve the character and culture of the Horse Capital of the World®.”

Importance of the Horse Farms Forever® Amendment

The recent conservation victory for the Farmland Preservation Area was highlighted by HFF Director of Conservation Strategies, Busy Shires.

“We are also here tonight to celebrate a big win for the Farmland Preservation Area,” said Shires. “Horse Farms Forever has amended Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan with a Text Amendment to enhance the definition of Rural Character and add further protections to the Farmland Preservation Area by requiring all applications for Zoning Requests and Special Use Permits be consistent with the character of the Farmland Preservation Area.”


Sara Powell Fennessy, outgoing Executive Director, accepts flowers and a plaque as a thank you. Bernie Little, HFF President of the Board (R); Busy Shires, HFF Director of Conservation Strategies and Emily Holmes, HFF Executive Director (L).

Billy Van Pelt II, Director of Special Program Development and Senior Advisor, American Farmland Trust, Busy Shires, HFF Director of Conservation Strategies, Emily Holmes, HFF Executive Director, and Bernie Little, HFF President of the Board


 Nick de Meric, with his wife, Jacqui and daughter, Alexandra (L) and HFF Executive Director, Emily Holmes on the right.

Billy Van Pelt II, County Commissioner Michelle Stone, and Chester Weber.

photo Sean Dowie

Dawn Vigne, General Manager of Bridlewood Farm George Isaacs, and Chuck Vigne.

photo Sean Dowie

Jimmy and Hannah Goodwin and their son Wills.

photo Sean Dowie

Gorgeous decor courtesy of Lugano Diamonds.

photo Sean Dowie

Co Owner of Grandview Clydesdales, Karen Cobb (L) with Sara Powell Fennessy and Accounts Manager of Seminole Feeds, Charley Ragland (R).

photo Sean Dowie

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, County Commissioner Carl Zalak and his wife, Ann Zalak.

photo Sean Dowie

Hugh and Valerie Dailey, Owners of Showcase Properties, and Jason Reynolds, Executive Director of the Florida Horse Park.

photo Sean Dowie

Added sparkle.

photo Sean Dowie

Michael and Tasha Osbourne and Ann Zalak

photo Sean Dowie

County Commissioner Craig Curry and his wife, Carol.

photo Sean Dowie

Pauline and Gary Hartogh, with Suzanne Cantrell (R).

photo Sean Dowie

White diamond ring and bracelets by Lugano.

photo Sean Dowie

Private Landowners Hold The Key

Billy Van Pelt II, Director of Special Program Development and Senior Advisor at the American Farmland Trust, was our featured speaker for the evening. Van Pelt highlighted the importance of good planning through Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan, but he also emphasized the important role that private landowner’s play in conserving farms to help ensure the future of the equine industry.

Some of the reasons why landowners conserve their land include:

For Farmers & Ranchers

  • Fulfillment of personal conservation goals/peace of mind.
  • Provides capital farmers can reinvest in their operations.
  • Lower land values; creates opportunities for access and affordability.

For Communities

  • Slows the path of development and ensures land is permanently available for agriculture.
  • Protected farmland supports local economies.
  • Protects other important natural resources and maintains rural/agrarian character.

Set A Goal

Van Pelt suggested as a next step, that Marion County consider adopting a goal of conserved acreage in the Farmland Preservation Area. This will give planners a goal to work towards and will also help guide development to appropriate areas within the Urban Growth Boundary.

To close out the gathering, HFF Board Member Nick de Meric of de Meric Stables shared his heartfelt and inspiring tribute titled Reflections of an Ocala Horseman.

Our presenting sponsor, Lugano Diamonds, brought a distinctive glow to the event with a stunning display of diamonds and jewels. We thank them for their continued support of Horse Farms Forever.

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.

 

HFF Talks Turnpike with FDOT

HFF Talks Turnpike with FDOT

We Sat Down with FDOT and Learned Some Things about the Northern Turnpike Extension That You May Not Know

In October 2021, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE), part of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), began an Alternative Corridor Evaluation (ACE) study to evaluate the extension of Florida’s Turnpike from its northerly terminus in Wildwood to a logical and appropriate terminus as determined by FDOT.  The Northern Turnpike Extension (NTE) study area includes Citrus, Levy, Marion, and Sumter counties.

Horse Farms Forever® has taken a neutral position on the ACE Study because the four proposed corridors were not located inside the Farmland Preservation Area.

HFF’s policy statement on transportation reads: Any new road projects within the Farmland Preservation Area should use existing rights-of-way. This position aligns with Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan Policy 3.3.1 Elements of Rural Character which states: “Transportation: New transportation corridors intended to be used specifically for the construction of expressways or limited access roadways shall avoid the Farmland Preservation Area.”

In our role as a watchdog of government actions, Horse Farms Forever® staff recently met with members of the NTE project team from FTE to learn more about the process of developing corridors and the parameters used to evaluate corridor alternatives, and ultimately select a route for the proposed NTE.

Phase 1 Is All About Choosing A Corridor

In the next 20 years, Florida’s population is projected to increase by five million people to 26 million residents.(1) With this expected population growth, the transportation systems must also grow to provide a safe and reliable transportation network. To accommodate this growth, FTE is conducting a study to evaluate an extension of Florida’s Turnpike. The ACE process is used to identify, evaluate, and eliminate alternative corridors on qualifying projects. The main goal of the ACE study is to narrow the potential four corridor alternatives down to one corridor.

Phase 2 Will Look At Several Alignments – And Also No Build

The recommended corridor from the ACE study is the basis for Phase 2 of the project, the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study phase. In this phase, the recommended alternative corridor goes through further detailed evaluation to refine a range of alternatives within the selected corridor. The PD&E study will also evaluate a No-Build option as well as potential Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSM&O) improvements such as ramp signals or work zone traffic management.

“It’s a long process and we are very early in the planning phase. There are five steps from planning to construction and finally operation,” said William Burke, FTE Project Manager (HDR). “We are evaluating all of the corridors against the goals of the project, but also how they impact the environment, traffic, and cost.”

Jennifer Stults, FDOT Planning and Environmental Management Administrator, emphasized that this phase is focused on mapping by using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data and characterized it as an exercise in avoidance to help protect environmentally sensitive areas, natural resources and residential areas.

“At this phase, the corridors are broad to allow us to evaluate the area, but we will narrow the focus and refine the corridors based on information that is processed. This will allow us to accommodate those areas that we want to avoid,” said Stults. She also emphasized that the project team is sensitive to local land use decisions and conservation areas. “We want to be a good partner,” said Stults. “We work closely with our local partners to identify some of the things in process that we would not be aware of yet. This is why our ongoing robust community engagement work is so important. We absolutely want to hear from our stakeholders.”

For example, not only are existing conservation areas avoided, but also the areas that have been identified for conservation as part of a local or state program, or those areas that are part of the optimum boundary of the conservation area. In addition to public conservation lands such as state parks, the team is also mindful of privately-owned land with a conservation easement that has been delineated in the GIS mapping data.

 “There are a lot of different types of conservation land with different types of habitat, and if there is land with a conservation easement here and one without a conservation there, we are going to route around the land with the easement whenever possible,” said Burke. “There could be some exceptions, but generally speaking we would avoid those areas as much as possible.”

Conservation Is Written Into The Statute

The ACE study will identify preliminary environmental impacts and any potential impacts to existing conservation lands will be further evaluated and mitigated in the PD&E study to the greatest extent possible. 

There are two important sections in the enabling Statute to mitigate environmental impacts:

(7) The department shall consider innovative concepts to combine right-of-way acquisition with the acquisition of lands or easements to facilitate environmental mitigation or ecosystem, wildlife habitat, or water quality protection or restoration.

(8)(b) To the greatest extent practicable, roadway alignments, project alignment, and interchange locations shall be designed so that project rights-of-way are not located within conservation lands acquired under the Florida Preservation 2000 Act established in s. 259.101 and the Florida Forever Act established in s. 259.105.

NTE Scope Is Narrower than M-CORES

The NTE and Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program are different projects. The goals of the NTE are to enhance regional connectivity, accommodate increased travel demand, address regional congestion and safety, and improve emergency response. The M-CORES program conversely had a broader statewide goal of implementing regional corridors that were intended to accommodate multiple modes of transportation and multiple types of infrastructure. The M-CORES program was planned to address various issues beyond those typically accommodated in FDOT projects such as broadband, water, and sewer connectivity; energy distribution; trade and logistics; mobility as a service; and availability of a trained workforce skilled in traditional and emerging technologies, among others.

During the 2021 legislative session, Florida Statute 338.2278, repealed M-CORES.  The same legislation authorized study of the NTE. 

Interchange Features Can Be Controlled By Local Governments

The project team will work with local governments to determine the location of proposed interchanges and to determine the features of the interchange, such as a gateway feature or region-specific landscape features. Local governments can also include restrictions in the comprehensive plan to determine development around the interchange. This is one way to reduce urban sprawl.

“In Citrus County, there is an interchange management plan,” said Stults. “Also, along the Turnpike, with limited access, there are areas where minimum development has occurred for decades. That is where the local planning agencies are able to choose what they would like to see happen in their community.”

Project Schedule Is Driven By Public Interest

FTE initiated the planning phase of the Northern Turnpike Extension project in October 2021. The project is currently in early stages of development with the Efficient Transportation Decision Making screening and the ACE underway. Based on the high level of engagement and interest, FDOT is increasing opportunities to engage with local governments, stakeholders, and residents within the study area. The additional engagement efforts and increased public interest are underway and will continue to influence the project schedule. The project website remains an up-to-date and dependable resource for information and opportunities to provide feedback. Public engagement will continue to shape how the Northern Turnpike Extension supports regional and statewide needs as it moves through all phases of the project development process.

 

Source: Northern Turnpike Extension – Florida’s Turnpike (floridasturnpike.com)

NTE End Point Will Be Decided

 One of the main goals of the ACE study is to determine the project limits. Stults also emphasized that public participation is important and will help influence the route of the corridor.

 “The Northern Turnpike Extension will end at a point that is to be determined only after further study is completed and feedback from stakeholders is reviewed. We are still in that gathering process,” said Stults.

Because SB 100 (2021) gave the FDOT the authority to determine the end point for the NTE, it does not have to connect with the Suncoast Parkway. This gave the project team more flexibility when developing the four corridor alternatives.

The two northern corridor alternatives end at different locations along US 19 (98), while the central and the southern corridors end at US 19 (98) or the future location of the Suncoast Parkway. The longest corridor (Alternative Corridor North A) stretches nearly 75 miles across three counties to end at Chiefland. The three other corridors take a more westerly direction and are much shorter.

The legislation requires the FDOT to take into consideration the previous task force reports. These reports may help determine the route.

 (6) Any existing applicable requirements relating to turnpike projects apply to projects undertaken by the Turnpike Enterprise pursuant to this section. The Turnpike Enterprise shall take into consideration the guidance and recommendations of any previous studies or reports relevant to the projects authorized by this section and ss. 339.67 and 339.68, including, but not limited to, the task force reports prepared pursuant to chapter 2019-43, Laws of Florida, and with respect to any extension of the Florida Turnpike from its northerly terminus in Wildwood.

***

Horse Farms Forever® thanks the Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise team for taking the time to discuss the process of selecting corridors and the parameters used to select a route for the proposed Northern Turnpike Extension project. 

 

Public Input Requested

In addition to holding public meetings, the Department engages the public on all its projects and welcomes your feedback.

The project team also strongly encourages residents to submit comments using the online comment form.

 “Just keep an open mind and give us as many detailed comments as you want to submit,” said Stults. “Folks are entitled to their opinion, but the more specific the suggestions are, the more it helps the team fine-tune the route.”

For other project information, please contact:

William Burke, PLA

Project Manager
Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (HDR)

407-264-3142 | william.burke@dot.state.fl.us

Northern Turnpike Extension Webpage: www.floridasturnpike.com/NTE

 

Suncoast Parkway 2 Under Construction

The Suncoast Parkway 2, or the Suncoast extension, is shown on the study area map for the Northern Turnpike Extension project, but it is a separate road improvement project that is located entirely in Citrus County. Phase 1 of the Suncoast Parkway extension was recently opened to traffic and ends at SR 44. Phases 2 and 3 are in the Design Phase and sections of the road are funded for construction. These sections combine for 13 miles, starting at SR 44 and connecting to US 19.

Here’s a link to a detailed map, information, and schedule. 

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.

 

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