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From Gilbert’s Hardware to Dollar General: Rural Activity Centers in the FPA

From Gilbert’s Hardware to Dollar General: Rural Activity Centers in the FPA

The Flemington Store, at the corner of W Hwy 318 and N Hwy 329, in the heart of the Farmland Preservation Area. Soon there will be a new Dollar General across the street.

The new Dollar General store will be a modern building located on about four acres at the intersection of W Hwy 318 and N Hwy 329, in the sleepy village of Flemington. The tiny Flemington Store across the street, with its white clapboard siding and rusting metal roof has been a part of the community and rural landscape for over 50 years.

There is an approved Major Site Plan for the Dollar General, which allows the applicant to start moving dirt. As of May 27th, a building permit has been submitted, but it hasn’t been approved. On the permit, Concept Development is listed as the owner and Concept Construction of North Florida as the contractor. According to the Marion County Property Appraiser’s website, the 39-acre parcel where the store will be built is owned by Blitch Plantation (John and Shirley Rudnianyn).

You may be wondering why a Dollar General store is being built in the Farmland Preservation Area? Marion County’s comprehensive plan allows for limited commercial and residential development in designated Rural Activity Centers (RAC) (Policy 2.1.21) The new Dollar General store is located in the Flemington RAC.

Groceries, Gas, Baling Twine… 

Marion County’s rural area is vast. Just the Farmland Preservation Area is 193,000 acres. The RAC future land use designation allows for mixed use nodes of residential and commercial uses, including agricultural-related commercial uses. These commercial islands within the rural areas are beneficial because they help residents and businesses meet some of their daily needs and also reduce trips to the urban areas.

Some of the commercial uses allowed in RACs include hardware stores like Gilbert’s Hardware at the intersection of Hwy 225A and CR 326, gas stations, post offices, and grocery stores. In the Blitchton area, on US 27 near H.I.T.S. and many of the sport horse farms, there are 3 feed stores and 2 restaurants – Berrettini Feed Specialists, Larsen Hay and United Hay for horses and The Beach and Yum Yum Kitchen for riders and trainers – important services conveniently-located for hard working equestrians.

In addition to the commercial development, the RAC allows for higher density residential development. In the RAC, up to two dwelling units per acre are permitted. Even in the FPA, the residential density can be up to two dwelling units per acre inside the RAC.  Outside of the RAC, to help protect the rural character of the FPA, the zoning is one dwelling unit per 10 acres.

The development standards for RACs – the distance from the intersection, the allowed uses, the set backs and the building heights – are the same no matter where they are located, even if the RAC is located inside the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA).

For commercial uses, the floor area ratio is 35% – that means that the buildings can only occupy 35% of each parcel.

For properties that are not located in the RAC and are zoned Agriculture (A-1), landowners are permitted to set up a roadside stand to sell hay or vegetables that are grown on the same property.

The RAC Pack

There are 10 RACs dispersed throughout the FPA that average about 54 acres each. When you combine the acreage, that is about 540 acres. However, the size of any RAC can be expanded to a maximum of 96 acres, if it meets the criteria:

  • No greater than ¼ mile or 1,320 feet from the center of the intersection;
  • 85% developed; and
  • at least 5 miles from another RAC.

These 10 RACs all have a Future Land Use designation of RAC, but for some parcels, the Zoning is not RAC.

Marion County has two RAC classifications: a land use designation and a zoning classification. The Future Land Use (FLU) designation is a generalized classification and sets the development densities. The Zoning specifies which exact uses are allowed versus prohibited on that parcel. This is important to distinguish because a parcel could be designated with a FLU RAC, but have a Zoning of A-1 for agricultural use instead of commercial use. In order for the FLU RAC parcel to be used for commercial purposes, the Zoning would have to be changed. There are some “grandfathered in” exceptions for historically-zoned commercial properties with RAC Land Use that are treated as if they also have RAC Zoning.

A Chance to Change

For potential applicants to build a commercial or residential building on any parcel with a FLU RAC that is not already zoned RAC, the zoning has to be changed. Through this zoning change process, there is an opportunity to submit public comments to the Planning & Zoning Commission and to the Board of County Commissioners. As part of Horse Farms Forever’s role in protecting the character and culture of the Farmland Preservation Area, we are actively monitoring all applications that are submitted for consideration. Watch our posts and blogs for updates and opportunities to make comment as RAC’s come up for zoning changes. Please join us as a member and support our efforts to uphold Marion County’s rural lifestyle and brand as the Horse Capital of the World®.

Click on each of the RAC’s below to see a detailed map provided courtesy of Marion County’s Interactive Map:

The maps were created using Marion County’s online map. The maps show the the size and location of parcels designated with a FLU of RAC in each of the 10 areas within the FPA. The online map viewer is not intended to be a legal document but rather for reference. We thank the County for providing this helpful resource.

1. N Hwy 329/W Hwy 318 - Flemington

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2. NW 193rd Street/N US Hwy 441 - Orange Lake

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3. W Hwy 318/N US Hwy 441

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4. W Hwy 316/NW Hwy 225 - Fairfield

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5. W Hwy 329/NW Gainesville Road - Lowell

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6. CR 326/NW Hwy 225A - Gilbert's Hardware

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7. W Hwy 326/US 27 Blitchton

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8. NW Hwy 464B/US 27 - Fellowship

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9. FL 40/NW 110th Avenue

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10. FL 40/SW 140th Avenue

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Commercial uses on World Equestrian Center (“WEC”) designated lands in the Rural Area

For land located in the Rural Area that is also part of the World Equestrian Center (WEC) Planned Unit Development, there is a different land use classification called World Equestrian Center (WEC). (Policy 2.1.28.) The WEC designation allows for commercial uses, recreational uses, residential uses, recreational vehicle parks (“RVP”) and mixed uses. Any commercial uses on World Equestrian Center (“WEC”) designated lands in the Rural Area (i.e., outside the Urban Growth Boundary) are limited to equestrian-related uses associated with the World Equestrian Center.

Examples of equestrian-related uses include polo fields, equestrian arenas, equestrian instruction facilities, veterinary clinics, farriers (non-mobile), stables and barns, and feed stores and tack shops. Any and all accessory uses to equestrian-related uses are ancillary and incidental to such equestrian related use and are located on the same lot or parcel as the principal equestrian-related use. The maximum density for residential uses within the WEC Rural Area is (1) dwelling unit per ten (10) gross acres.

Questions About Conservation?

Contact Busy Shires, our Director of Conservation Strategies, by email or by phone 352-234-7175.

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.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

Farmland Is Good For The Bottom Line

Farmland Is Good For The Bottom Line

Do you want both lower taxes and a better quality of life? Encourage the County to plan with the cost to provide community services in mind. 

For three decades, the American Farmland Trust has been researching the fiscal impact of different land uses within municipalities all over the nation. Each land use generates different amounts of revenue because they are taxed at different rates. They also require different expenditures for municipal services. In summary, this is the picture:

From the American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Information Center.
Read the full study here.

New Housing Without Sprawl

Marion County is one of only six counties in the nation that had positive job growth during the pandemic. We are a boomtown. Projects are underway to add 5 million square feet of industrial and warehouse space over the next few years. Where there are jobs, there must be housing to support the growing workforce. The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Florida reports that Marion County is growing by over 2 percent per year. We added 7,700 residents in 2020. That breaks down to 21 people each day. 

Growth is good for a community. The opportunity presented to our County is to grow wisely. When residential sprawl threatens farmland and open space, we all lose. Higher taxes, lower quality of life and the loss of community character and culture are all at stake. The good news is that in Marion County, there is still ample room for residential and commercial development within its designated Urban Growth Boundary. There are about 55 square miles (35,000 acres) of permitted lands available for development in the Urban Growth Boundary – roughly the area of the city of Miami.

In this map of the County, you can see the Farmland Preservation Area in red and the Urban Growth Area in turquoise. The green is protected public land. The brown shaded areas are valuable agricultural soils. Learn more about the Farmland Preservation Area here.

Balancing Act

We are working with elected officials and staff at the County and with supportive community leaders to encourage good planning as Ocala/Marion County grows. Good planning involves identifying where, when, and how development will occur. In 2005, the County had the foresight to create the Farmland Preservation Area as an important first step in protecting land for recreation, farms, wetlands, and wildlife habitat. The challenge is keeping it that way as the pressure grows to break up farmland tracts.

Part of the process is also determining where infrastructure investments make the most sense. Land designated as residential is entitled to roads, schools, water, police, fire, playgrounds and all the other infrastructure components that make a community. This is where a Cost of Community Service (COCS) study would help determine how a proposed land-use change is likely to affect the County budget. Good planning means saying ‘no’ when zoning change requests in rural areas require comparatively expensive infrastructure upgrades as compared to more urban locations.

Saving Farmland Saves Money

While residential development requires expensive public services and infrastructure, privately owned farms do not require significant public infrastructure. Preserving farms and agricultural lands – through good planning and conservation doesn’t just protect our environment, economy and quality of life. It is also an important tool for balancing the budget at the county level.

Photos graciously provided by Elma Garcia Cannavino.

Cost of Community Services studies conducted over the last 30 years show working lands generate more public revenues than they receive back in public services. Their impact on community coffers is similar to that of other commercial and industrial land uses. On average, because residential land uses do not cover their costs, they must be subsidized by other community land uses. Converting agricultural land to residential land use should not be seen as a way to balance local budgets.

American Farmland Trust

Tip the Scales

Our Ocala/Marion County leaders are responsive to the wishes and desires of the community. We have an opportunity to tip the scales in the right direction. If you agree that balancing our farmland and open space with residential growth is an important component in a healthy future for our community, join us. We are watching for threats to farmland, educating about conservation and engaging community leaders in smart planning.

Add your hoofbeats to our herd. Every member makes us stronger and better able to speak out for preserving the character and culture that horses and horse farms bring to Ocala/Marion County for future generations.

Learn More:

Cost of Community Services Studies: Making the Case for Conservation

Go to the American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Information Center and search for “Cost of Community Services” to find a long list of local studies.

Commissioners Meeting With WEC Centers on Improvements

Commissioners Meeting With WEC Centers on Improvements

November 5, 2020: The Marion County Board of Commissioners met yesterday to discuss the proposed amendment to the Golden Ocala – World Equestrian Center’s (GO-WEC) Development Agreement. The main issues discussed at the meeting were about water and wastewater treatment, roadway and intersection improvements, and fire safety.

The Amendment proposes changes to the original Development Agreement. It outlined several infrastructure improvements and other infrastructure needs. The meeting was the continuation of the first public hearing for the Development Agreement Amendment. The second public hearing will be held on Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 2:00 PM. The public hearing for the proposed changes to the Golden Ocala Comprehensive Plan Amendment (20-D01) and PUD Rezoning Amendment (20200201Z) applications will also be held on December 16.

The Comprehensive Plan Amendment and PUD Rezoning Amendment, which has not yet been approved, includes a request to add about 1,000 acres for a total area of about 4,200 acres. In addition, the commercial space would increase to 4 million square feet – up from 525,000 square feet in the 2018 original plan. Hotel rooms would increase to 1,350, up from 385 and seating at the equestrian venues also would increase from 10,000 seats to 13,500 seats. The number of homes remains at just below 2,400, however RV spaces would increase from 200 to 280 spaces.

Key issues discussed:

  • Building a new water treatment facility plant and wells within the project site.
  • GO-WEC will purchase a new fire truck for $1.3M with a ladder tall enough for the five-story hotel. The county will repay GO-WEC over several years.
  • GO-WEC will construct the entrance improvements to:
    • NW 80th Avenue at NW 21st Street.
    • NW 80th Avenue at the entrance to the WEC parking lot.
    • SR 40 Entrance Improvements and Driveway Improvements
  • Four-laning of NW 80th
  • GO-WEC will conduct a new traffic study once WEC is open to determine if there are additional roadway and intersection improvements needed. There is a traffic study from 2017/2018. In addition, additional traffic studies will be conducted by GO-WEC as they reach certain build out points and once GO-WEC begins building on the parcels north of US Hwy 27.

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.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

Special Use Permit for a Poultry Processing Plant

Special Use Permit for a Poultry Processing Plant

King Tut Corporation has requested a Special Use Permit from Marion County for the construction and operation of a minor poultry processing/packing facility on 14.75 acres located approximately 1.7 miles west of I-75 on NW 193rd Street outside of Micanopy. After careful review of the application, and discussions with the owner, Dr. Fawzy Ebrahim, Horse Farms Forever has determined that this request is consistent with the current Comprehensive Plan, and that it is a compatible with land use of the surrounding area. The property is zoned A-1: General Agriculture, and by right, the landowner is allowed to raise poultry. These kinds of agricultural activities are permitted within the Farmland Preservation Area.

For there to be farms, there must be agricultural prosperity. It is our belief that this proposal will have a positive impact on our Farmland Preservation Area.

For more information, please review the Special Use Permit application.

Learn More about Zeezenia International Market and the Ebrahim Family