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The County Commissioners say YES to the Farmland Preservation Area, and NO to the ATV Racetrack!

The County Commissioners say YES to the Farmland Preservation Area, and NO to the ATV Racetrack!

Proposal is Denied on All Three Counts

At their meeting on June 17th, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted as follows:

  1. To deny Comprehensive Plan Amendment 20-L05 submitted by Blitch Plantation, LTD to amend the future land use designation from Rural Land to Rural Activity Center for 18.2 acres.
  2. To deny Application 200507Z to rezone 18.2 acres from Rural Land to Rural Activity Center; but to approve the rezoning for 5 acres within that parcel with land use already designated as Rural Activity Center. This means that the 5 acres with the future land use designation of Rural Activity Center now has the zoning to match, and development that is allowed within a Rural Activity Center can now take place there.
  3. To deny Application 200508SU to permit ATV racetrack with ancillary recreational uses, limited ATV sales and repair, RV Park, and event venue requested as a Special Use Permit in RAC and A-1 Zoning Districts.

What Does This Mean? 

It means that the developer, Blitch Plantation, and the applicant, Double Gate, did not convince the Commissioners that these three applications were in the best interest of the community, compatible with the other uses in the area, or consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. Blitch Plantation will have to find another use for the 235-acre property, and Double Gate will have to find another location for their ATV racetrack. There will be a 5-acre portion of the property that will receive the zoning for Rural Activity Center, consistent with other properties on that corner. Any use consistent with Rural Activity Center zoning, such as a general store, gas station, or grocery, will be allowed on that 5-acre parcel.

While we are grateful for this action by the County Commission, we are especially thankful for their professional conduct during the meeting. The Commissioners patiently and intently listened to each and every public comment for over 3 hours. We thank them for listening, for reading hundreds of letters, for maintaining order and offering gracious respect to everyone who spoke. Because of their commitment to civil public discourse, the consensus of the community was allowed to emerge.

Thank you, Commissioners, for keeping the discussion civil and fair, and for respecting all who asked to be heard.

 

Civil Discourse

Everyone who spoke, no matter what your view, thank you. You were brilliant. Each of you had a perspective to share, and you expressed it so well. There were so many intelligent, well-thought out, and articulate views expressed in that four-hour meeting. While the public comments were overwhelmingly in opposition to the proposals, the voices of those in favor of the proposals were equally important to be heard.

Double Gate ATV proponents, thank you for your clear intentions to do something good and safe for ATV enthusiasts in the area, and for wanting to provide a service to the community. We wish you success as you adapt your business plan to another location and to the desires of the community so clearly expressed in the hearing. 

You Are The Forever

Finally, we express deep, deep gratitude to our members and supporters. It took considerable resources and effort to get the word out and gather the voices of the community. You were there, writing letters, making phone calls, cheering us on, helping and giving every step of the way. You are the FOREVER in Horse Farms Forever. You are the reason that the next generation will inherit the open spaces and beautiful places that create the character and culture that make Marion County the Horse Capital of the World.

One thing was abundantly clear from the testimony – the Farmland Preservation Area is well worth protecting – it is the essence of what makes Marion County unique and special. It was a beautiful thing to listen to so many supporters convey what the Farmland Preservation Area means to them.

The farmland preservation movement in Marion County is alive and well.

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.

Today is Hearing Day: Participation Options

Today is Hearing Day: Participation Options

The Marion County Board of Commissioners meets today, June 17th at 2pm at the McPherson Governmental Campus Auditorium, 601 SE 25th Ave., Ocala, to consider adoption of the Blitch Plantation (Rudianyn) proposal for Double Gate ATV Park and Recreation. Here is the agenda and full application.

How to Attend and Comment

 

 

Attend in Person:

The County will have social distancing practices in place. It would be wise to bring a face mask and expect seating to be limited and spaced out in the auditorium. There will be provision for those who are waiting to come in to watch the meeting outside on screen. As comments are made, speakers will be asked to leave the auditorium so that others wishing to speak can come in.

 

When public comment is opened, walk to the front of the auditorium and stand at either speaker’s lectern to be recognized by the board. The lecterns will be sanitized in between speakers. Give your name and address and indicate who you represent. If you are distributing additional back-up material, please provide the county administrator with 10 copies prior to the beginning of the commission meeting. You will have exactly 2 minutes to speak. Be prepared – you will not be given extra time unless the Board asks you a question. Make sure what you have to say adds a new perspective or new information to the Hearing – if you wish to echo another’s comments, simply say “I agree with…” and move on to something non-repetitive.

Watch the Meeting Online:

Go to this page. Today’s meeting is the first one on the list. You will see the Agenda link in blue. About 5 minutes before the meeting, a second link will appear next to the Agenda. Click that link to join the live stream video of the meeting via WebEx with your computer or mobile device.

This page provides further instructions on how to operate the live stream controls. If you wish to speak, you can use the raise hand icon in the participants panel on your screen and the moderator will call on you during the public comment period. When you speak, be sure to turn the volume down on your video player so that we can hear you free of feedback. Connectivity-related questions? Contact the IT Helpdesk, 352-671-8801.

Call In to Listen and Comment:

The number is 352-671-8808. If you wish to speak, press *9. The moderator will see your request and connect you when it is your turn. Please call from a quiet location and do not use speakerphone.

Public comment-related questions? Dawn Phelps, dawn.phelps@marioncountyfl.org, 352-438-2327.

Further assistance? Any person with a disability requiring assistance, auxiliary aids, and services county government meetings may notify the human resources director: Amanda Tart, amanda.tart@marioncountyfl.org, 352-438-2345.

 

It's Not About ATVs. It's About Location.

We at Horse Farms Forever like ATVs. Many of us own and enjoy them. We support family-oriented outdoor recreation, just like the Double Gate ATV Park applicants. Our concern continues to be about the location of the subject property:

  • in the Farmland Preservation Area;
  • in a flood zone and spring protection area;
  • in a peaceful residential area where noise will be a factor.

Our message continues to be the same as our mission:

We ask that the Farmland Preservation Area be respected and protected. Once it's erased, it can't be replaced.

Overwhelming Grassroots Support for the Farmland Preservation Area

The County Commissioners report receiving hundreds and hundreds of letters in opposition to the Double Gate ATV Park Land Use and Zoning changes, and Special Use Permit. Thank you for speaking out! As a supporter of the Farmland Preservation Area, you are in strong company.

Take a look at some of these letters: click on the > and < to scroll through.

And here is our letter to the Commissioners: click on the > and < to scroll through.

The Hearing is Tomorrow, June 17th, 2pm

You have shown great energy and commitment toward denial of this proposal. The Commissioners have received your input. Let’s finish this by turning out. There is no substitute for being there – either in person or through virtual attendance. You will be able to call in or email comments that will be heard by all during the meeting. The link below directs you. The virtual attendance link will appear next to the Agenda five minutes before the meeting starts.

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.

A Closer Look at Very Real Water Concerns in Flemington from Double Gate ATV Park

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.

 

 

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.

Residents, farm groups oppose ATV park in rural Flemington

Residents, farm groups oppose ATV park in rural Flemington

A proposal to build an all-terrain vehicle recreation and entertainment complex, with included track, sales, service and an RV park at Flemington, has many in the rural community up in arms.

The 240-acre project, near the intersection of County Roads 329 and 318, lies on land designated as part of Marion County’s Secondary Springs Protection Zone, and the property includes wetland areas. The proposal to grant a special use permit for the land goes before the Marion County Commission during a special meeting on June 17.

The commission carved out the proposal for a special meeting so it could accommodate those interested in attending since COVID-19 distancing guidelines limit capacity in the commission’s auditorium.

On Wednesday, the commission will vote on sending the proposal to the state for its review.

County staff recommends approval for all but the RV park portion of the project. The Planning and Zoning Commission, however, voted 3-2 to deny the proposal mostly on the basis that the use is not compatible with the surrounding agricultural nature of the area. The zoning board’s vote is only a recommendation, and the commission is not bound by its decision.

The proposed site for the Double Gate ATV Park and Recreation is owned by John and Shirley Rudnianyn. John Rudnianyn is a well-known local developer.

Rudnianyn did not immediately return a message left for him on Friday.


The proposal calls for 40 RV spaces with electric hookup, an event facility available for rental, a motorcycle/ATV sales, rental and service area, an ATV track and several ATV and walking trails within the property. The plan also could include a paintball area and designated fishing areas.

In May, several ATV enthusiasts were invited to the property for a test ride.

Barbara Henry, who lives nearby, said the noise was awful.

“We couldn’t hear our TV with all doors and windows closed,” Henry wrote in an email to the county. “Please don’t spoil this beautiful peaceful area.”

Busy Shires Byerly of Horse Farms Forever, said the group is opposed to the project because of its location.

“It’s in the Farmland Preservation Area. We’re not against the activity, we’re against the location,” Shires Byerly said. “There are existing, currently zoned properties in the county that would allow an ATV racetrack. All this is for John (Rudnianyn) to sell his property to Double Gate.”

Dannie Reaves is the principal of Double Gate LLC, the Ocala-based company behind the proposed park. Attempts to contact Reaves on Friday were not successful.

The county staff’s report on the proposal does not mention the Farmland Preservation Area designation. It does list the property outside of the Urban Growth Boundary and only references the springs protection designation.

“I don’t know how they are going to stay below 65 decibels, which is normal conversation. Just one ATV is at 95 decibels, now imagine 750, which is the maximum number of vehicles they can have on the property,” Shires Byerly said.

The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday at the McPherson Governmental Campus Auditorium, 601 SE 25th Ave. Live video of the meeting is available online at www.marioncountyfl.org

— Contact Carlos E. Medina at 867-4157 or cmedina@starbanner.com

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.

Truth Over Distraction in Flemington ATV Matter

Truth Over Distraction in Flemington ATV Matter

Perhaps you’ve heard the term red herring? Its origin is from the training of hunting dogs, where a bait fish is used to distract the dogs and send them in a different direction. A red herring is a distracting, usually emotional argument thrown out during a discourse that sends the listener down a rabbit hole, blurring the facts and obscuring the truth. We’ve got a red herring in this Double Gate ATV matter. We’re calling it out, and directing your attention to the developer behind the curtain.

At the June 17th Board of County Commissioners Hearing, the Commissioners will consider a Land Use Change, Zoning Change and Special Use Permit Application for 240 acres of property in the Farmland Preservation Area, owned by Blitch Plantation (Rudianyn), and intended to be sold to or used by Double Gate ATV Park. It is no secret that we oppose the application along with hundreds of other members of the community who have written in saying so.

Just the fact that this location requires:

  1. a Land Use Change;
  2. a Zoning Change; and
  3. a Special Use Permit; 

shows that this location has 3 strikes against it and is not appropriate for the activity.

In recent blogs, we have highlighted the flaws in the application and spotlighted the community opposition.

Double Gate ATV Park is a business that its owner is calling a movement. At Wednesday’s meeting, supporters of this movement will bring a petition filled with names of people from near and far who say that they will come to Double Gate. Some will show up at the Hearing in t-shirts printed for this purpose. Their message is a good one – “At Double Gate, we don’t care about race, color or creed. We all love ATVs. Let us Ride.” Double Gate describes their for-profit business as “safe, legal fun” and an opportunity to enjoy nature. Who can argue against that?

The good news is that nobody has to argue against it.

Double Gate ATV is NOT the applicant. The applicant is Blitch Plantation/Rudianyn – a prominent real estate developer. If Rudianyn obtains the Land Use Change and Special Use Permit, Double Gate will set up shop through some sort of lease or purchase arrangement.

Double Gate is not locked in to the Blitch Plantation location. It is free to find another piece of property outside the Farmland Preservation Area once Rudianyn’s application is denied. This means that you can support the idea of an ATV Park as a valid business and legal family fun AND oppose the location.

So you can say, let them ride – in an ATV-friendly location. There are lots of them all over the County, as we blogged yesterday. You do not need to be against Double Gate ATV Park in order to be against this application for its impacts on the village of Flemington and the Farmland Preservation Area. Your opposition is not a vote against Double Gate, it just tells the Rudianyn organization that it needs to find a more compatible use for the property.

We Need You to Help Keep the Hearing Focused!

We have heard from hundreds of you who don’t want this application to be approved.

What matters most is that the County Commissioners hear your voices and see your faces at the Hearing on June 17th, 2pm.

There will be a distraction. The way to fight it is to keep stating the truth – it’s not the activity, it’s the location.

We know that daytime meetings are difficult to manage for many, so please write in or attend virtually (scroll to bottom of page to see instructions), or both.

If you can make it to the meeting, don’t be alarmed by the t-shirts or the testimonies advocating for the Double Gate movement. It is a red herring. You can choose to hear and affirm the idea of the Double Gate ATV business. You can applaud a resident for wanting to do something that he sees as good for the youth of the community.

 

And at the same time, you can say NO to the developer behind the curtain.

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