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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.

Where to ATV in Ocala? Not In My…

Where to ATV in Ocala? Not In My…

NIMBY No-Funners?

Does the opposition to Double Gate ATV Park really come down to a whole lot of residents who are saying Not In My Backyard to a wholesome, family activity? If you believe this, you are missing the point. What hundreds of people are saying, with one voice, is this:
 
Not in my Farmland Preservation Area.
 
Today, we received a letter from Northwest Marion County resident, Joe Hartman. This very thoughtful letter clearly acknowledged that the applicant for the Double Gate ATV Park and its proponents are seeing this development as good for the community. He says,
 
“I do not know any of the folks who support this proposal, but I’m confident they see it as positive, not just for them, but for the entire community. I hope they, like you, will understand why many of us do not see it that way. I also would imagine there are some unmet needs out here that we could work on together. This unfortunately, is not one of them,”
 
Mr. Hartman hits the nail on the head when he says,
 
“Maybe the developers think they can do better than the Hogwaller ATV Park you have probably seen in videos. If so, I can assure you that most, if not all, of landowners opposed to this amendment don’t see this as a question of quality. It’s a question of compatibility. Nothing in this proposal is compatible with the farmland preservation designation, no matter how responsibly the developers would intend to proceed.”

Let Us Ride.

In order to get Double Gate ATV Park in Flemington approved at the County Commissioners Hearing on June 17th, the applicant must show that there is a need for the Land Use Change from Rural to Rural Activity Center. Because the property is in the Farmland Preservation Area, the bar is high. Let’s be clear – wants and needs are different things. I might want to put chemical storage tanks on my property adjacent to Lake Weir, but I would be hard pressed to show why they need to be in that location. In this same way, Double Gate may be able to present us with a long list of potential customers who want an ATV Racing and Riding Park in Flemington, but is there a compelling reason that it needs to be there?

We say NO. It only took a quick bit of research to find ample ATV/OHV opportunities around Ocala. We even found a Park very much like the proposed Double Gate just 15 minutes down the road. Hardrock Cycle Park has four motocross tracks, an oval track, harescramble course, challenging rock garden and 80 acres of 4×4 woods trails. The main track is about two miles long. The park has a 50 site campground, restroom and shower facilities plus a parts/accessory shop. It is open daily and hosts various motocross races, vintage trials, flat track and 4×4 events throughout the year. During special events a concession stand is available. Best of all, Hardrock is not in the Farmland Preservation Area.
Two similar parks that are also open and operating are Waldo MX in Waldo and Gatorback in Newberry. Then, of course, there is Hogwaller in Palatka.
Now, if you are less interested in racing and want to ride the trails, this site enthusiastically promotes Ocala as a great place to “get off road and get dirty.” The Ocala National Forest is a fantastic playground for all kinds of trail users, including ATV/OHV riders. The 47 mile Ocala Centennial Trail and the 125 mile Ocala North OHV Trail System are the biggest options. These public resources offer excellent amenities and are well-supported by the State of Florida. Take a look at this Guidebook to get an idea of how much Florida has to offer for offroading.

It’s About Compatibility.

Like it or not, the proposed site for Double Gate ATV Park is in the Farmland Preservation Area. The County designated those boundaries in 2005 after extensive research to back up the importance of preserving that area for farmland for both environmental and economic reasons. It can not simply allow chunks to be taken out each time a developer expresses a business opportunity. Once it’s erased, it can’t be replaced. There are many ways to have fun and make a livelihood that are compatible with the Farmland Preservation Area. There are others that can be allowed if a sufficient need is shown and appropriate care is taken by the landowner. We have seen neither in this case, and so we strongly urge our County Commissioners to back up their promise to the people of Marion County and with us declare:

 
Not in my Farmland Preservation Area.

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.

Residents, farm groups oppose ATV park in rural Flemington

Soil and Water Experts Say NO to Double Gate ATV Park Location

Above is a photo taken yesterday of the proposed site for the Double Gate ATV Park in Flemington. Does this look like a good place to put “dry ATV trails?”

On Soil and Topography Alone, the Double Gate Location Fails

Neighbors to the proposed Double Gate ATV Park continue to write the County Commissioners with clear opposition and good evidence to support their contention that the Flemington location is not suitable for this use. Here is a letter from Rick Robbins, a nearby resident and former Soil and Water Conservation District employee.


Dear Commissioners (especially Commissioner Stone),

This email is in regards to the proposed Double Gate ATV park near Flemington, Florida. As a landowner in District 5 of Marion County, I am concerned about the possibility of introducing a land use that is not compatible with the current Zoning in the designated “Farmland Preservation Area”. The intent of previous commissioners was to protect this area from incompatible land uses and to foster the stewardship of agriculture in NW Marion County. I believe we should respect and honor the work of our past commissioners.

 
As a past employee of Marion County (Marion SWCD), I was involved with the initial efforts (mid-80’s) to collect land use and soils data to effectively protect this area for agricultural purposes. Below are the official soil metrics (from USDA-NRCS Web Soil Survey) associated with the Project Footprint:
Land Use Designation: Soils within the project footprint are within the USDA-NRCS classification: Farmland of Local Importance. This designation effectively demonstrates the agricultural value of the area (and soils) around Flemington, and should be protected.  

Over 91 percent of the soils within the footprint are designated as Farmlands of Local Importance.

Hydric Soils/Wetlands: Hydric Soils are one of the components of wetlands, hydrology and vegetation are the others. Over 50 percent of the soils within the footprint are designated as hydric soils and could be wetlands if the other 2 criteria are met. Please note that the USFWS wetland delineations often do not include wetlands rating in agricultural areas (pastures, etc.)

Soil Interpretations:

  • Erosion Hazard: Offroad/Offtrail – Many of the soils (over 40%) in the area have either a Moderate or Severe rating for Erosion (Off-Road). This means that there will be soil loss from the site and possible off-site impacts resulting in site degradation and unintended off-site consequences.
  • Soil Rutting Hazard: 100% of the soils within the footprint have a moderate limitation for Soil Rutting Hazard. This causes soil degradation and can channel water to affect and accelerate offsite impacts.
  • Suitability for Roads: Over 50% of the footprint have soils that are Poorly Suited for Roads with Natural Surfaces due to wetness.
  • Building Site Development: 100% of the soils are very limited to Buildings (with or without basements) due to wetness, shrink-swell potential, and a few soils are subject to ponding.  This should be considered when evaluating the site for an RV Park.
  • Camp Areas: 100% of the soils are very limited to camp sites (due to wetness), which should be considered when evaluating the site for an RV Park.
  • Off-Road Motorcycle Trails: 100% of the soils are either Very Limited (78%) or Somewhat Limited (22%) for motorcycle trails due to wetness.
  • Sanitary Facilities (Septic Tank Absorption Fields): 100% of the soils are Very Limited to either Sanitary Facilities and Septic Tank Absorption Fields.  This is also a consideration when considering an RV Park at the location.

Soil Properties: 

  • Seasonal High Water Table: All soils (100%) within the project footprint are poorly drained with a seasonal high water table within 12 inches of the soil surface.
  • Clay Content: All soils have over 35% clay within 20 inches of the soil surface.  Clay minerals are smectitic which means they are highly expansive (shrinking and swelling). This can affect construction, such as, concrete slabs, foundations, etc.
  • Permeability: Moderately slow to very slow.  This means that water transmission through the soil profile is highly restricted.  This will affect water movement on the soil surface since water cannot enter the soil profile. In addition, the use of ATV’s will compacted the soil and increase overland water movement to offsite locations.
  • Slope: Most of the soils have slope above 2 percent and up to 8 percent.  Slope along with restricted permeability means that water will move offsite, and even more so…. during tropical events.
  • Offsite Impacts: All of the above soil properties can result in onsite degradation that moves to offsite locations. The slope and restricted permeability means that pollutants, sediment, and surface water will most likely move offsite, unless retaining structures are built to mitigate the effects..

Conclusion: There has to be a better location for an ATV/RV park than the proposed location. Soil characteristics, Farmland Preservation classification, and the rural environment around the proposed site should make the rejection of this proposal…a no-brainer. I am OPPOSED to the ATV Park at it’s proposed location.

 

I have attached the Soils Report for the proposed ATV park for your reference.
 
 
Sincerely,
Rick Robbins
Marion County Landowner

Blue Means Low and Wet

Let’s look at the proposed ATV Park site from a regional perspective. Most of the surrounding land has a higher elevation. All of the rainfall (and groundwater recharge) is going to accumulate in this drainage basin, and if the rainfall totals are high enough….they will bridge the levee and move significant water offsite and to the southeast. This map 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. If this graphic doesn’t illustrate what off-site impacts will occur (and where), I don’t know what will. The proposed site is in an extremely large drainage basin with significant areas of local recharge.

Soils of Local Importance

Lest you think this is a boggy and useless piece of property, we’d like to point out that the proposed ATV Park sits in the middle of one of the largest areas of “#8 soil” in the County. This soil is considered ideal for agriculture, particularly for pasturing livestock. It is designated as “Locally Important Farmland” by the USDA. The Farmland Preservation Area was created to protect these soils. Our supply of them is finite and valuable for farming.

No Brainer For You?

Last week, we wrote about how the decibel limit for ATV noise can not be met on this site. Today, Rick Robbins showed that the soils can not support an ATV Drag Strip and Racing Trails. Read the comments on our blogs – neighbor after neighbor is asking the County to oppose and deny this flawed plan in the wrong location. In an upcoming blog, we’ll show that there are many existing good locations for ATV trail riding and racing. It is not necessary to invade the Farmland Preservation Area.

What’s your story? The Commissioners need to hear it.

 

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