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In this map, available at: https://marioncountyfl.maps.arcgis.com/apps/mapviewer/index.html?webmap=2dd674d3c3ae4a579e6f64f113873e90, the County projects show as balloons and the City of Ocala as pushpins. Pending permits are yellow and permitted are green. The light green shaded area is the FPA. The bright pink dotted line designates the Urban Growth Boundary. If you go to the map link, a list shows the name of each development project with the date of the approval of the project and number of units for each project. (Click on the Layers tab.)

Staying On Top Of Growth

The Marion County Commission held a Strategic Planning workshop on February 2 to kick-off the annual budgeting process. County staff presented updates on the Financial Projection, Animal Services and Fleet Facilities plan, Health Self-Insurance plan, and a Classification and Compensation Study.

In addition, a map and a list of the residential development projects approved within the last five years in the County and in the City of Ocala, was presented by Tracy Straub, Assistant County Administrator of Public Works and Growth Services.

Straub’s presentation on the County and City development projects was a follow up report on last year’s budget discussions.

“During last year’s budget discussions, and reinforced as we worked on the 5-year Strategic Plan elements of growth, infrastructure and public safety, staff has to consider what is needed to stay on top of the growth,” wrote Straub in an email. “And what we need to consider in our budget requests (more staff, different software, corridor studies by consultants, more fire and sheriff services, etc.). “

Visualize 36,000 Units

The combined list of residential development projects includes: 18,520 planned units that are in the development approved/pending site plan approval stage and 17,646 that are pending building construction stage, for a combined total in Marion County and the City of Ocala of 36,166 residential units.

Infill Growth Planning

The map at the top of this page shows that the majority of the developments are within the Urban Growth Boundary.

There are two approved developments within the Farmland Preservation Area. One was approved in 2015 for 40 houses in the proposed Eagles Creek development off West Hwy 318 near the Levy County line. The second development is located near Orange Lake and is adjacent to the Grand Lake RV resort. Six hundred RV lots are permitted.

Upcoming Further Discussion

The presentation about the number of approved developments was for information purposes only, so no action was taken. The County Commission will hold a workshop within 90 days to further discuss the issue. All departments will attend the workshop so that the entire staff has a complete understanding of the infrastructure issues. The City of Ocala and the municipalities within Marion County, as well as the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership (Ocala CEP) will also be invited to make a presentation at the workshop. The goal is to coordinate and plan on a countywide basis for the necessary infrastructure.

“With everything that has been approved, we need to make sure that we have the proper infrastructure and be able to plan ahead,” said County Commissioner Kathy Bryant. “How to fund law enforcement, EMS, and transportation. This is not in 20 years; it’s in the next five years. We are going to be facing some big issues and if we don’t wrap our arms around it now, it’s going to get away from us.”

Growth Is Here

Marion County is now one of the top 25 fastest growing metro areas. Approximately 150 families a week move here. The population is projected to increase by 150,000 new residents to over 500,000 people in about 20 years. Business is also booming. Over the past 8 years, nearly 10,000 new jobs have been created. This rapid growth is stretching the County’s ability to provide services.

To address the infrastructure needs, every five years, the County adopts a 5-Year Strategic Plan, the Administrative Strategic Plan 2022 – 2026: Empowering Marion for Success, was adopted by the Commission and this plan will guide infrastructure projects for the next five years. In Part 2 of this blog series, we address the Planning and Future Growth Element of the Plan specifically.

Link to the February 2, 2022 Strategic Planning Workshop Agenda and staff reports:

https://marionfl.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=906712&GUID=083026CB-DFAC-4203-851E-C076A4A5C771

Protect Against Urban Sprawl

Things are moving fast in Marion County. Horse Farms Forever is a farmland watch dog, attending countless hours of hearings and meetings. When action is required, we are there at the table. Join us to stay informed and ready to respond when public comments are needed. Together we can protect and preserve our open spaces and beautiful places for future generations.

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.