The Horse Farms Forever TDR Roundtable meeting on Friday, April 14th at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club was an opportunity for 25 community stakeholders to provide feedback about Marion County’s Transfer of Development Rights program. The purpose of the TDR program is to help protect farmland and natural resources in Marion County by providing financial incentives to landowners and program participants.

Photos by Sean Dowie.

On Friday, April 14th before our Spring Speaker Series event at Golden Ocala, Horse Farms Forever® (HFF) held a Roundtable meeting with a diverse group of 25 community stakeholders to provide feedback on Marion County’s Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program.

Since the County’s TDR program is a key component in protecting the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA), HFF hired Rick Pruetz, an FAICP professional planner and nationally known expert on TDR programs to evaluate the program to determine why the program is underutilized. Rick compiled his research into a Preliminary Findings Report, which was presented at the Roundtable on April 14th.

HFF decided to focus on the TDR program because while the boundaries of the FPA and the protective language of the HFF Text Amendment are included in Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan, these can both be changed with a 3-2 vote of the County Commission. The only way to permanently protect land from development is with a conservation easement, and the TDR program is one of the programs available to landowners who want to preserve their land.

If a landowner chooses to participate in the TDR program and preserve their land with a conservation easement, they receive Transferable Development Credits (TDCs) which they can sell to another landowner to increase the density of designated lands inside Marion County’s Urban Growth Boundary.

A Well-Rounded Discussion

Members of the TDR Roundtable included top leadership at the County including Marion County Commissioner Michelle Stone, County Administrator Mounir Bouyounes, and Assistant County Administrator Tracy Straub. The Growth Services Department was represented by Director Chuck Varadin, Deputy Director Kenneth Weyrauch, and Senior Planner Christopher Rison. In addition, several land use planners and attorneys, two of the largest landowners, one of the top real estate firms, two HFF Board Members, and a representative from On Top of the World, also participated in the Roundtable discussion.

The goal of the TDR Roundtable was to provide feedback on Rick’s Preliminary Findings Report and to determine if there was consensus to move forward with updating the program.

The Roundtable was facilitated by HFF Founder Member Elisabeth Brinton, former Corporate Vice President of Sustainability at Microsoft, who also owns a horse farm in the FPA. There was a lively discussion about why the program was not working and how it might be improved, but with Elisabeth’s tactful facilitation of the diverse viewpoints, the stakeholders agreed to move forward with Phase 2 of the TDR Review Program.

What We Learned

Some of the feedback from the Roundtable included:

While Phase 1 focused on providing feedback on the Preliminary Findings Report, Phase 2 will focus on how, and if, to move forward with updates to the TDR program.

Ten Factors for Success

Rick evaluated Marion County’s TDR Program against a framework of the ten factors found in the most successful TDR programs in the United States. He concluded that Marion County’s program ranked high in the public’s support for farmland preservation, but could benefit from work in four of the ten factors.

“Marion County shows strong public support for the preservation of the Farmland Preservation Area, which has been a feature of the County’s Comprehensive Plan for almost two decades,” the Preliminary Findings Report stated.

Out of the ten factors, Rick recommended focusing on four factors that would be most important to the success of the Marion County TDR program:

  1. Reduce Ability to Gain Increased Development Potential Without Using TDR
  2. Create More Demand for TDR
  3. Form a TDR Bank
  4. Determine an Effective Price for Transferable Development Credits (TDC)

As part of Phase 2, Rick will compile a Findings Report. This report will incorporate the suggestions from the Roundtable and additional input from the community. Then, sometime in late summer or early fall, HFF will host another TDR Roundtable. This meeting may be a held as a public workshop so that all five of the Marion County Commissioners are able to attend.

The TDR program is one of the tools available to landowners, who want to preserve their farm, but the program needs to be updated in order to transform it into a win-win solution to inspire both landowners and developers to utilize the program.

Mounir Bouyounes, Marion County Administrator, addresses the roundtable discussion, while Matthew Brockway, Shareholder & Treasurer, Icard & Merrill and HFF Attorney; County Commissioner Michelle Stone; and Marion County Assistant Administrator, Public Works and Growth Services, Tracy Straub listen alongside him.

Fred Roberts, Jr., Attorney, Klein & Klein, LLC; Chuck Varadin, Director, Marion County Growth Services; and Kenneth Weyrauch, Deputy Director, Marion County Growth Services

Rick Pruetz shares his Marion County findings and Elisabeth Brinton,  Corporate Vice President of Sustainability, Microsoft (retired), HFF Founder Member, facilitates the discussion.

The Roundtable included many of the County’s most prominent developers and planners. They are a critical part of any discussion of TDRs.

Join the Conversation

Horse Farms Forever invites you to be a part of this important community wide conversation about how to protect the Farmland Preservation Area. With your support, we can help preserve land and natural resources and also steer growth to appropriate areas in the Urban Growth Boundary.

Back Row L to R:
Chuck Varadin, Director, Marion County Growth Services
Kenneth Weyrauch, Deputy Director, Marion County Growth Services
John Rudnianyn, CCIM, ALC, International Property Services, Corp.
Paul Kaplan, Wellington Management Co. (retired), HFF Founder and Director
Matthew Brockway, Shareholder & Treasurer, Icard & Merrill, HFF Attorney
John Piotti, President, American Farmland Trust
George Isaacs, General Manager, Bridlewood Farm, HFF Founder and Director
Paolo Mastroserio, P.E., Mastroserio Engineering, Inc.
Bernie Little, President and Founder, Horse Farms Forever, Inc.
Matt Varney, Realtor/Broker, Ocala Horse Properties, HFF Founder Member
Robert Batsel, Jr., Attorney, Gooding & Batsel, PLLC
Todd Rudnianyn, CCIM, International Property Services, Corp.
Jimmy Gooding, Partner, Gooding & Bastel, PLLC
Fred Roberts, Jr, Attorney, Klein & Klein, LLC.
Rick Pruetz, FAICP

Front Row L to R:
Michelle Stone, Marion County Commissioner, District 5, Representing the Farmland Preservation Area
Christopher Rison, Senior Planner, Marion County Growth Services
Paul Caspersen, Director of Planned Giving, American Farmland Trust
Mounir Bouyounes, P.E., County Administrator, Marion County
Sara Powell Fennessy, Director of Community Affairs, HFF Staff
Busy Shires, Director of Conservation Strategies, HFF Staff
Tamara Fleischhaker, Chief Experience Officer, Ocala Metro CEP
Elisabeth Brinton, Corporate Vice President of Sustainability, Microsoft (retired), Owner, Serenity Spring Farm, HFF Founder Member
Kenneth Metcalf, AICP, Dir. of Planning & Development Services, Stearns Weaver Miller, P.A.
Tracy Straub, P.E., Assistant County Administrator, Public Works & Growth Services
David Tillman, P.E., Tillman & Associates Engineering, LLC

Busy Shires

What About Zoning?

The Zoning regulations are found in the Land Development Code, which is a separate document with specific guidelines to implement the Goals, Objectives, and Policies of the Comprehensive Plan.

Zoning regulates development through land use classifications and specifies the areas in which residential, industrial, recreational or commercial activities may take place. The Land Development Code was adopted through a series of ordinances by the County Commission, which means that the regulations cannot be changed or waived, except by a further vote of the County Commission.