The dust has begun to settle from the Tuesday, February 20 public hearing on Jumbolair’s application and it still feels like a big win for the community. Residents went home after the nearly six-hour meeting with a sigh of relief as the meeting ended with a moratorium on new fly-in communities and a commitment to study and revise the County’s regulations.

The feeling on Tuesday morning was much different when, just two hours before the public hearing, Jumbolair withdrew their application to expand the fly-in community.

This calculated maneuver did not deter nearly 350 residents and neighbors, as they showed up at the Marion County Commission Auditorium to protest the development. Also, in a show of solidarity, 220 people signed up to speak in opposition.

Since the application was withdrawn, the Marion County Commission could not vote, but they could still take public comments from residents, the attorneys representing Horse Farms Forever and John Travolta, as well as comments from Save Our Rural Area, who helped organize the community.

Concerned neighbors gave impassioned speeches to the Commission about how the proposal to build 240 homes and 198 new aircraft hangars would forever change their quiet, rural farmland community. Several residents also shared their serious and grave concerns about the numerous low-flying military airplanes and helicopters that have spooked horses and livestock and rattled residents with the constant noise and safety concerns.

While the application was officially withdrawn by the applicant, not denied by the Commission, this meant that Jumbolair could reapply at any time. However, at the recommendation of County Attorney Guy Minter, Commission Chair Michelle Stone directed staff to revise the Land Development Code (LDC) with clear criteria for private airfields and fly-in communities. Minter also recommended hiring a consultant due to the complexity of the issue.

The Commissioners agreed to study and revise the LDC and, to also not accept any applications for new fly-in communities until the revisions to the LDC have been adopted. This process will take approximately 18 to 24 months. Horse Farms Forever will be closely monitoring this process and we will update the community on any upcoming meetings or workshops.

Horse Farms Forever was instrumental in pointing out the deficiencies in the LDC regarding fly-in communities as we submitted a letter to County Administrator Mounir Bouyounes addressing this issue about a week before the public hearing. For example, the LDC has definitions for things like Aviary, Boat Yard, and Equine Center, but it does not have a definition for the terms Airport, Fly-In Community, Hangar, or Runway. This deficiency in the LDC justifies the moratorium on fly-in applications, especially considering that Marion County has nearly 20 existing fly-in communities.

Horse Farms Forever (HFF) also worked closely with Save Our Rural Areas (SORA) on this proposed development as it not only threatened the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA), but also several rural communities that border the FPA. It was the combined forces of hundreds of residents, along with the powerful legal team that included several attorneys representing HFF, SORA and John Travolta, as well as over 2,000 emails, which sent a formidable message to the Commission about how important it is to protect our quality of life and rural communities.

We thank the County Commissioners and the Growth Services staff for their professionalism and also for the leadership of Commission Chair Michelle Stone, who allowed public comment, even though the application had been withdrawn. Each and every resident that sent an email or spoke at the Commission meeting made a difference.


Like our horses, we are stronger together!