In October 2021, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE), part of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), began an Alternative Corridor Evaluation (ACE) study to evaluate the extension of Florida’s Turnpike from its northerly terminus in Wildwood to a logical and appropriate terminus as determined by FDOT. The Northern Turnpike Extension (NTE) study area includes Citrus, Levy, Marion, and Sumter counties.
New members are popping up all over the place this Spring as we celebrate the success of the Amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. As a large herd, we can turn our concerns into smart planning for a future that both grows our economy and protects our horse farms. We thank our renewing members and welcome new members this month: Longwood Arenas, Cone Distributing, Ocala Metro CEP
Horse Farms Forever® is excited to announce a recent victory for the Farmland Preservation Area! On April 30, a large-scale Text Amendment to the Future Land Use Element was successfully adopted as part of Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan. This Amendment helps protect the Farmland Preservation Area from incompatible Zoning Requests and Special Use Permits.
We worked diligently for over a year with community leaders, major land owners, developers, and other stakeholders to seek support for the Amendment to strengthen Future Land Use Objective 3.3 – Farmland Preservation Area. After 14 months, these efforts paid-off when the Growth Services staff recommended approval of the Amendment, the Planning and Zoning Commissioners voted unanimously for approval, and finally the County Commissioners voted unanimously at the two public hearings to approve the Amendment.
The County’s Comprehensive Plan is similar to a company’s Mission Statement in that it lays out Goals, Objectives and Policies to provide a vision for sustainable urban, suburban and rural growth that supports a transportation network, a variety of land uses, natural and agricultural resources, and open space.
April is Farmland Preservation Month in Marion County. In honor of this important designation by the Marion County Commission, Horse Farms Forever is pleased to present the results of the recently conducted Quality of Life Survey (Survey) in Marion County. The Survey results concluded that residents feel strongly about protecting Marion County’s rural charm and beauty by preserving farmland and natural resources. Population growth, new development, roads, access to emergency services, and countywide internet service were also key issues of concern. The Survey was organized by Horse Farms Forever and supported by five sponsors including the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership (Ocala CEP), College of Central Florida, Ocala Horse Properties, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (FTBOA), and the Hotel Design Group. The Matrix Group, an independent research firm, conducted the Survey in July 2021. A representative sampling was mailed to approximately 15,000 residents and over 1,200 households responded.
In our watchdog role, if a development or roadway is proposed that affects horse farms in the rural area and especially in the Farmland Preservation Area, the HFF® staff gathers the facts, attends the meetings, contacts county staff and the developer, confers with our professional counselors, then prepares a draft position paper for our board of directors. Our nine directors then study the position paper and supporting documents and a meeting is held to review the recommendation of the HFF® staff. The board then makes a determination as to whether taking a position on the matter aligns with our mission statement, and further if the proposed matter is a compatible land use and concurrent with the Comprehensive Plan. The board then formalizes our position. That position is either opposition, neutral, support or no position depending on the circumstances.
Over the 4 years since our inception, HFF® has taken just 9 formal positions – 2 regarding roadways and 7 regarding development. Of those 9 formal positions – 4 were in support, 3 were in opposition and 2 were neutral. Please refer to our website for the position papers. Here are 3 real world examples of those different positions.
Horse Farms Forever Welcomes New Executive Director Emily Holmes & Thanks Outgoing Executive Director Sara Fennessy for Her Service
Horse Farms Forever is pleased to announce Emily Holmes as incoming executive director. She will officially take over the role as executive director on May 1. During her tenure as Events Coordinator and Director of Events at the Florida Horse Park, she assisted in developing the facility to its current infrastructure and brought multiple competitions in-house. In addition, Holmes was influential in obtaining an FEI 4*S competition to add to the Ocala International Festival of Eventing. Holmes is also a freelance organizer of USEA/USEF Horse Trials and FEI Eventing competitions across the country and has her USEF “r” Eventing Technical Delegate’s license.
Those who love our open spaces and beautiful places can no longer ignore the growth coming to Ocala/Marion County. We are so thankful for our members, new and renewing, who enable us to keep inspiring CONVERSATIONS about CONSERVATION of our precious farmland. Together, we can turn our concerns into smart planning for a future that both grows our economy and protects our horse farms.
The proposed 453-acre Sunny Oaks PUD is a catalyst project that will forever change the rural and scenic character of the intersection at CR 318 and I-75 in Irvine. The community and local residents are justly very concerned about the long-term impacts of the proposed 4 million square feet of commercial and warehouse space on traffic and their quality of life.
Because this project is located within the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA), Horse Farms Forever has recently spent hundreds of hours researching the proposed Sunny Oaks Zoning Request. We consulted with our land use attorney, key stakeholders and land use planners to better understand the complex legal issues and the scope of the previous development agreements and determine if there was a role for the organization. This is a summary of what we found.
Improving I-75 is one of the most significant transportation issues facing the county.
There is no doubt that I-75 is near capacity. To accommodate the projected population growth and increased truck traffic, the road’s capacity will have to be expanded.
Horse Farms Forever recently met with the team from the Florida Department of Transportation to learn more about the Master Plan to improve nearly 50 miles of I-75 in the Marion County area. I-75 also runs through the Farmland Preservation Area, so we are watching this project closely.
Every five years, the Marion County Commission adopts a five-year Strategic Plan to help guide growth and development. The draft Marion County Administrative Strategic Plan 2022 – 2026: Empowering Marion for Success, was presented to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) at a workshop held on July 7, 2021. The purpose of the workshop was to present the draft plan to the County Commission and receive their input on staff’s recommendations.
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.