The developers want to pave it; we want to save it!
The proposed NW Ocala Beltway maps
A Chance to Comment on the I75 Interchange at NW49th Street
On Wednesday, November 18, 5:30 to 7:30 pm, a public hearing will take place. We will be there as FDOT shares the results of their study. The public is invited to comment on the “the location, conceptual design, and social, economic and environmental effects of the proposed improvements.” We intend to suggest some improvements that would make the interchange a fitting gateway for the Horse Capital of the World® and the Farmland Preservation Area. It is our intention always to work collaboratively and affect positive change where necessary to protect Marion County’s global brand. Instructions for participation in person and virtually are in the hearing notice below:
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) invites you to a public hearing regarding the Interstate 75 (I-75) at NW 49th Street Interchange Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study. The location of the proposed interchange is at NW 49th Street, approximately two miles north of the I-75 and U.S. 27 interchange in Marion County. The public hearing will be held on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The purpose of the PD&E Study is to evaluate proposed improvement alternatives for the I-75 at NW 49th Street Interchange. This hearing is being conducted to give interested persons an opportunity to express their views concerning the location, conceptual design, and social, economic and environmental effects of the proposed improvements. The preferred alternative consists of a new diverging diamond interchange with on and off ramps to NW 49th Street, similar to a traditional diamond interchange. However, along NW 49th Street, the two directions of traffic crossover, or diverge, to the opposite side at the on/off ramps.
The Department is offering two ways for the community to participate in the hearing. Interested persons may join the Virtual Public Hearing (VPH) from a computer, tablet or phone. Or, they may participate in person by going to the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion, 2232 NE Jacksonville Road, Ocala, Florida 34470. All participants, regardless of platform they choose, will participate in the same live hearing.
A VPH is a free live presentation or webinar over the internet. If you wish to participate in the VPH online from a computer, tablet or mobile device, registration is required in advance by going to: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8139573940021629453. Once registered, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the VPH online. At this time, Internet Explorer is not supported by GoToWebinar, and the link for the meeting will not work on this platform. Please use an alternate web browser to register and attend the meeting. For participants who are unable to attend the webinar, they can listen to the hearing by calling (562) 247-8422 and entering access code 505-938-223 when prompted. Please note, while the call-in number is listen-only, callers may submit comments directly to the project manager by using the contact information listed below.
For those who choose to participate in person, the Department requests advance registration to ensure all attendees are accommodated safely and according to social distancing guidelines. Attendees will be asked to follow all safety and sanitation guidelines as well as adhere to any local ordinances. To register for the in-person option, please contact FDOT Project Manager Amy L. Windom, P.E., by phone at (386) 943-5074 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Attendees who are not feeling well should not attend the in-person meeting.
The VPH and in-person meeting location open at 5:30 p.m. on November 18. A formal narrated PowerPoint presentation will begin promptly at 5:45 p.m., followed by a formal public comment period. If joining online, please provide adequate log-in time to view the presentation in its entirety.
All meeting materials, including the presentation, will be available on the project website at www.cflroads.com/project/435209-1 by November 20, 2020.
The project documents (draft environmental and engineering reports) are available for public review at the following locations:
- Ocala Public Library, 2720 East Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala, FL 34470 (Monday – Thursday, 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
- DeLand Library, 130 E. Howry Avenue, DeLand, FL 32724 (Monday – Thursday, 9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
- Online at www.cflroads.com/project/435209-1
Persons wishing to submit written statements, in place of or in addition to oral statements, may do so at the hearing or by sending them to Amy L. Windom, P.E., FDOT Project Manager, via email at email@example.com, or by U.S. Mail to 719 S. Woodland Boulevard, Mail Station 501, DeLand, FL 32720. While comments about the project are accepted at any time, please send your comments by December 1, 2020 to be included in the records for this public hearing.
Public participation is solicited without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, or family status. Persons wishing to express their concerns relative to FDOT compliance with Title VI may do so by contacting Jennifer Smith, FDOT District Five Title VI Coordinator at Jennifer.Smith2@dot.state.fl.us.
Persons who require accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or persons who require translation services (free of charge) should contact Amy L. Windom, P.E., FDOT Project Manager, at 386-943-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org at least seven (7) days prior to the hearing.
The environmental review, consultation, and other actions required by applicable federal environmental laws for this project are being, or have been, carried out by the FDOT pursuant to 23 U.S.C. §327 and a Memorandum of Understanding dated December 14, 2016 and executed by the Federal Highway Administration and FDOT.
We encourage you to participate in the I-75 at NW 49th Street Interchange PD&E Study public hearing. If you have any questions or comments about the project, please contact Amy L. Windom, P.E., FDOT Project Manager, at 386- 943-5074 or email@example.com.
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.
Florida’s M-CORES Northern Turnpike Corridor Task Force met virtually on Wednesday, April 29. We were there monitoring the action. The meeting covered four general topics:
The best news for Ocala Horse Country came in the first topic. Here is the latest map of the areas that M-CORES is committed to avoid:
That great, big block of hot pink at the top of the map is the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA) in Marion County. Hot pink areas will not be impacted by the proposed Northern Turnpike Corridor. Our FPA ranks right up there with springs, military bases, tribal lands and national register sites. A lot of landowners, community leaders and organizations came together to get this highest level of avoidance designation. We are proud to be numbered among them. We will continue to gather those voices and bring them to the table as discussions continue.
The entire meeting presentation can be found here.
The second topic brought forth the concept of Attraction Areas: places where a connection to or service by an enhanced or new corridor is desired to accomplish economic, community, environmental, or other goals. Then, the participants were introduced to an online GIS tool that anyone can use to see more. Members of the Task Force will be using this tool to consolidate their input. Interested parties are encouraged to do their homework and get feedback in to the Task Force.
This is not over. Follow along as we work to keep the best interests of Marion County’s farmland and horse industry at the forefront. Roadway and development threats to the FPA continue to crop up on other fronts. Stay tuned!
This article from the Florida Phoenix lays out the latest in the toll road debate.
Two of the roads are supposed to cut through rural Levy County, near Ocala. But Levy commissioners voted 3-2 on Tuesday to say they do not want them — primarily because of the development they would bring.
“I don’t want to see Levy County become another Tampa Bay, and that’s what’s going to happen if we don’t stand up and say no,” said Levy commissioner Lilly Rooks, who brought up the resolution.
“There’s really no strong appetite for these roads,” said Charles Lee of Audubon Florida, who sits on one of the advisory groups appointed to study the toll roads.
To Galvano, the economic disaster caused by the pandemic is an argument for building the roads anyway — just to provide badly needed jobs for Floridians thrown out of work by the pandemic.
“As Florida moves forward from the coronavirus, economic development opportunities like M-CORES, and the jobs created both during and after construction, will be critical to our recovery,” the Republican senator said.
On March 6, 2020 the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) released the M-Cores Avoidance and Enhancement Areas maps for the three proposed toll roads. The Northern Turnpike Avoidance and Enhancement Areas map designates the Marion County Farmland Preservation Area as “Will Not Impact” in hot pink.
This is such great news as it means the FDOT acknowledges the Farmland Preservation Area is off limits!
The inclusion of the Farmland Preservation Area in the hot pink areas was due to the leadership of Marion County Commission Chair Kathy Bryant. She has been attending the M-Cores meetings for several months and at the last meeting, she made the request to designate the Farmland Preservation Area as “Will Not Impact.”
Please thank Commission Chair Bryant for her leadership on this important issue that affects the livelihood and way of life for so many in Marion County.
In 2018, Marion County came together with one loud voice to stop the FDOT from planning the Coastal Connector toll road through the middle of the Farmland Preservation Area which includes many of the county’s most iconic horse farms.
Although the Coastal Connector was abandoned by FDOT, there is a new threat, something called the West Ocala Beltway. This beltway, which was proposed by Mr. John Rudnianyn, a private landowner in Marion County, would once again cut through the protected Farmland Preservation Area.
This proposed West Ocala Beltway is another reason we need to remain vigilant and proactive. Please help us in our efforts by joining Horse Farms Forever. Your support allows us to have a seat at the table.
There is a meeting for the M-Cores Northern Turnpike Connector Task Force (which may include southern Marion County) in Ocala on March 25th to take public comments about the proposed road. We will be there representing our members.
To be clear, the proposed West Ocala Beltway is not part of the M-Cores task force and was not proposed by FDOT.
M-Cores Northern Turnpike Connector Task Force Meeting
March 25, 2020 from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Hilton Ocala, 3600 SW 36th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34474
About two years after the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) abandoned the proposed Coastal Connector, as documented in a letter sent to the Marion County Commission, it has re-emerged as the West Ocala Beltway.
But this time, instead of a proposal by FDOT, John Rudnianyn, a large landowner in Marion County has proposed the road. Mr. Rudnianyn is presenting the maps of a proposed beltway to elected officials and their staff, community leaders and other stakeholders in hopes that they will support the new road.
The proposed road follows a similar route as the Coastal Connector, and almost one-half of the road is located in the Farmland Preservation Area (the Rudnianyn maps misrepresent the actual boundary of the Farmland Preservation Area). The proposed beltway is located west of the World Equestrian Center and On Top of the World, and it cuts through the Cross Florida Greenway and the Halpata Tastanaki Preserve, which has one of the largest scrub jay habitats in Florida.
The Florida scrub-jay is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is also protected as a Threatened species by the Federal Endangered Species Act and as a Federally-designated Threatened species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.
Seven new interchanges are proposed at: CR 484, SW 80th Street, SR 40/CR 328, Hwy 27, CR 225A (one of the Golden Corridors), I-75 and Hwy 441.
If the road gains traction with community leaders, it could go to the FDOT in Tallahassee for further consideration, but that is unlikely as the Marion County Commission and the Florida Legislature both approved language to protect the Farmland Preservation Area from new roads.
Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted June 2019) Policy 3.3.1 Elements of Rural Character states: “1. Transportation: New transportation corridors intended to be used specifically for the construction of expressways or limited access roadways shall avoid the Farmland Preservation Area…”
Florida Senate Bill 7068 passed in 2019 states that multi-use corridors will provide for: “Protection of primary springs protection zones and farmland preservation areas designated within local comprehensive plans adopted under chapter 163.”
While there is a need for improvements to the transportation system, this is not the right approach. Any expansion of the transportation system within the Farmland Preservation Area should use existing rights-of-way. The West Ocala Beltway will cause detrimental impacts to the Farmland Preservation Area and Florida’s unique wildlife habitat.
When the Coastal Connector was unveiled at the Ocala Hilton in May 2018, Marion County citizens sprang into action. Over this one galvanizing issue, the City of Ocala, the Marion County Commission and a large percentage of citizens and landowners joined forces to oppose the proposed routes of the Coastal Connector.
After several months of meetings and much dismay, FDOT mailed a letter to the County Commission stating that the proposed routes had been “abandoned.” Residents and elected official declared victory.
After all the effort, why has a private citizen proposed a similar road through parts of the iconic Farmland Preservation Area?
After the County and the Sate both declared the Marion County Farmland Preservation Area off-limits, why has a private citizen proposed a beltway road through the heart of it?
See related article about the M-Cores Northern Turnpike Connector Task Force (which may include southern Marion County.) HERE
There is a meeting in Ocala on March 25th to take public comments about the proposed road.
Northern Turnpike Corridor Task Force Meeting
March 25, 2020
10:00 am – 4:00 pm (public comment is at 4:00 PM)
3600 SW 36th Avenue
Ocala, FL 34474 United States
Busy Shires Byerly
Director of Conservation Strategies
For there to be horses and a horse industry, there must be farmland available for horse farms. The Marion County Commission recognized this truth and created the Farmland Preservation Area in northwest Marion County.
The developers are knocking loudly on the doors of government seeking exemptions to build inside the Farmland Preservation Area. The developers want to pave it; we want to save it!
There’s an old saying, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you are on the menu.” For far too long, the Farmland Protection Area has been on the developer menu.
It will take a unified effort to ensure that horse farms and the Farmland Preservation Area are forever a part of Marion County’s future.