RaceTrac has targeted land and begun discussions with the County to build a truck stop in the Farmland Preservation Area. RaceTrac is a great family business story, and their facilities are first class. There’s nothing wrong with them or what they want to build.
What’s wrong is where they want to build it, deep inside the Farmland Preservation Area on rural land with agricultural zoning. It’s just not a compatible land use.
The site is at the intersection of 329 where it meets 301/441 just before the “Y” where 301/441 split in northwest Ocala. It is right near both the North Marion High and Middle schools. You can see that the area is predominantly large, open pastures.
In order to approve this use, the County would have to:
Amend the Comprehensive Plan to change the Future Land Use from Rural to Commercial.
Change the zoning from Agricultural to Business.
Contradict the unanimously passed HFF Amendment.
Truck stops depend on traffic to make a profit. Look at what grew up around a similar RaceTrac in Lithia Springs, Georgia:
- Big Box Stores
- Distribution Centers
This is Horse Country
Ocala is the Horse Capital of the World®. There is one horse for every four people. The equine industry accounts for one-fifth of the county’s workforce, land use and economy. For Ocala, the equine industry is the bedrock of our economic strength, infrastructure, and identity; it’s like vineyards are to Napa Valley, like corn is to Iowa.
Respect and Protect
The foundation for this equestrian mecca is the simple fact that for there to be horses, there must be horse farms. Ocala is home to thousands of horse farms and training centers, mostly concentrated in the Farmland Preservation Area. What makes the Farmland Preservation Area so special and worthy of protection? Why was it established and what makes it unique?
Valuable Natural Resources
The answer is simple, it’s the soil and the water. The boundaries of the Farmland Preservation Area were drawn around one of the richest concentrations of number 8 soil in the country. Number 8 soil is special because it is a thin layer of nutrient rich dirt sitting atop a massive lime rock formation known as the Ocala Ridge. This almost pure limestone is full of calcium carbonate, a key ingredient in building strong bones and muscles in horses.
Silver Springs is the largest artesian spring in the world. The Farmland Preservation Area cradles both the primary and secondary protection zones for Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs within its boundaries.
The People Have Spoken
The majority of the community agrees. We support that statement with the results of the Quality-of-Life Survey in 2021. The community spoke loudly when asked, “What do you think is the most important issue facing Marion County today?”
The number one answer was Preservation of Land and Natural Resources.
When asked, “Is it crucial to maintain the Marion County area and its resources to ensure that the legacy as the Horse Capital of the World™ will remain for future generations?”
90% agreed, the highest score on the survey.
The County Agrees
In addition, the majority of the commissioners agree. We support that statement with the unanimous passage of the Horse Farms Forever Amendment in 2022.
Policy 3.3.1: Elements of Rural Character
The County shall preserve and protect rural and equestrian/agricultural character within the Rural Lands, specifically the Farmland Preservation Area, by requiring that all appropriate future development activities within this Area preserve, support, and enhance the fundamental elements of rural character set forth below, and further requiring that all Zoning Changes and Special Use Permits within the Farmland Preservation Area be consistent with and preserve, protect, support, and enhance the rural, equestrian, and farmland character of the Farmland Preservation Area.
We ask RaceTrac to recognize the role that horses, horse farms and the Farmland Preservation Area play in the character and culture of this community, and to respect the integrity of the rural land in the Farmland Preservation Area.
It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.
We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.
Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.