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Marion County Quality of Life Survey

Marion County Quality of Life Survey

Internet Access

Population Growth

Jobs

Green Space

Roads & Traffic

Farmland Preservation

Springs Protection

Equine Industry

Housing

Survey Says…

The Marion County Quality of Life Survey is complete. Here, we will summarize the results. While Horse Farms Forever was the catalyst for the Survey, we were honored to collaborate with five sponsors who represent the business and non-profit community in Marion County: Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership, College of Central Florida, Ocala Horse Properties, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association and Hotel Development and Management Group.

The Matrix Group, an independent insights and consulting firm based in Lexington, Kentucky, administered, processed and tabulated responses. Working closely with our partners, we sought to ask the questions that are on the minds of Marion County’s residents.

Overview

The primary objective of the research was to understand the perceptions of Marion County residents and their vision for the community in the future.

 The research sought to:

  1. Gain insight on attitudes and perceptions about several community issues related to the economy, education, housing, transportation, and farmland conservation among a sample of citizens in Marion County.
  2. Define these issues and to inform future strategies to guide the development of new policy decisions.

 

Methodology

The first phase gained insight into perceptions of key leaders in Marion County to help identify issues to include the community survey.  The elicitation phase consisted of in-depth, one-on-one interviews with 13 individuals who were identified by Horse Farms Forever as key leaders in the community. Sponsor representatives also provided input.

The sectors and organizations represented in the elicitation phase included:

  • Government
  • General Agriculture
  • Equine Industry
  • Commercial & Industrial
  • Real Estate
  • Hospitality
  • Education

The subsequent community survey consisted of a mail survey of Marion County residents that included an option to complete the survey online. The mailing with an accompanying survey, postage paid return envelope and link for the online option was sent the week of July 12th to systematically selected residential households in Marion County. This method was used to reach a representative sample of the estimated 135,000 households in the county.  The sample was geographically targeted based on the distribution of the population of Marion County.

A total of 1,204 surveys were received and processed by the closing date of September 7th, 1,118 were sent back by mail and 86 were completed online. An additional 33 surveys have been received to date since the survey closed for tabulation resulting 1,235 returned.

The survey findings were analyzed by demographic variables including gender, age, education, whether the respondent resides in the urban or rural area of Marion County, and the length of time residing in the county.  Weighting was applied to age segments to control variation in the sample composition and provide representation by age cells reflecting the actual distribution of the Marion County population.

 The results were delivered on November 12th, 2021.

 

Demographics


 



Most Important Issue Facing Marion County

 

What do you think is the most important issue facing Marion County today?

FINDINGS: Agriculture, Farmland & Natural Resources

On a scale of 7 to 1 with 7 being “high importance” and 1 being “low importance”, please rate how important each of the following is to you as a resident of Marion County:

 

Please rate the following focus areas in terms of how important of a priority they should be for Marion County Planners in the next 10 years, on a scale of 7 to 1 where 7 is “high priority” and 1 is “low priority:

 

Agreement With Statement on Farmland Preservation

Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statement:

Marion County’s Farmland Preservation Area is home to some of the richest soils and pristine fresh water aquifers in the world. It is crucial that we maintain this area and its resources to ensure that our legacy as the Horse Capital of the World® will remain for future generations.

 

FINDINGS: Growth, Planning & Services

On a scale of 7 to 1 with 7 being “high importance” and 1 being “low importance”, please rate how important each of the following is to you as a resident of Marion County:

 

Please rate the following focus areas in terms of how important of a priority they should be for Marion County Planners in the next 10 years, on a scale of 7 to 1 where 7 is “high priority” and 1 is “low priority:

Planning Support

FINDINGS: Tourism, Education & Housing

Please rate the following focus areas in terms of how important of a priority they should be for Marion County Planners in the next 10 years, on a scale of 7 to 1 where 7 is “high priority” and 1 is “low priority”:

 

Comments

“Population and the preservation of land and natural resources are tied together. As a native Floridian, I understand why many people want to live in Florida and in Marion County. Resources are not infinite. Any given land mass can only support a certain population level. Good management of land, water, water quality, and human services is key for ensuring proper balance of resources so all residents, visitors, flora, and fauna have quality of life for generations to come.”

“Marion County is at a crucial nexus of maintaining a balance of beauty and rural diversity that only this land can offer. The critical threat is the continuous celebration of prime agricultural and natural acres being covered in concrete for distribution centers, housing developments, and shopping centers. Hopefully, the outcomes of this survey will reflect the true value of Marion County Citizens and will direct leadership to slow the growth. If leadership continues to turn a blind eye to balance, Ocala will become another Kissimmee, a heartbreaking example of uncontrolled growth.”

“I have concerns regarding the population growing too fast and also increased traffic on roads. Growth is good but can create growing pains if it happens too fast.”

“We would like to see the buildings, office spaces, and retail spaces that are already built filled before more are built and left empty. There should be more diverse development for entertainment (ex. An impressive mini golf venue).

“Control growth so that the area can maintain its overall unique charm. If growth becomes a necessity, then the infrastructure should be in place along with the availability of natural resources to handle the controlled growth (population). We moved from our previous community because there was no controlled growth, and the existing infrastructure and natural resources were unable to keep up with uncontrolled growth.”

“Roads are not being maintained, big holes have damaged my car. Our springs are not being protected. Too much water is being sold. Infrastructure in Ocala and Marion County can’t handle the overbuilding.”

Conclusions

  • Residents of Marion County feel strongly that land and natural resources need to be conserved and protected from development and urban sprawl.
  • A continued effort should be made to keep residents informed and reminded about conservation of farmland and natural resource because it may not be top of mind in their daily lives.
  • Population growth, if left uncontrolled, could have detrimental consequences for farmland, natural resources, traffic and roadways, and economic development.
  • Planners should decide who they hope to attract as Marion County grows as it will have implications for housing developments, the education system, and economic development.
  • Residents are less supportive of tourism as they are unsure how it will affect the things they value most. Tourism developments need to boost the economy and enhance the aspects that make Marion County without negatively impacting natural resources, green space, and farmland.

Watchdogs for Marion County’s Farmland Preservation Area

Horse Farms Forever’s mission is to preserve the character and culture that horses, horse farms and the 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area (FPA) bring to Marion County. The organization is focused on raising awareness about protecting horse farms and advocating for the protection of the FPA from the threat of unplanned growth and road development.

Since 2018, HFF has helped to strengthen the FPA’s boundaries and prevented development and roadway threats from encroaching into the FPA. HFF is also working with community leaders and landowners to establish new policies in Marion County’s comprehensive plan to help protect the nearly 1,200 horse farms in the county.