What is the Ocala Ranch and where is it located?
Ocala Ranch is a planned 55+ active adult community located on the east side of State Road 200 within a mile of the Marion County/ Citrus County line.
How large is the proposed Ocala Ranch community?
The proposed community is 3,400 acres, but only 60% of the land is proposed for development of the Ocala Ranch community. The remaining 40%, approximately 1,400 acres, will be retained as permanent open space and may be established as a wetlands / habitat mitigation bank and preserved in perpetuity if approved by federal and state environmental agencies.
Who owns the proposed Ocala Ranch community land?
The Seldin family has owned this land and other properties in Marion County for more than four decades. The Seldins have been seasonal visitors to Marion County since the 1970’s and bought their first two horses at the Ocala Breeders’ sale in 1978. They have a vested interest in the preservation of Marion County’s unique charm and are deeply dedicated to the Marion County community. Scott Seldin is currently managing the day to day operations of the family business while his Dad, Millard Seldin, who turns 92 in August 2018, is looking forward to Ocala Ranch becoming a reality.
What is the overall design plan for the Ocala Ranch?
Over a 20-year period, Ocala Ranch will create a community with two distinct gated villages offering a variety of housing options ranging in size, price, and style. The design vision includes single-family homes, independent and assisted living facilities, as well as higher density active living units. In addition, the community will feature a mixed-use commercial area with retail and dining opportunities, office, medical office and services. Open space connectivity within the community is a key component of Ocala Ranch, while respecting the sensitive environmental areas.
Who will have access to the Ocala Ranch commercial retail and dining areas?
Those areas will be open to the public and will serve not only as an area of commerce for the residents of Ocala Ranch, but also for the residents in the SR 200 corridor, all of Marion County, and any visitors to our area.
Is the Ocala Ranch project applying for a special zoning variance in order to complete the project?
No. Ocala Ranch is not applying for a “special zoning variance.” The application is known as a “Future Land Use Map (FLUM)” change. The policies in the County’s Comprehensive Plan that are applicable to the property provide for a change from a FLUM designation of “Rural Land” to “Rural Community” as a result of a majority vote of the Marion County Board of County Commissioners in May of 2014. Ocala Ranch is simply applying to have its FLUM designation changed from what it currently is (“Rural Land”) to what the Marion County Comprehensive Plan allowed it to be (“Rural Community”) as a result of the County’s May 2014 plan amendment.
What is the build out timeline for the community?
Ocala Ranch build out plan is multi-phased and will take place over the next 20 years. According to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, by the year 2030, the active adult population in Marion County is expected to double. The Ocala Ranch project takes into consideration and adheres to projected market demand for active adult inventory as well as Marion County’s projections for growth and infrastructure needs.
What are the Ocala Ranch’s anticipated impact fees and financial benefits to Marion County?
The anticipated transportation impact fee generated by the full Ocala Ranch development program at today’s adopted transportation impact fee schedule is more than $8 million. In addition, the project’s landowner will pay for improvement and expansion of Marion County’s central water and sewer system. The upgraded utility systems will then be transferred to Marion County, resulting in a $40 million infrastructure asset for the County. [source: Fishkind & Associates, Inc. & IMPLAN.]
Are there any negative financial or resource impacts to Marion County?
No. Active adult communities are in great demand as a result of the “Baby Boomer” generation continuing to move into their golden years. Retirees are a driving force for our local, state, and national economies. Their families visit and the retirees spend their “nest eggs” primarily in the area where they retire. They create less demand on our infrastructure, are generally active at a higher percentage in philanthropic and volunteer capacities and create no additional burden on our schools. In fact, at buildout, Ocala Ranch is projected to generate millions of dollars in tax revenue for Marion County Public Schools.
What wildlife considerations will be made to preserve the current animal inhabitants?
The approximately 1,400 acres of open space, which is 40 percent of the land, will be retained as forest, open grasslands and wetland areas. This retained open space may become a wetlands / habitat mitigation band and be preserved in perpetuity if federal and state environmental agencies approve a proposed application for the mitigation bank. In addition, a portion of the site that will become the Ocala Ranch community is currently home to a nesting pair of bald eagles. The area around the nest will be maintained in its current state and will act as a natural preserve for the pair of eagles the return each year to hatch their eggs. The development will also implement the recommendation of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regarding the use of bear resistant garbage containers.
Will the project have any significant impact on Marion County water sources?
No. According to well-documented scientific studies utilizing the most updated Water Management District model, the project will have a minimal impact on our aquifer, domestic wells, Gum Slough, and the Withlacoochee River. This project has and will meet all of the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s requirements and water management practices.
Will the community adhere to stormwater runoff standards?
Absolutely. While enhanced stormwater treatment is not necessary for this project, all discharge to the few wetlands located in the areas proposed for development will meet water quality and water quantity requirements of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
How will Marion County account for the additional need for first responders that a project of this nature will put on that area?
The Ocala Ranch project will donate the land for a new Fire and EMS station to be built in close proximity to the development. Each single family lot in the community, when developed, will be required to participate in the County’s annual fire services assessment program that currently assesses at $194.34 per lot per year.
Are there plans to incorporate golf?
The community plan calls for development of up to 36 holes of golf. Ocala Ranch will implement best management practices for the golf courses, including fertilizer use. The golf course will also meet the requirements to be Audubon certified.
What is the status of the project approval?
In March of 2017, the Marion County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the project. Additionally, the Marion County Commission agreed that the development proposal was ready to be sent to state agencies – The Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Division of Community Planning, which is part of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, – all of which had no objections and no recommended changes. The DEO’s subsequent report of findings had no substantive comments that needed to be addressed. The Marion County staff recommended approval of the project as it had previously recommended by the County Planning and Zoning Commission and transmitted for state agency review by the County Commission.
In July 2017, the Marion County Board of County Commissioners voted against final approval. The landowners very much wanted to resolve this without litigation, and initiated two unsuccessful mediation attempts with Marion County officials. Unfortunately Ocala Ranch was left with no other choice than to file the complaint. Under a Florida law called the “Bert Harris Act,” property owners can sue governmental entities for loss of property value when the local government fails to follow its own policies or act arbitrarily in decisions that adversely impact the value of the property or project in question.
What is a Bert Harris Claim?
The Bert J. Harris, Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act of 1995 was created so that any property owner in Florida could seek relief and financial compensation after a governmental action or actions inordinately burdened his or her property. The Bert Harris Act is the Florida Legislature’s acknowledgement that there is an important state interest in protecting the interests of private property owners from such governmental imposed “inordinate burdens.”
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