Another major development being considered on county road 318

40 acres proposed for development is highlighted in red.

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Posted December 8, 2022 |

Editor’s Note: The county commission has posted the meeting agenda, and this item is being considered as a consent item with no discussion slated unless an interested party requests it be moved for individual consideration.

The new owner of a 40-plus acre tract of land within Marion County’s critical Farmland Preservation Area is seeking a zoning change to amend an already existing but long dormant Planned Unit Development on the rural northwest Marion County property.

Members of the county’s Planning & Zoning Commission on Nov. 28 approved the amendment request by New Times Development, LLC., for the PUD at 7562 W. County Road 318, near the Interstate 75 interchange.

The Marion County Board of County Commissioners will vote on the request Dec. 20. If approved, the project will be the third development allowed in the last night months along the narrow two-lane corridor that lies within the FPA and outside the county’s Urban Growth Boundary.

The area is also located within a Secondary Springs Protection Area.

The New Times property was initially approved as the Irvine Commercial Center PUD in 2012, but it has been idle since then. The land was purchased by Dr. Pedro Hernandez of Pembroke Pines for $5 million in March, according to county records.

Conceptual plans submitted to the county by Tillman and Associates Engineering, LLC. in October on behalf of New Times call for a hotel, two restaurants, a gas station, and 37,400 square feet of retail space on nearly 19 acres of commercial development, while the apartment buildings will be located on 22.57 acres of land, with more than 15 acres of open space featuring a clubhouse, pool, playground, and dog park.

The apartments will be spread out amongst a total of 11 buildings.

The two previous approvals from the county commission–Sunny Oaks and WEC Jockey Club PUDs–in March and June respectively, came despite strenuous objections from dozens of residents and homeowners during heated and hours-long public meetings.

Most who voiced their opposition said approving the projects would pave the way for other developers to swoop in and demand a green light for similar projects, leading to the destruction of the FPA and the rural character of the area.

New Times purchased the tract soon after Sunny Oaks was approved.

“It blows my mind,” said Jacki Robinson who lives across from the WEC Jockey Club on CR 318 and has lived in the sparsely populated hamlet since 1974. “County commissioners are now further opening the floodgates to ruin this section of the FPA. How can they even consider these proposals until they have a traffic plan in place?”

Robinson said a required sign notifying the public of the planning and zoning meeting on the New Times PUD went up just a few days before the hearing took place and was so small most passersby didn’t notice it.

“The county says it mailed notices to homeowners living within 300 feet of the proposed development; well, there are no homeowners within 300 feet of that property,” said Robinson. “I do think it’s important that surrounding neighbors be informed about what is about to happen since it will have an impact on all of us.”

On March 1, the county commissioners approved a rezoning request by B. Smith Hialeah, LLC.  for the 453-acre Sunny Oaks Regional Activity Center PUD on CR 318, just east of Interstate 75 and across from the Petro Travel Center. Sunny Oaks was also first approved as a PUD in 2012 and the rezoning permits industrial and commercial uses.

The project will include warehouse space totaling 4 million square feet on 427 acres, a fire station on three acres, five acres for a water treatment plant and 28 acres for commercial development.

Meanwhile, in a 3-2 vote on June 21, the BOCC approved the 1,029-acre World Equestrian Center Jockey Club PUD, also on CR 318 but west of I-75, which will entail nearly 100 site-built homes, a 100-site RV park, stadiums with a total of 9,000 seats, polo fields, a convenience store with a gas station and 120,000 square feet of commercial space.

The WEC Jockey Club is owned by Golden Ocala Equestrian Land, LLC., owned by billionaire long-distance trucking magnates Larry and Mary Roberts of Ocala. The Roberts are the developers of the World Equestrian Center (WEC) Ocala.

Marion County created the 193,000-acre FPA in 2005 to provide a buffer for farmland against increasing growth and urban spawl, but it does not prevent development. Instead, decisions on proposed projects are left to county commissioners.

The county’s approval of the Sunny Oaks and WEC Jockey Club PUDs have been challenged in lawsuits filed by attorney Ralf Brookes on behalf of nearby residents and landowners as well as Save Our Rural Areas (SORA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of rural lands. Robinson and her husband, Michael, are part of the WEC Jockey Club litigation.

As for the New Times development, Jerome Feaster, a founding member of SORA, said there are multiple negative issues with the proposal. It has no Master Plan and no environmental or traffic studies have taken place, he said.

“It’s awful, it has wastewater, traffic and safety issues,” said Feaster. “We all know that the I-75 intersection is antiquated.

“The community at large needs to be informed of this proposal,” he added. “It’s a big impact project that people need to know about, not just those who live nearby.”

A Formal Administrative Hearing on the WEC Jockey Club, challenging amendments that were made to the County’s Comprehensive Plan to accommodate the development, will take place at 9 a.m. Jan. 12-13 in Marion County. The hearing was originally scheduled for early October.

Court dates for the Marion County lawsuits, filed in April and July, respectively, have not been scheduled, as of press time.

Sunny Oaks and the WEC Jockey Club are both currently idle, according to the county. The existing PUD on the New Times property expires in 2025 and if the proposed PUD is approved, the existing one will become voided by way of a condition of approval. If not given the green light, the property will revert to its original zoning at that time, according to the county.

County staff recommended approval of the rezoning request with conditions, citing traffic along CR 318 as a major concern due to the recent approvals and the potential for development, along with the need for centralized water and sewer, among others.

A traffic study, the county noted, will be required. It is anticipated that the wastewater treatment facility at Sunny Oaks will service the area.

“They want to piggyback on Sunny Oaks,” said Robinson. “Sunny Oaks is in litigation, so how can they piggyback on something that may not happen at all?”

Feaster, meanwhile, said he recently found a presentation he gave some 15 years ago as a fierce proponent of conservation and protection of rural lands in the area. In his talk, he quoted a local teenager who voiced his opposition to urban sprawl in the FPA.

“He said, ‘Once you do it, you can’t undo it’,” said Feaster. “And here we are talking about it 15 years later and nothing has happened until now.

“It’s a real battle,’’ he said. “New Times just came out of the blue. We are jumping on it to bring it to the attention of the community and commissioners.”


Here are the details:

Location 7562 W HWY 318 (CR 318 and SR 225), just west of I-75, east from the Edwards homestead on 225, and north of North Ocala RV Park on 225
Type of request New Times Developments, LLC based in Pembroke Pines, request a Zoning Change Modification of the Marion County Land Development Code, from the existing Planned Unit Development (PUD) “Irvine Commercial Center”, to PUD to now include a gas station, hotel, retail and multi-family apartments, on approximately 41.29 acres, Parcel Account Number 03165-001-00.
# of dwelling units on # of acres 336 apartment units on approximate 22.5 acres with a clubhouse, playground and dog park
# of commercial/retail space 18.81 acres of commercial use to include a hotel; two restaurants; a gas station; and 37,400 SF of retail use. One access on CR 318, two on CR 225
Sales info Parcel sold to New Times Development LLC in March, 2022 for $5 million
Links to application info from agenda
Commissioner/council district contact District 5, Commissioner Michelle Stone
Affected schools and current capacities per county staff report Reddick-Collier Elementary School (51.02% utilization); North Marion Middle School (75.12% utilization); North Marion High School (73.81% utilization)
Notes of interest This project is inside the Farmland Preservation Area and outside the Urban Growth Boundary. Previous PUD plans were approved in 2009 by previous boards.


The staff report notes that this “that the rezoning is compatible with land uses in the surrounding area” and thus, no longer conflicts with the surrounding area due to the Sunny Oaks PUD and the WEC Jockey Club approvals; both projects are under litigation.

This is on the consent agenda with no discussion slated unless an interested party requests it be moved to items for individual consideration.

Previous recommendations Staff recommended approval with 19 conditions including lighting restrictions, road access and extra buffer requirements. The P&Z Commission recommended approval on consent.
Agenda item 15.1.9 The BOCC Planning & Zoning meeting meets at 2PM, Tuesday, December 20, 2022.



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