BOCC Approves Another Development on SW 60th Avenue

Angry area residents pushed back with formal appeals to county, opposing testimony during public hearings and impassioned pleas for less development.

File photo: County Commission Chair Carl Zalak speaks during the Planning and Zoning and DRC Waiver Requests meeting in the Marion County Commission auditorium at the McPherson Governmental Complex in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, August 16, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

Home » Government
Posted March 29, 2023 | By Belea T. Keeney

The Marion County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) gave the green light for a new development in its March 21 meeting, approving a controversial apartment complex on SW 60th Avenue while extending deadlines for three previously approved projects in the busy State Road 200 corridor and denying a land-use and subsequent zoning change for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) near SR 200.

Residents near SW 60th Avenue who strongly opposed the idea of more apartment complexes and extending years-long deadlines for more developments amid their three- to 10-acre equine-friendly lots were left frustrated by the commission’s actions.

Board Chairperson Craig Curry, speaking generally about the planning process and approvals, told the audience that at this stage of the process, the commission has no legal recourse but to approve the development, no matter how residents feel about the traffic congestion and overcrowded schools the projects will exacerbate.

“Due to state statutes, we cannot turn a project down because of traffic. And we also cannot turn down one because of concurrency and school issues,’’ he said. “We can do it, but we’ll be sued. We are constrained in some ways, but the state legislature has decided. We have to follow those rules.”

In his remarks, Commissioner Carl Zalak welcomed the area’s growth.

“It’s a great sales pitch for me,’’ he said. “If you like that rural drive, come out to Fort McCoy. We’ve got property that you can live on 10 acres and have a great drive down [County Road] 315 every day. And you don’t have to worry about that traffic as soon as you get out of the city of Ocala.”

Some meeting attendees stirred and groaned aloud at his remarks.

Area resident and neighborhood organizer Mira Korber said after the meeting, “Carl Zalak is concerned about accent colors (on the apartment complexes) and (Commissioner) Michelle Stone asks me if I know how to drive my horse trailer. I don’t drive it into a three-story apartment complex. If you’re going to bring three-story apartment complexes to horse country, make it so the roads can accommodate both types of people who live there. Screw the paint chips!”

BOCC approves Pointe Grand Ocala South on SW 60th Avenue

Pointe Grand South Ocala was initially approved as a PUD in December 2021. It is slated for two parcels on SW 60th Avenue at SW 59th Street, east of Ocala Equestrian Complex, north of Oak Tree Villages, and south of Red Fox Farms/Blackjack Acres. One entrance is planned on 59th Street, currently a narrow rural easement road, and a new one is planned at SW 61st Place, across from the Fairfield Villages Mobile Home Park. The plan allows for up to 584 apartment units on a 38.62 tract.

The BOCC faced another organized Red Fox Farms neighborhood at this meeting, mirroring its opposition to the previously approved Calibrex development, which plans for over 1,200 apartments and single-family homes near SW 60th Avenue and 52nd Street. This time the neighborhood group, led by Korber, filed a formal Notice of Appeal to the Development Review Committee, or DRC, last month against Pointe Grand Ocala.

“The appeal points out that the county violated its own land use codes and particularly the tree removal statutes,” Korber said, noting that the developer has not complied with tree mitigation requirements.

The appeal alleged the county improperly granted waivers for site clearing and tree removal, cited a lack of mitigation for tree removal, a lack of environmental soundness, an improper parking allowance for the apartment complex, and other issues in violation of Marion County Land Development Code and other county statutes.

The tree removal on the site began the morning of March 21 just before the BOCC planning and zoning portion of the meeting when the project was slated for final Master Plan approval. The permit for removal of gopher tortoises (10 burrows or fewer) was received March 2. Neighbors are also concerned about bald eagles that have been photographed in the area and a bobcat that one resident insists lives in the woods.

The formal appeal was a new tactic by residents that County Attorney Guy Minter commended during the BOCC meeting for its thoroughness. But he dismissed the appeal outright, explaining that despite being the people most impacted by the developments, the neighbors have no legal rights to have their objections considered at this stage of the approval process. The board’s review was on the Master Plan details, not the zoning or land-use elements that were already approved in December 2021.

The property is already being cleared.

“The only person with standing to appeal a decision from the DRC is the applicant,’’ he said. “There is no standing for third parties to appeal [a DRC decision.]”

The residents, however, continued to press their opposition, with most focusing on the traffic issues that adding hundreds of new homes will create.

Korber passionately addressed the board and showed 3-feet-by-4-feet blown-up photos of how horse trailers have to veer into the left-hand travel lane on southbound SW 60th Avenue in order to turn onto narrow SW 59th Street, the only access the residents have into their neighborhood. Korber maintained the proposed expansion and improvements proposed by the developer are insufficient.

“Tell me that one feet, five inches is going to be enough to for me not to get killed entering my only access into my property!” Korber said. “I’m taking my life in my hands every day to get home.”

Korber concluded with a plea to commissioners about commissioners about “my real risk of getting killed. [The road] is a liability. While I’m here, let me live here! Please.”

The board members made no responses to Korber’s comments.

Other opponents also addressed public safety issues, including the lack of traffic signals at SW 61st Street and 59th Street, the vulnerability of the residents at the 55+ community Fairfield Village Mobile Home Park, and the school bus stops and children who congregate near 60th Avenue in the mornings.

Kathy Dale’s presentation focused on numbers and figures for traffic, citing over 9,000 trips per day due to the new developments and noted there are no plans for a sidewalk for schoolchildren to get to a bus stop.

“How long before there are multiple rear-end collisions?” Dale asked. “You have created an untenable situation, a major safety hazard, that is going to result in injury and death in the near future by ignoring all common sense. By approving these mini-city developments in a rural, agricultural area, you are subjecting the current residents to eight or nine times the recommended traffic for a two-lane road [SW 59th Street].’’

Dale ended with a pointed comment to the board. “I promise that I will make it my mission when there is an accident causing injury or death at this intersection that I will notify every personal injury attorney in central Florida of this meeting and how to access it,” she said.

Pam Bruno, another resident, expressed frustration with the board’s emphasis on accommodating newcomers to Marion County.

“What about the people who already live here?” she asked. “They keep talking about the new people coming in, but what about us who are stuck between the Farmland Preservation boundary and the city?” Bruno was referring to the formal Urban Growth Boundary that the commission uses to help determine the appropriateness of a project.

Resident Nancy Haehn pointed out to the board that five other projects are already slated for the SR 200 and SW 60th Avenue area, all of which will be adding to traffic. “There are 2,662 units [planned] within a half mile of 200 and 60th Avenue,” she said.

Commissioner Stone asked county staff about the coming improvements to SW 59th Street and was told that the intersection will incorporate sufficient radius for large vehicles to make turns and improvements will be made per engineering standards to match other intersections in the county.

Commissioner Zalak, in reviewing the Master Plan package and its photos of typical buildings the developer has built previously, suggested some variation in the colors and possibly adding brick to give the building some architectural features.

Stone tried to alleviate some of the anger coming from resident speakers. “We’re trying to do exactly what we were charged to do,” she said. “Keep the growth within that Urban Growth Boundary.”

According to a county staff report, these are the area schools most affected schools by the proposals and their current student capacities: Saddlewood Elementary (117.98%), Liberty Middle (111.64%), and West Port High (109.81%).

The parcels are currently wooded, and nearby equine operations include Resolute Polo, the Ocala Horse Complex, and several small horse farms, both private and commercial.

The board approved the Master Plan for the project.

3 projects receive extended deadlines

In an hour-long discussion, commissioner debated whether projects initially approved in 2016 and 2017 should have deadlines for implementation moved.

Three projects requested extensions:

West Point PUD, with 513 multi-family units on 28.5 acres located at SW 80th Avenue and SW 100th Street originally approved in 2016.

Maro 200 PUD, with 322 townhomes and 177 single-family homes on 111 acres located at SW Highway 200 and SW 100th Street, across from the Walgreens and Walmart Neighborhood Market, and just west of Countryside Farms. It was approved in 2017.

110th Street PUD located at SW 100th Street, with 480 multi-family units on approximately 40 and 30 acres of commercial usage, approved in 2017.

Area resident Pam Bruno spoke in opposition. “They’ve expired their time,’’ she said. “They’ve had plenty of time to do what they were supposed to. And it didn’t get done.”

Ultimately, the extensions were passed 3-1; Curry was the sole dissenting vote.

Ocala Place on SR 200 denied

The board denied a requested land-use change from commercial to urban residential for another proposed rental development, slated for 280 apartments and 25 single-family cottage homes on 24 acres at 8120 SW SR 200, behind the McDonald’s near On Top of the World.

Zalak questioned the need for more residential units in that area of the county and Senior County Planner Ken Weyrauch replied, “This is an area where we have a lot of everything.”

Stone asked for clarification about the total number of apartments and homes already slated for the SR 200 corridor from OTOW southwest to the Greenway. Assistant County Manager Tracy Straub reported that pending projects number 1,701 units; those already approved by the BOCC number 3,497 units; and there are 3,054 single-family and 3,458 multi-family units that have gone through the development review process, are approved and ready to pull permits. Those figures include the Calesa Township, which is slated for at least 5,000 total units at build-out.

After discussion about the already-planned homes in the area, the board denied the project.


Digital Extra: Using this interactive mapping tool from the county, you can see where development has been approved:



newspaper icon

Support community journalism

The first goal of the Ocala Gazette is to deliver trustworthy local journalism so corruption, misinformation and abuse are not hidden from the public or unchallenged.

We count on community support to continue this important work. Please donate or subscribe: