Marion County Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the plan for 320 homes just north of Ocala. Commissioner Kathy Bryant was not at the meeting when the proposal came up.
Millwood Estates, which will be constructed by A-Plus Homes of Ocala, lies on 92.2 acres near the intersection of NE 35th Street and NE 36th Avenue. Originally, the development was slated for 240 homes in 2006. The project stalled after the 2008 economic collapse, fueled in part by speculative home building and loose mortgage lending.
Under the new plan presented to the commission on Tuesday, the number of homes swelled to 320.
Some residents spoke out against the revived plan for Millwood Estates. They worried about losing the wooded patch of land that sits among residential neighborhoods. Fifty-six people signed a petition against the development last month.
Victoria Mulford pointed out that the local elementary school, Ocala Springs Elementary, is already at more than 100% capacity. Mulford also noted that more development will make traffic issues worse and will mean the destruction of gopher tortoises, burrowing owls and eastern indigo snake habitat.
“Most of us moved to this area to be free from this overcrowding and the lack of safety,” she said. “There’s sinkhole activity in the area – my home is one of the homes with a sinkhole, and it directly connects on the border where there’s no buffer proposed.”
Maria Cardillo raised similar concerns.
“The damage alone to the landscape is something that can never be undone,” she said.
However, the developer would have to conduct environmental and traffic studies before construction begins.
“Part of the issue that you run into is this is already entitled land,” Commissioner Carl Zalak said. “And so, every single property owner – yourself, me, anybody else that buys a piece of property – is entitled by state statute and by quite frankly just being an American to the highest and best use of their property.”