Ocala International Airport anticipates more development

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Posted July 7, 2022 | By James Blevins

Jennifer Hunt Murty

The Ocala City Council approved two agenda items Tuesday, July 5, during its regularly scheduled meeting, both relating to the Ocala International Airport (OIA). 

Only three city council members were present for the meeting: Jim Hilty, Ire Bethea and Kristin Dreyer.

The first agenda item involved a letter of intent with Michael P. Wood to develop approximately 64 acres of airport property with the goal of constructing an aviation-themed luxury R.V. park. 

The second item involved the sale of seven acres of non-aviation property to Boyd-Mox Development LLC for $700,000. 

Luxury R.V. Park

Aerial view of the proposed property, highlighted in green, for the location of the planned luxury R.V. Park at the Ocala international Airport, 1770 S.W. 60th Ave., Ocala. [Supplied]

Airport director Matthew Grow called the development deal with Wood a “novel idea.” 

“I can’t find anything like it in the country,” said Grow. “The Airport Advisory Board fully supports the development proposal that has the potential of bringing in several hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue to the airport.”

The 64 acres in question, which OIA is leasing to the developer, are on airport property, explained Grow, on the north end between the crosswind runway and State Road 40. The letter of intent gives the airport 90 days to come up with a lease agreement with Wood, which staff would then bring to the city council for further approval. 

Mayor Kent Guinn expressed some concerns to Grow about the project.

“What scares me is when staff says things like this is the first time that this has ever been done or this is the first one you can find in the country,” Guinn said. 

Grow responded by explaining that what makes the proposed development unique is the number of T-hangers—a type of enclosed structure designed to hold aircraft in protective storage—that will be dedicated for the R.V. park. 

“The idea is that people will come down to Central Florida, maybe for WEC or Hits or some other equestrian event, and they will stay here for several weeks at a time,” he said. “A lot of these people are high net worth individuals that got their million-dollar RV buses. But a lot of them also have aircraft.” 

 “Think of it as a hotel,” added Grow, “just [directly] on an airport.”

Council member Jim Hilty admitted that he was struggling to wrap his head around the two central components of the project coexisting. 

“It just feels like an oxymoron to me,” said Hilty. “I mean—airplanes and RVs? They don’t seem to go together.” 

Regardless, the council voted 3-0 to approve the letter of intent. 

Boyd-Mox sale

Aerial view of the proposed property, highlighted in yellow, for Boyd-Mox Development and located at the Ocala International Airport, 1770 S.W. 60th Ave., Ocala . [Supplied]

Ocala-based company Boyd-Mox Industrial Development approached the city, explained Grow, looking for an additional seven acres for its commercial and industrial development. 

Boyd-Mox provided the city a contract to purchase the land at $100,000 an acre and an appraisal in support of their offer. 

Though the land sale is consistent with the City Council’s policy direction to sell surplus non-aviation property at the airport, Grow admitted, the Airport Advisory Board voted unanimously against the sale, instead offering to explore lease options with Boyd-Mox.

“[The advisory board is] pushing for land leases on the airport,” said Grow. “We did present that to the developer but I guess it doesn’t necessary work for their business model in this instance. But based on council’s policy direction, staff recommends approval.”

Jimmy Gooding, who was the sitting attorney for the city council during Tuesday’s meeting, said he stopped representing Boyd family business interests so there was no conflict in his representation of the city in this transaction. When asked about when his representation of the Boyd entities ended, he did not respond to inquiry.

Under the contract, the city not only agreed to sell the property to Boyd-Mox but also agreed to enter into an agreement to pay Boyd Real Estate, LLC a 4%, or $28,000, real estate commission from the proceeds of the deal. 

Gooding did raise one concern about the contract regarding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval. He mentioned that it was not specifically referenced in the agreement, except that a buyer will close after it receives all necessary approvals from the city. 

“Typically, it’s the city that gets the FAA approval,” Gooding continued. “There’s a 90-day inspection period here, followed by a permitting period.”

Grow anticipated receiving full FAA approval in three months. Gooding then asked that the city include additional language in the contract making the land sale contingent upon the city receiving FAA approval during the inspection period. 

A representative for Boyd-Mox who was present on July 5 agreed to the addition of the contract language. City Council then voted 3-0 to approve the sale.