OCALA, Fla. – Ocala residents are fighting Marion County commissioners, after they recently approved a plan to develop hundreds of homes and apartments in their area, arguing the move goes against public interest and wouldn’t be compatible with the community.
A petition was filed by nine residents in the 5th Judicial Circuit Court to appeal the rezoning application submitted by Calibrex Ocala Ontario LP on Nov. 2 and approved by the Marion County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 15.
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Residents who opposed the decision filed a petition claiming the county failed to meet essential legal requirements when approving the planned development rezoning.
“The development would have adverse impacts to the public’s interest, (bringing) traffic concerns, infrastructure concerns, sanitary and sewer, potable water, school overcrowding,” said Mira Korber, who lives 20 feet from the property and is one of the nine residents who signed the petition. “I believe that this development would ultimately bring down quality of life.”
Developers plan to build hundreds of townhomes, apartments, and single-family homes just 20 feet from Korber’s home in Ocala, near Southwest 60th Avenue and north of State Road 200.
“My main concern is the incompatibility because I run a professional equestrian Hunter Jumpers—so competitive horse operations—and you cannot have a professional facility bordering a city,” Korber told News 6. “The main points are that in making their decision, the commissioners ignored competent substantial evidence, which means (all) facts presented by an expert land planner, a lawyer and many residents of this area.”
Korber said the development wouldn’t be compatible with existing agricultural developments around the property.
“In land planning principles, the idea is to go from most dense—urban density—down to high, medium, low and eventually agriculture. In the conceptual plan presented, there was no transition between the two,” Korber said.
Kathy Dale has lived in Ocala since 1972 and is among the nine residents seeking legal action against the county through the petition.
“There’s a lot of elderly people who live back here. They’ve been here for years, and years and I don’t see how they’d ever be able to get a fire truck or an ambulance through the kind of traffic they’re talking about on this 20-foot road,” Dale said.
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Among other residents’ concerns is the impact the construction will have on the water system.
“All this runoff is going to go into these ponds right along here. We all have wells. We don’t want our water compromised. It goes right into the aquifer,” Dale said.
News 6 reached out to the Marion County Board of Commissioners for comment, which said in an email it did not think it was appropriate to discuss details of a case that’s currently in litigation.
The residents in the petition are frustrated with the county’s unanimous decision, but also hope the county will take their concerns into consideration.
“There (are) 130,000 parcels that are already rezoned for development, 66% of which are in the southwestern part of the county. Go east. Go north. Go south,” Dale said.
For Korber, who bought her 5-acre property in May, she said she would want the project taken off the table.
“I feel like the residents in this particular area have been treated like (an) unnecessary inconvenience, that our concerns have not been adequately received despite being grounded in facts, despite being backed up by the opinion of an expert land planner,” Korber said.