Marion County Surprise

ORvote In: Marion County Surprise | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Marion County commissioners; moment of vote on AZ Ocala Ranch

Authorities in Marion County met yesterday July 18, 2017, for the third time to consider AZ Ocala Ranch, a mega-development  southwest of Ocala near the Withlacoochee River.   This matched perfectly the manufactured “rural community,”  paradisical dreams of developers everywhere.

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OSFR President Elect Mike Roth          Sierra Club President Whitey Markle           Alisha Lewis

It was to include over two thousand acres of buildable land, over six thousand homes, room for over ten thousand residents.  Said residents were to enjoy two golf courses, watered and fertilized ad infinitum, an emergency station, a water plant, shopping centers, community swimming pools, etc.

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Maxine Connor                               Janet Barrow                         Kaithleen Hernandez

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Steve Gray

Concerned citizen after concerned citizen went to the podium to tell the commissioners what a bad idea this development was, and the damage it would do to the aquifer, the wildlife and the rural way of life of the area.  Counselor Steve Gray, representing AZ Ocala Ranch, had a quick and flippant answer for every concern, sometimes covering the entire issue in one fell swoop by assuring the concerned citizen that AZ Ocala Ranch would comply with all county codes, so there was nothing to worry about.

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Pete Ackerman                        Jim Carrell                                   Judy Smith with algae garland

AZ’s water consultant, Mr. Jeff Eller, also assured everyone that the water permits required would provide abundant protection and that the water table would hardly be affected at all.  They knew this because they had done exhaustive studies.

Beginning a 2 o’clock, the meeting journeyed onward with the commissioners patiently allowing each person to speak, only gently reminding them when they over-stayed their time allotment at the podium.

Finally, around 6:30 pm, the final scenario began to play out.  This is that time at the end of the discussion  when each commissioner gives comments before the vote.  It began like most of these meetings, which is that, after careful, thorough and deliberate mind and soul searching, the commissioner says how much she or he loves the springs and environment, but……..

But…  reason says they must support the water withdrawal, development, new amusement park or whatever because it will be good for business.  And make some rich businessman richer.  And surely we can suck out a bit more water for that important enterprise.

No, it didn’t happen.

Our heroine Commissioner Kathy Bryant began by saying she had a problem with all the bad things that this mega-development would bring.  Our hero Commissioner Carl Zalak III immediately added his similar thoughts, and within seconds a vote was taken, and unanimously the board (sans Commissioner Michele Stone, District 5, who was absent) voted to reject this environmental nightmare.

And that was the Marion County Surprise.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-


ORafter In: Marion County Surprise | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Surprised and happy opponents after vote: Pete Ackerman, Whitey Markle, Mike Roth (OSFR), Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson (OSFR), Harriett Jones, Kaithleen Hernandez, Cindy Noel (OSFR).

9 Comments

  1. What wonderful news. All of our fathers would have been so pleased with the commisssioners decision, even Steve Grey’s who was, I seem to remember, an avid fisherman.

  2. I wish to thank the “usual suspects’ FOR STANDING UP FOR US ALL. Thank you for a job well done. A few good people work to protect us.

  3. Truly, “for the people” ideals have been upheld in this decision—‘Way to go, Commissioners!

  4. Thank you to our BOCC for recognizing that “progress ” does not always mean building more and bigger buildings and choking the environment to death !

  5. Unlike the appointed governor’s agents on the water management boards, this group of elected commissioners actually listened to, and HEARD, their constituents. This was a pleasant surprise and revived hope for the future of our faltering democracy.

    1. They definitely listened and did their job. Thank you so much Marion County BOCC. You made the right choice. Large developments have no place anywhere near our already stressed springs and waterways. Florida cannot sustain the predicted growth and if we don’t do something now, it is going to be too late.

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