Ocala/Marion growth: Marion commission votes to allow 43-home Carissa Oaks on SE 135th St. – Ocala

Residents living along Southeast 135th Street may have won the first battle to keep 168 quadruplex units from being built on their street, but they lost a second fight to block a new plan to build 43 homes on that same property.

The County Commission recently ruled that Carissa Oaks could move forward, despite a long hard fight from residents living along the scenic, tree-lined street that people use as a shortcut between U.S. 441 and U.S. 301.      

The Carissa Oaks plan calls for 43 single-family homes on 16 acres. The earlier plan that called for 168 units in a quadruplex housing community.

March debate: Huge quadraplex development planned off US 441 South 

April withdrawal: Plan for quadruplexes on SE 135th St. withdrawn

Ocala/Marion growth: SummerGlen residents lose fight to nix 2 new developments off CR 484

Residents cited increased traffic and zoning incompatibility as reasons the commission should deny the project. Residents noted that most lots along Southeast 135th Street are five acres and Carissa Oaks will have at least two home per acre.

The Marion County Planning & Zoning Board last month failed to make a recommendation, ending up with a 3-3 tie. The P&Z board issues recommendations to the commission, which makes the final decision on all development projects.

In the end, the county commission voted 4-1 to approve the development. That decision came after after nearly one hour of debate. The developer argued that the new plan has one quarter the residences than that of the original quadruplex plan.

Voting against the development was Commissioner Kathy Bryant, who agreed with residents that the density of two or three homes per acre is not consistent with neighboring lot sizes, which are mostly one home per five acres.

Despite that, the acreage is in an area north of Southeast 135th Street that is zoned for higher density, or within the urban growth boundary.

“I just can’t support that much density,” Bryant said to the developer’s representative, David Tillman, of Tillman & Associates, LLC. “I’m sorry.”

Commissioner Michelle Stone sided with the developer, stating that Marion County staff indicated that Southeast 135th Street can accommodate the extra traffic from 43 homes.

Stone made the motion to approve it “based on testimony from our staff that says we’ve got ample capacity for these roadway trips.”

Dozens of residents voiced concerns 

One resident, Amanda Martin, told the commission that vehicle traffic is one of her top concerns. Martin noted that the 1.5-mile stretch of road, between U.S. 301 and U.S. 441, has a speed limit of 35 mph.

Martin said there is railroad crossing on that route and noted that adding more vehicles will not be in the best interest of the community.

Martin also suggested that the entrance and exit of that development be placed on the north side of the property, on Southeast 132nd Street Road, a heavily traveled east-west highway connector that links County Road 484 and U.S. 441.

Another resident, Donna Hickman, said she lives across the street from the entrance of the new property. Hickman said she has lived on the property for 45 years and “it is a road safety” issue.

Kevin Russell, another area resident who is concerned about safety, said Southeast 135th Street does not have sidewalks. He noted school buses run down the road and “kids want to be out there to ride bikes.”

Other residents talked about how the new development will lead to overcrowding of schools that area already overcrowded.

The debate began in April

Back in April, just a few weeks after a contentious meeting before the volunteer P&Z board, representatives for developer Nick Pucek appeared for a final hearing before the Marion County Commission.

That was when Pucek’s team announced plans to withdraw his controversial quadruplex plan, located on Southeast 135th Street just east of the railroad tracks and less than a mile west of U.S. 441.

The property is just south of Southeast 132nd Street Road, the east-west highway connector that links County Road 484 and U.S. 441. Southeast 132nd Street Road continues east of U.S. 441 and turns north, eventually connecting with Baseline Road.

Though Pucek withdrew his quadruplex plan, his large-scale multi-family plans north of Southeast 132nd Street Road, along the west side of U.S. 441, were approved for apartments and commercial development.  

From that intersection, south for about five miles to The Villages (one of the largest retirement communities in the United States), there has been a spike in the retiree population. And business growth continues to follow.

Joe Callahan can be reached at (352) 817-1750 or at joe.callahan@starbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews.