City Council overturns Mayor Guinn’s veto; 401-acres will be destroyed

Glen Hill Farm, ocala news, trinity lane, corruption, farm land
[Audio Clip from meeting]


Ocala, Florida — Despite his best efforts, Mayor Kent Guinn’s veto on the Trinity Lane project was overturned by the City Council Tuesday. Councilman Jim Hilty, who has been against the project from the beginning, also held his position on the development.

However, greed within the city council prevailed, and now, the 401-acres off Southwest 42nd Street and 27th Avenue will be destroyed.

Red Oak and Ocala Stud horse farms will now become a cesspool of commercial and residential development, destroying part of the essence of Ocala.

The land is owned by John J. Brunetti, a man known for destroying beautiful land and who is greatly hated in South Florida, Ohio, and New Jersey.

Brunetti has made it his life goal to purchase mass quantities of land, before destroying them with high density development.

In 2012, Brunetti said, “What I’m doing is following my usual business plan to seek property in Florida that I feel will benefit from the natural growth of that state.” He added, “Once the development boom continues, the land will become more valuable.”

There have been open letters written about Brunetti in both Florida and New Jersey publications.

One of Brunetti’s most controversial dealings was with Hialeah Park. He was accused of intentionally “running” the park into the ground for the sole purpose of building residential units.

On May 22, 2001, Hialeah held its last thoroughbred race. In 2003, the state regulators officially revoked the track’s racing license. In the ensuing years, Brunetti let the track, the clubhouse, the stables, and all of its historic structures waste away, officials said.

Then, in 2006, he won approval from the Hialeah City Council to demolish the stables. Brunetti had plans to build 3,760 residential units and more than a million square feet of commercial space on the 220-acre site.

By 2007, the National Trust for Historic Preservation had listed the park as among the most endangered historic places in the country. The future looked dark for Hialeah Park.

“Brunetti really screwed up with the racing dates, which led to him being squeezed out,” historian Paul George says. “Next thing we know, he is ready to sell it to the highest bidder and knock it down.”

Hialeah Park was later turned into a casino.

Many who have met Brunetti describe him as arrogant and abrasive.

Brunetti seems determined to transform Ocala into Orlando, or worse. In his own words, in 2012, he said that his expectation for all thoroughbred farm land he owns in Marion County was for the land to be developed.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Ocala resident Darlene Weesner expressed her concerns about water quality, traffic, developing sinkholes, and overcrowded schools that the development would bring.

Weesner told the council that Ocala currently has a big inventory of houses and businesses that are vacant; therefore the new development would not fill up. She told the council they were being very selfish by trying to create a new tax base, at which time a councilman attempted to interrupt her. However, Weesner continued speaking.

Weesner received a round of applause after speaking, which caused Councilman Jay Musleh to use a gavel to try to hush the crowd.

In one instance, Councilman Musleh very rudely slammed his gavel on his desk and asked, “Can we not have applause after each speaker?”

Residents said the arrogance was unbelievable.

With the exception of Councilman Jim Hilty, it was very clear that council members had made up their minds before the meeting.

Many residents are concerned about a rise in the crime rate.

Every word that Ocala residents spoke fell on deaf ears. And in the end, it was all about the money.

It is not the job of City Council to ensure a developer turns an absurd profit, but rather to lookout for the interests of Ocala residents and the City of Ocala as a whole. Residents said the council has failed at their job.

The land is set to be developed with 1,660 apartment and condominium units. The project also calls for 225,000 square feet of retail space and 425,000 square feet of industrial uses.

Residents said that “the Ocala we know and love is coming to an end, and soon it will be gone forever.”

One fear is that the Trinity Lane project would become a haven for sinkholes, similar to what happened at the Fore Ranch development.

Mira Leggett, one of the last residents that spoke, said, “If we wanted to live in Orlando, we would live there. We don’t!” She said, “If there is no land there will be no horses. And may I remind you gentlemen that the horse industry brings between 1 and 2.6 billion dollars into Marion County.”

Mayor Guinn told the council that Ocala has been living with decisions that were made 20 years ago. The mayor said the Trinity Lane project is a bad decision.

After Mayor Guinn spoke, the audience applauded him. Councilman Musleh became infuriated and showed complete disrespect to the Mayor, which can be heard in the audio clip.

Councilman Musleh can also be heard in the audio clip arrogantly comparing the council to a court of law.

Councilman John McLeod defended the project. Councilman McLeod inferred that Ocala residents are too ignorant and wouldn’t understand.

Craig Bernick, the owner of Glen Hill Farm said the City Council is afraid to stand up to developers.

Immediately following the meeting, two citizens said, “I truly hope all Ocala residents remember this come time to vote.”

The above audio clip, which includes comments from Mayor Guinn and Councilman Jim Hilty, is only a few minutes of what transpired during the meeting.

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  • Allgone

    Jobs? Paving every square inch of Marion County will bring plenty of jobs… If you’re a cement mixer. But it won’t do much for the ‘quality of life’ for the rest of us.
    Changes in zoning and ‘plans’ are rubber stamped because money talks. And that’s wrong for people who bought land, homes, and businesses on the existing rules.

    • Henry Etheze

      Have you driven out 27, 326, 225, 225A, 40 west, 329 lately? All I see is miles and miles of fence and horses. In fact over 700 farms. Geez, I think this is being blown way out of proportion. And this comment is from someone who grew up on a farm and still owns it.

      • Allgone

        I grew up in Florida. So did my Parents and Grandparents. There’s nothing wrong in hoping there is a little bit of it left for my Grandkids. Zoning and planning exist for a reason. Or at least they used to. If you have no problem with a Paper Mill going up next to your farm. Or Monsanto building their next chemical plant next to a school, that’s fine. But a lot of people build homes and lives in areas because they think zoning and comprehensive plans are in place. They don’t realize those plans are just price tags waiting for the right bid. If your farm is safe from the next big idea, then I’m happy for you. You’re wrong. But I’m happy for you.

    • Eric

      If you have a problem with progress feel free to move to Anthony or Floral City. It is selfish and short sighted for older generations to be indifferent to working age families that need to make a living. Not all of us are retired and a lack of opportunities and jobs always leads to escalating crime rates. What do you expect young kids to do after they graduate if we aren’t allowed to build? Bravo to the City Council for refusing to be bullied by a vocal minority

      • Allgone

        LOL Stereotype much? Sorry to burst your bubble, but I’m not one of the pissy old retirees we seem be tripping over. I’m a actual Floridian whose grandkids haven’t even been born yet. That’s why I’d like for there to be a little of Florida left. For when they do come along. We have a mortgage and all those other bills just like anyone else. And just like any other parents, we want our kids to be happy and successful. I’d love there to be more opportunity for all of us. Especially young people. Because without it, there’s nothing to keep them in Ocala or Marion County. And then it will like one Big, Huge, expansion of The Villages. With nothing but old white people in golf carts and Bermuda shorts as far as the eye can see. We can all get jobs mowing their lawns, cleaning their pools, and serving them drinks. No thanks.
        It’s the “selfish, short-sighted, older generations” that have led to the particular mess you describe; lack of jobs and opportunity. And this is just another way to suck even more real life out of Ocala and Marion County.
        I appreciate you think that building another empty subdivision is the answer to our employment problem. But I don’t have to agree. It’s the “selfish and short sighted older generation” that does. In this case I think you’re the one being short-sighted. Building more vacant houses, or more empty stores isn’t a solution to anything. But you shouldn’t feel badly. A lot of ” selfish and short sighted, older generation” type folks feel just as you do.

  • Allgone

    Changing zoning on the whim of a developer is wrong. What about the rights of current residents?

  • Eve F. Schindel

    Apparently there is only one way for citizens to make themselves heard…remember and vote accordingly.

    • Henry Etheze

      Yep he is running for re-election. Gotta appeal to the masses.

  • Catscradle

    Except the taxpayers are on the hook to maintain the infrastructure that serves this unproductive development/land use patterns.

  • Theresa Hill-Fondren

    Ocala has always been beautiful horse farms. I’ve lived here 51 years and it’s just not the same. Shame on the city council. I’m ashamed of you representing our city!

  • Henry Etheze

    It’s not like the developement of his one property will lead to the extinction of the other 700 horse farms in Marion county. Drive out 27, 225, 225A, 326, etc., you will see miles and miles of fences and horses. Just saying. Cities grow, cities expand, developers develop, this is nothing new. If I owned this property and wanted to sell it, would it be fair to me to be prevented from doing so? I can see some exceptions, such as protecting some environmentally sensitive areas, however that does not seem to be the case here.

  • Don Baker

    I had a small hobby horse farm on SW 80th Street. We moved there because of all the horse farms in that area. But then I got tired of fighting the County Commissioners at every zoning change meeting. They always approved the zoning change for the developers so I finally just moved to Live Oak. I don’t think I will have to deal with any more developers in my life time in Live Oak.

    • Allgone

      Anytime we object to underwriting the profit margin of a developer we’re called “anti-progress”. Or we’re told “If you don’t like progress, you can move”. Why don’t the voices or opinions of those of us who were here first count? Why do we always have to do the moving?

  • allikatcdn

    The paper bags under the table do not hold their conscience….does Ocala even have a City Planner?

  • allikatcdn

    Development is fine when it is responsibly & sustainably planned. Gobbling up arable farm land that was the virtually the seed of Ocala is questionable at best, as well there doesn’t appear to be a need given that the majority of the residential real estate remains fiscally underwater. The road to nowhere creates jobs but to what end? Life is about balance & going the distance in race horse vernacular; in this day & age we must seriously exhaust the least ag productive lands before stripping our communities of what lands have supplied us & infused the economics of this community for generations. Sustainable development is and should not be “Trumped” by the highest bidder- yes pun intended