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Fort White Gwynn Farms Subdivision: Mayor Ronnie Frazier, “There is still a golden opportunity for the Fords & Ft. White…”

Fort White Mayor Ronnie Frazier
ColumbiaCountyObserver photo

FORT WHITE, FL – Fort White, Florida's Gwynn Farms Subdivision – is over for now – but is it really over? The developer pulling out could be a "blessing in disguise," said Fort White Mayor Ronnie Frazier. “This could be an opportunity to reset.”

Background: In the beginning, annexation came first

The precursor to the recent developments at the Gwynn Farms Subdivision began on October 12, 2020, when Fort White (Town) annexed the Ford’s property into the Town limits.

Former Town Councilman James Richardson told your reporter, “Nobody thought much of it. It just breezed through. I don’t recall any questions.”

On August 9, 2021, North Florida Professional Services’ Project Manager Dalton Kurtz inquired for direction in finding the Town’s annexation paperwork.

The next day via email, Town Clerk Connie Brecheen advised Mr. Kurtz that the parcel in question was "already annexed" into the Town on October 12, 2020.

Two months later, on October 4, 2021, Mr. Kurtz advised the Town that "We are moving forward with the subdivision design. The client (Rocky Ford) would like to begin construction…

Gwynn Farms Subdivision -- first page of plans

On October 25, 2022, plans were filed with the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD or WMD), clearly showing that the plans were prepared for Lisa Ford. Lisa Ford is the wife of County Commissioner Rocky Ford, who at that time was the Chairman of the County Commission.

Over time, communication between the WMD, the Town, North Florida Professional Services, and the Town's consultant was over one hundred documents and over fifty filings with the WMD.

During 2022 and 2023, County Chair Ford became intimately involved with the planning of the Gwynn Farms Subdivision, and the County brass made pilgrimages to the Fort White Town hall to try and wrestle control of the oversight of the engineering and maintenance of Gwynn Farms from the Town to the County: pilgrimages which included the County Manager, Assistant County Manager Kevin Kirby, former County Manager Dale Williams, the lobbyist for NFPS, County Commissioners Ron Williams and Tim Murphy.

For a while, the Fort White Town Councill meetings were the hottest ticket in Town.

Alachua County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler and Fort White Mayor Ronnie Frazier
Alachua County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler discusses transportation issues with Fort White Mayor Ronnie Frazier during the first meeting. In the background, Doug Jipson weighs in with his transportation ideas. |  Columbia County Observer photo & graphic   (Fort White, Oct. 26, 2023)

Additionally, the whole south end of the County, including Alachua County, became interested in the Ford subdivision because of threats to the environment and the disruption of traffic on US 27 through Columbia County and High Springs.

Assistant County Manager Kirby said that the County was involved only because of the green street signs (that is not a typo). Mr. Kirby stated that if someone saw something wrong at the Gwynn Farms Subdivision, "They would call the County because they saw green signs.”

Things got so bad between the Town and County Commissioner Ford that Town Attorney Lindsey Lander felt obligated to contact County Attorney Joel Foreman and Mr. Ford's Attorney Patrice Boyes. On August 15, 2023, Mr. Lander wrote:

I got information from Councilman Travis King this morning that Rocky Ford had come to Mr. King's place of business (for the second time in recent weeks) and made a disturbance related to Gwynn Farms…. I have witnessed Columbia County officials attend each meeting where Gwynn Farms was discussed, with Mr. Ford in attendance, and advocate on various issues related to Gwynn Farms. I have heard Mr. Ford say repeatedly, in public meetings, that he doesn't own Gwynn Farms, that his wife does, and then contradict that assertion… I am now in possession of a memorandum of law, drafted by the County Attorney yesterday and delivered to Mr. King today, that is clearly written and then used to influence the vote of City Councilman of the Town of Fort White.

At this point I feel compelled to consider my own obligations to report these matters to the Commission on Ethics… Ms. Boyce, please inform Mr. Ford that he should have no further contact with Mr. King or any member of the Town Council or staff as his behavior is intolerable.


After Town Attorney Lander's correspondence to the County, not much changed. There was always tension in the air when Rocky Ford showed up at a Town Council meeting. To keep Mr. Ford and possibly others from boiling over, a Sheriff's Deputy was hired to attend all Town Council meetings.

Ford Wants Out – His subdivision out of Fort White

On December 13, 2024, the SRWMD issued a permit to Gwynn Farms Subdivision.

On the Town’s January 17, 2024, agenda was a request from Lisa’s land to remove the subdivision from the Town limits. This is called contraction.

In another packed meeting, Mr. Ford came to the podium and told the Council, "The Town of Fort White agrees they don't want a subdivision there... From what I understand, it (de-annexation) pretty much has to be a done deal. It's not affecting other property owners in the Town of Fort White.

Read more about Gwynn Farms:
Oct.17, 2023  Gwynn Farms Subdivision Packs Fort White Town Hall – Document Issues Table Preliminary Plan Approval
August 23, 2023  County Chairman Rocky Ford Resigns From Joint Fort White – Columbia County Utility Committee
August 19, 2023  Fort White Gwynn Farms Subdivision: Citizens Gather

July 3, 2023  Fort  White Gwynn Farms Major Subdivision: Twists, Turns, & More Questions Than Answers for the Town Council
June 29, 2023  Fort White Town Council: South Columbia County Growth On Tap Tonight

Councilman Travis King: “I was never opposed to the growth of the Town... We need to think things through and not make hasty decisions and work them out... If it turns around and goes back to the County, there is no control over the subdivision if it gets built that way. (said he is not making a decision tonight)

Councilman Bill Koon:  “I think we ought to give him the property back.”

Mr. Koon said he would not build a subdivision that he could not afford.

Approximately 40 acres of the Ford's subdivision were originally within the Town.

Mayor Ronnie Frazier:  “I'm with you on that, Mr. King. We didn't oppose the subdivision. We opposed the way they were trying to do the subdivision. All we were doing is following our land development codes.”

Mayor Frazier pointed out that the Town gave the Fords a variance on the required curbs and gutters. “What we're requiring are streetlights and sidewalks,” he said.

After some more conversation, Mayor Frazier said, “We've been told a lot of things during this subdivision, so we don't really know if Mr. Ford's tellin' us – if they don't plan on doing this subdivision or not. Then, they come back and get to do whatever subdivision they want with the County under their guidelines. I'd like to think on this one.”

Mayor Frazier asked, “Why did you ever annex into Fort White to start with?”

Mr. Ford said Greg Bailey (the president of North Florida Professional Services) emailed Fort White about the ordinance requiring curbs and gutters. “We knew that if we had to do curbs and gutters, we would not do the subdivision. We got an email back from the Town of Fort white; I can show you the email, that basically says – OK – we're going to change that (unintelligible) code by an amended fix that don't require curb gutter and sidewalks. So that's fine.”

Mr. Ford continued, “Then we got an email back – our land developer – he said the land – text amendment would take a lot of work. It's easier to do with a variance. So we’ll just do a variance. So that's the reason we pursued the subdivision.”

“We pursued it with the understanding that the Town of Fort White would waive the curb gutter sidewalk issues. That was all decided before we ever made application; before we decided to annex our property into the Town of Fort White.

“The emails come from Connie (Town Clerk) (unintelligible). I saved the emails. All that decision was made before we annexed our property into the Town of Fort White. Now, the Town of Fort white has decided they are not going to honor the agreement, and that's fine. But, if you're not gonna honor that agreement, we would rather our property not be in the Town of Fort White.”

“... All Lisa's askin', my wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, is we just remove the property out of the Town of Fort White so we can go back to agricultural property just like we want, and we can run cows on it, and will leave the property to our kids one day.”

Mayor Frazier said, “We're not trying to hold your property hostage, but you had all the opportunities to build a subdivision -- to do it the right way. You chose not to do that. Your builder backed out.”

Councilman King added (after constant interruptions by Mr. Ford): “What I'm concerned about is the County, which you have very good sway with, is gonna let you somehow get a variance and build half-acre lots, and then we are shit out of luck. Excuse my French. If it's going to be 10 acre lots, I have no problem at all.”

Mr. Ford responded: “It ain't gonna be no lots.”

Councilman King followed up: “I heard a lot of stuff in here in the past few months, and I don't like it. Excuse me, but I'm not gonna take anybody's word without seein' it on paper that it's [not] gonna happen.”

After more cross-talk, which included town attorney Lindsey Lander holding up his hands for a time-out, Lisa Ford (Rocky Ford’s wife) came to the microphone. Someone asked, "Who are you." Ms. Ford replied, "I'm Lisa Ford; I own the property. OK. Everybody clear on that?"

Ms. Ford said, "We want the property back. We're tryin' to be civil with you guys, but you're makin'' it hard. The subdivision's not happening. What difference is it to you guys with what we do with the property."

Rocky Ford, an equal opportunity interrupter, interrupted his wife.

Mr. Ford said, “Our developer has done pulled out, because they said it don't work out financially. So, we're done.”

Rocky Ford: If they give me quarter acre lots with curb and gutter, and sidewalks, I'll jump on that tomorrow.

After more back and forth (what is decorum?) Mr. Ford said, "I'll tell you what – if they give me quarter acre lots with curb and gutter, and sidewalks, I'll jump on that tomorrow. But half-acre lots with curb, gutter, and sidewalks (unintelligible). I said that a number of times to y'all."

After more cross-talk, Mayor Frazier said, "How can I believe you when you say you're not going to turn that into a subdivision? I can't trust anything you say – really.”

There was some discussion about Fort White levying an ad valorem tax. The meeting was unhinged. The Attorney jumped in and said the discussion should be among the Council. A motion was made to de-annex the property. It failed 2-3.

February 19, 2024:
The Town Council Votes to Return (de-annex) the Ford’s Property

Commissioner Ford spoke from the audience rather than come to the podium.
The Town Council listens to Commissioner Ford, who spoke from the audience rather than come to the podium.

Once again, the Town had the Gwynn Farms subdivision on its agenda. This time to return (de-annex or “contract” is what the state calls it) the Ford property that was annexed into the Town in 2020.

Mayor Frazier told the Council: “After the last meeting, I spoke to Mr. Ford. Something we needed bring up at the last meeting. When Mr. Ford bought this property, there was an amount of land that's in the Town. That's been in the Town for a while... I spoke to Mr. Ford about this. What if we give back the portion he put into the Town?... I feel like that would be a fair trade. I believe Mr. Ford agrees that that would be fair. That's what I'm asking the Council tonight to consider.”

Mr. Ford and the Council, in a quick back and forth in which Mr. Ford spoke from the audience, agreed that the expense for the de-annexation would be between $1,500 and $1,800 and that Mr. Ford would pay that expense.

Shortly after that, the Town Council agreed to the de-annexation of the Ford property back into the County.

Council members Mary Flemming and Bill Koon listen to Town Attorney Lindsey Lander
Council members Mary Flemming and Bill Koon listen to Town Attorney Lindsey Lander.

Town Attorney Lindsey Lander explained, “It is like annexation, but in reverse.”

The Council vote was unanimous.

Post Meeting With Mayor Frazier

With everything now cooled down, your reporter spoke with Mayor Frazier the day after the Town agreed to de-annex the Ford property. The Mayor was not happy with the outcome and thought canceling the subdivision was not only a loss for the Town, but a loss for the south end of the County.

Your reporter asked Mayor Frazier, “Last night Rocky Ford said, “I'll tell you what – if they give me quarter acre lots with curb and gutter, and sidewalks, I'll jump on that tomorrow. But half-acre lots with curb, gutter, and sidewalks (unintelligible). Would you be agreeable to that?”

Mayor Frazier answered, “If Commissioner Ford wants quarter acre lots, I would work with him to get quarter acre lots, and I am sure the Council would also. Once sewer is available on that property, it would be possible to have quarter acre lots.”

Mayor Frazier continued, "Commissioner Ford has the opportunity to build a model development that everyone would be proud of. A planned urban development friendly to the environment and family-friendly, where folks could walk down the sidewalk pushing a stroller with another child following riding a bicycle on training wheels."

"There is still a golden opportunity for the Fords and Fort White to plan and develop a model family-friendly subdivision that could be a model for other communities. I'm willing to reset and make the effort. The question is, are the Fords?"

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