While most details about the proposed Villages of Fruitland Park project are still in preliminary planning stages, one detail is certain: Fruitland Park golf carts won’t be allowed in the Villages of Fruitland Park.
The development project, which could add almost 2,000 homes to city tax rolls and nearly double the city’s population over a two-year period, is a mixed blessing for the city: huge increases in tax revenues with equally formidable costs to hire and train new police and fire first responders and quickly grow Fruitland Park’s capacity to provide city services to 4,000 new residents.
Fruitland Park Community Development Director Charlie Rector and interim City Manager Rick Conner, point men in official discussions between the city and the region’s most prominent developer, said Villages officials have been very receptive to the city’s concerns so far.
“They have welcomed our input and every item on our agenda is on the table for negotiations and resolution,” Rector said.
“They have a vested interest in making sure we are able to provide adequate city services to their home buyers, they have been very candid in their disclosures and they are working closely with us,” Rector added.
But Villages officials — Rector declined to name names — have made it clear that golf cart access is the one item that isn’t on the table.
“They said it’s a deal-breaker, and that if city commissioners demand golf cart access they will walk away from the development,” Rector said.
Ironically, Fruitland Park commissioners voted last year to allow golf carts on most city streets, a policy which aligns almost perfectly with that of The Villages.
Mayor Chris Bell had no idea The Villages might want to develop within the city limits when he proposed the golf cart ordinance and pushed its passage. He frequently tools around the city in his own street-worthy cart.
“Golf carts are better for the environment, they are safer when properly used, and they contribute to the family-friendly spirit that defines Fruitland Park neighborhoods,” Bell said.
A public hearing on The Villages possible move into Fruitland Park is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Casino /Community Building in Fruitland Park.