In surprise move, The Villages to build homes in ‘Village of Fenney’ in Wildwood

The Villages will build 3,000 homes plus amenities on the Wildwood Springs property and the development received final approval Monday night by the Wildwood City Commission.

Although the project on about 1,000 acres will not be contiguous to the rest of The Villages, it will be part of it and known as the Village of Fenney, which is the name of a nearby spring. The property is along County Road 468 south of the proposed Florida Turnpike interchange, southeast of the intersection with U.S. 301.

“We will build the infrastructure,” said Dean Barberree, president of Reader & Partners of Orlando, who shepherded the project through the approval process. “They will build and sell houses.”

Barberree said he expects construction to begin by the end of the year. A Villages representative did not speak at the meeting and details about the new village’s relationship to the rest of The Villages were not available.

The partnership with The Villages was not revealed publicly until Monday night after approval. Barberree said it was kept secret because partnership negotiations were still going on. But keeping the partnership secret also prevented public input about The Villages involvement.

Wildwood Springs was proposed in 2008, but the recession delayed plans to build it. Several months ago, the developer asked to change the project to an age-restricted, active adult community. Since the project is a development of regional impact, like The Villages, it required state review.

A letter last month from Taylor Teepell of the state Department of Economic Opportunity deemed the impact of changing the project to age-restricted as “non-substantial,” which meant the developer would not need further state approvals.

The revised plan calls for 2,600 of the 3,000 homes to be age-restricted. It also reduced the proposed commercial and retail space to 160,000 square feet from 225,000 square feet in the 2008 plan. Amenities may be similar to other villages, including recreation centers and golf courses.

“We’re excited about it for us and we’re excited about it for the city,” Barberree told Wildwood commissioners Monday night.

Barberree and Mayor Ed Wolf both praised city staff for putting together a thick stack of documents needed for approval in a short time.

Besides several ordinances and resolutions needed for Wildwood Springs, commissioners also approved revisions to its land development regulations which define age-restricted communities.

A year ago, The Villages proposed building about 800 homes on property across County Road 466A from Pinellas Plaza. But that proposal was scuttled after Wildwood officials said they preferred a mixed-use development. Two projects, Trailwinds and a WholeLife Communities development, have been approved for the property.