Wildwood Commission overrules magistrate on Villages’ Developer’s request to alter comprehensive plan

Wildwood commissioners on Monday night voted to overrule the city’s special magistrate and include all of the elements requested by The Villages Land Company for a comprehensive plan text amendment as it pertains to future land use in Age Restricted Developments.

After adding back in several items, including key language The Villages wanted to establish a minimum threshold for projects approved under the designation of Age Restricted Development, commissioners voted to transmit the comprehensive plan text amendment to the state level for input and approval. They hope to have the item back on their agenda in the next 30 days.

Special Magistrate Grant Watson had tabled the item during an Aug. 7 Planning and Zoning Board meeting so he could speak with City Attorney Ashley Hunt before making a final decision. And when he revisited the request during last Tuesday’s Planning and Zoning Board meeting, he recommended the commission approve only the portion of the proposed text amendment that would require expansion of an existing Age Restricted Development project to have written authorization of the property owner of that project.

Wildwood commissioners overruled Special Magistrate Grant Watson on Monday night by including language requested by The Villages Land Company in an ordinance that establishes a 1,000-acre minimum threshold for projects applying for a future land use designation of Age Restricted Development.

Watson also had stated that if the Age Restricted Development project had entered into a Chapter 163 agreement with the city, then the property owner is defined as the owners in that agreement.

A Chapter 163 agreement basically establishes the legal boundaries for a project, makes sure permitted uses allowed are shown to be consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and development regulations, includes a transportation analysis showing that no impacts are anticipated, provides requirements for review of the project and design criteria and establishes the city’s land development regulations.

The Villages Land Company’s request was for the city to:
• Establish a 1,000-acre minimum threshold for projects applying for a future land use designation of Age Restricted Development;
• Clarify the process for amending an existing Age Restricted Development project;
• Exclude the Age Restricted Development future land use designation from the exception of providing a mix of uses for parcels less than 10 acres; and
• Add a list of Age Restricted Development projects approved by the city.

The city’s planning staff originally had recommended approval of the changes, saying the amendment was consistent with the goals, objectives and policies of the comprehensive plan. Staff also had recommended approval because the objective of the amendment was to ensure that projects developed under the Age Restricted Development future land use designation were “efficient and self-sufficient.”

Prior to Watson’s ruling earlier this month, Darrin Taylor, a certified planner with Carlton Fields representing The Villages, made a plea for approval of the entire request. He told Watson he’d done research and determined that every “live, work, play” community similar to The Villages across Florida encompasses more than 1,000 acres. He cited several examples, including the Schroeder-Manatee Ranch project in the southwest portion of the state that typically draws comparisons to The Villages.

“That project is well over 1,000 acres,” he said, adding that his agency couldn’t find an example of a “live, work, play” project that was less than a thousand acres in Florida.