The Villages finalizes long-awaited 1,127-acre land deal to expand into Leesburg

It’s finally official.

The Villages closed on the long-awaited land deal with the City of Leesburg Thursday to purchase 1,127 acres for about $7.54 million – an area known as the Village of West Lake that will include about 2,800 homes.

The Villages of West Lake marks Leesburg becoming a part of The Villages.

Leesburg originally had obtained the land near the Florida Turnpike from the federal government for wastewater disposal, so the city had to pay back the Environmental Protection Agency about $3.3 million. But that means Leesburg nets $4.1 million on a deal that City Manager Al Minner said will be an “economic engine” for years to come.

“The Villages land sale closing is a game-changer for the city,” Minner said Friday afternoon. “It is the biggest economic development project completed and will provide the community with over $500 million in new investment.”

Leesburg City Manager Al Minner shows where the Village of West Lake will be located.

In early October, commissioners took the monumental vote that cleared the way for The Villages to expand into the city. That moment came Oct. 8 when commissioners approved a public facilities development agreement with The Villages Land Company – an action that was required for the city and the owner of the fastest-growing retirement community in the world to close the 1,127-acre “470 Land Sale.” The property is located north of County Road 470 near the Florida Turnpike, next to the Villages of Southern Oaks in Wildwood, where The Villages has been cleared to build up to 26,590 homes on 13,637 acres.

The agreement that was hammered out last month contained critical details necessary for the sale to go through. Those included:

  • Methods that will be used for Leesburg to deliver reuse water to The Villages – a detail deemed essential to selling the property. The agreement provides for maximum/minimums regarding The Villages taking water and the city keeping it. It provides details on operating conditions during abnormal and wet-weather periods. And it conveys protections for each party, whereby The Villages is guaranteed 6.5 million gallons per day and Leesburg is protected from operational breaches in the event of uncontrollable factors affecting delivery.
  • The Villages will provide fire and emergency medical services in the Leesburg section of the community, and in return seeks an annual fee from the city in the amount of $150 per home, or an estimated annual payment of $420,000.
  • The Villages will provide solid waste service and Leesburg will receive a 5 percent franchise fee on all sales. Those funds will be a direct net revenue for the city’s general fund, estimated at $30,000 annually, plus potential commercial sales, according to Minner.
  • Impact fees will be waived for water and sewer, as The Villages will provide those services directly. Leesburg will be the bulk sewer treatment provider and a capacity agreement for the cost associated with treatment has been previously agreed upon at $9 million for a 3-million-gallon-daily sewer reservation in the Turnpike Wastewater Treatment Facility.
  • Sumter County will provide building permitting and inspection services for all homes and structures in The Villages portion of Leesburg per an agreement that both parties signed off on last month.
  • Recreation services will be developed and maintained by The Villages in exchange for an impact fee waiver.
  • The Villages will develop roads and eventually dedicate them to the city for future maintenance.
  • The Villages will maintain landscaping and stormwater in exchange for relief from a stormwater assessment.
  • Leesburg will receive a 5 percent franchise fee for all municipal services provided by The Villages – water, sewer, solid waste and reuse.

At this coming Monday’s commission meeting – where city leaders will surely spend time celebrating the land deal – several ordinances regarding land-use changes on the Village of West Lake property are on the agenda and are expected to be approved to The Villages can begin to move forward quickly with construction of the new homes.

Planning Commission Chairman James Argento, standing at left, and City Manager Al Minner, standing at right, look at an aerial view of The Villages land purchase recently.