Residents of tiny Sumter County town fearful of impending invasion by The Villages

The Villages is continuing its southward creep, now poised to reach the city limits of Coleman on U.S. 301.

The expansion is causing some concerns by residents of at least one small community near the development path.

At a meeting Tuesday of the Wildwood Planning and Zoning Board, Special Magistrate W. Grant Watson recommended approval of a fourth amendment to the Villages of Southern Oaks comprehensive plan that extends the development area about a mile south of the intersection of Warm Springs Avenue (County Road 468) and U.S. 301. The Wildwood Commission will take up the amendment at an upcoming meeting.

A 159-acre tract south of the Village of Fenney recently was annexed to the city and probably will be developed as another Villages neighborhood. The property is adjacent to the city limits of Coleman to the west.

About 23 acres of the land are wetlands, which will be preserved or offset, and the Villages has vowed to protect endangered species, including sandhill cranes.

The property is expected to develop as “part of a larger mixed-use development with a heavy residential component,” according to a memo by Melanie Peavy, Wildwood’s development services director.

Commercial and institutional components of the project may generate “a substantial number of jobs,” the memo stated.

In a related matter, Watson also recommended approval of an amendment changing a land-use designation that will assist The Villages development.

The city would add the South Wildwood Commercial Mixed Use category and eliminate the Business Park Mixed Use category. Peavy said currently there are no properties assigned the Business Park designation.

The South Wildwood land-use category would require neighborhood centers and discrete neighborhoods. Allowed uses include retail sales and restaurants; commercial and medical offices; townhomes, apartments and condominiums; and government and recreational uses. Residential density is a maximum of seven units per acre.

Other uses, including hospitals, grazing livestock or tiny-house neighborhoods, would require special exceptions under the amendment.

Residents of Adamsville, a small community near county roads 505 and 468, expressed concern that the amendment would apply only to Villages property and not to other developers, which could limit the ability of residents outside The Villages to develop their property.

In a Nov. 27 letter to Peavy, Jim Gibson said the amendment’s provisions should be extended beyond The Villages.

“We believe that any commercial developer who chooses this area to build his or her business should have an opportunity equal to that of The Villages developer,” Gibson wrote.

He said the increasing control of the city commission by Villages-backed candidates means uses listed as special exceptions likely won’t be granted for other developers.

“It would seem that the Adamsville area will very soon be the most highly-populated area in the county,” the letter said.