Parking nightmare at Fenney falls squarely on Villages Developer’s shoulders

A nasty situation that clearly was caused by poor planning is creating consternation for residents of the Village of Fenney – many of whom must be wondering what they got themselves into by purchasing high-dollar homes in the new unattached section of the mega-retirement community.

The latest issue for these problem-weary Villagers is the lack of parking for automobiles at the highly popular Fenney Putt & Play. The two professionally designed putting courses provide Villagers with a venue to practice their short-game. And the facility offers open greens for lawn bowling and croquet, as well as a waterside walking trail.

With no parking spots for automobiles at the Fenney Putt & Play, this Villager recently decided to park his car in the golf cart parking area.

We think building the Fenney Putt & Play was a smart idea. But what ranks on the dumb end of the scale is the fact that the facility only offers golf cart parking. That’s right, if you drive a car to the attraction – let’s not forget that Fenney is at least two years away from being connected to the rest of The Villages with a bridge crossing State Road 44 – then you’re supposed to park at a recreation center and walk about a half a mile.

So despite what you may hear elsewhere, that means that the Putt & Play is really a Fenney attraction, as those residents are the only ones who can physically access it by golf cart. And never mind the fact that the other 100,000-plus residents of The Villages – we’re not going to call it Florida’s Friendliest Hometown right now because this boondoggle just doesn’t feel friendly – are every bit as entitled to use those facilities as the people living in Fenney.

But apparently someone – possibly the next-generation millennials in the Morse family? – apparently didn’t think this one through. Or worse yet, when the initial plans were drawn up, they simply didn’t care that Fenney outsiders would face parking woes and be forced to walk a half a mile to enjoy the attraction.

News flash: Not every Villager can walk that far. Some have health issues. And even the strongest of residents would struggle in the sweltering summer months that are just around the corner.

Cars line neighborhood streets in the Village of Fenney.

Not surprisingly, this major snafu has led to Fenney outsiders parking in front of residents’ homes on streets near the Putt & Play. That has caused many of those Villagers to put up “No Parking” signs in their yards. And some have even resorted to placing orange cones across the front of their driveways to keep strangers from parking there.

Can you imagine having to do such a thing at the dream home you’ve saved your whole life for your “golden years”? It’s not the kind of hassle retirees should have to be dealing with – especially when they supposedly bought into a “planned” community that should take these kind of things into account.

A homeowner uses orange cones, a ‘No Parking’ sign and flags to dissuade would-be parkers in the Village of Fenney.

While we’re not surprised by The Villages Developer’s latest failure, we find it disheartening and beyond ridiculous, to the say the least. And we think it’s amazing that such a facility would be built with zero parking spots for automobiles. Was the smart guy on the committee that drew up Fenney absent that day?

Let’s face it, this is a bad plan any way you look at it. Because even when Fenney is connected to the rest of the sprawling community – we’ll believe that when we see it – folks in the northern end of The Villages won’t be able to drive their electric carts there anyway. So this clearly ranks high on the long list of head-scratchers that have occurred since The Villages Developer decided to keep building south of CR 44.

A sign advises there is ‘No Parking’ at a home near the Fenney Putt & Play.

Luckily, we’re told that Wildwood officials are taking this situation seriously and are drafting an ordinance that would give the city’s police department the authority to enforce parking restrictions on those streets near the Putt & Play. The first reading of the proposed ordinance is set for April 8, and knowing the way that commission thinks, we have no doubt that it will pass on second reading.

While we applaud Wildwood for taking steps to remedy the annoying parking situation, city officials can only do so much. Because at the end of the day, the parking problem still exists and fixing it should fall squarely on the shoulders of the Developer who created the nightmare in the first place.

H. Gary Morse

If you ask us – we’ve been in the community for quite a long time – this kind of situation never would have happened under the watchful eye of the late H. Gary Morse, who died in October 2014. Many years ago, Morse had made it clear that The Villages would never build south of CR 44. We’re guessing he had good reasons for that, and lo and behold, we seem to be seeing situations that he would have thought about and used as reasons to stick to his original buildout plan.

Let’s remember that Morse etched out his vision for Spanish Springs Town Square on a napkin at dinner one night and what exists there today pretty much matches that drawing. So when the man behind the success of the community vowed to stop at CR 44, we have no doubt that he had plenty of good reasons for doing so. And we believe if he were alive today this kind of illogical nonsense wouldn’t exist.

Residents of Fenney have complained about being able to hear announcements from the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex.
Don Roberts and his wife, Sharlene

As we said earlier, we’re guessing that many residents of Fenney are questioning their decisions to purchase homes there. In addition to this parking tomfoolery, they’ve also been forced to deal with their homes shaking from nearby mining blasts and actually hearing announcements from the much-too-close Coleman Federal Correctional Complex. And in January 74-year-old Village of Caroline resident Don Roberts died from West Nile Virus. It’s believed he suffered the fatal mosquito bite while hanging out at the fire pit in Fenney near the large swamp that’s clearly ripe for breeding the pests – a hot topic at a recent informational meet-and-greet.

Unfortunately, we don’t think this parking nightmare will be the last of the goofy things we see crop up in Fenney and the new Southern Oaks section of The Villages. Businesses are known to suffer when later generations come along and we don’t see any reason to believe The Villages will be any different. But we feel really terrible for those folks who were sold a false bill of goods when they were told how wonderful a place the Village of Fenney would be to call home.