We applaud the members of the Project Wide Advisory Committee and Villager Catherine Laird for tackling a hot-button issue in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.
PWAC, which oversees amenities south of County Road 466, heard last week from Laird, who complained about what she sees as excessive use of amenities by local residents who don’t pay amenity fees. The Village of Duval resident also had aired her concerns with the Community Development District 7 Board of Supervisors about in-area passes that are granted for a year at a time to Villagers’ children and grandchildren living in Sumter, Lake and Marion counties
Of course, we all know the folks receiving those in-area passes aren’t necessarily “children.” In fact, many are adults who have chosen to move to the area to be closer to their parents who are residents of The Villages. With that in mind, Laird has suggested that the in-area residents be charged for their use of amenities.
If you talk to Laird about this problem, you’ll soon discover that she’s obviously done her homework on the issue. In speaking to the CDD 7 board, she pointed out that through in-area passes a single homeowner can bring in multiple local families through the payment of one homeowner’s amenity fee.
“We have to start charging these people,” she said.
She certainly got CDD 7 Supervisor Jerry Vicenti’s attention, who reiterated that the terms “grandchildren” and “children” can be confusing when referring to these local residents. In fact, Vicenti, who represents CDD 7 on PWAC and has never been afraid to speak his mind – in July he assailed the “dictatorship” in government in The Villages – agreed with Laird.
“They are using our amenities. They are not paying. And a year is excessive,” he said.
At the CDD 7 meeting, Carrie Duckett, who heads customer service and communications for the District Office, explained the reasoning behind the current guest ID policy.
“A lot of residents move here and then a year later their children and grandchildren move here to be closer to them,” Duckett said. “If you have family living in The Villages you want to enjoy (the amenities) with them.”
Duckett said that the younger families with children don’t have the opportunity to move into The Villages. So, they must be accompanied by their Villages host whenever using amenities in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.
But CDD 7 Supervisor Mark Gallo disagreed and said he doesn’t believe the policy is consistent with the message delivered earlier this year by Developer Mark Morse in his Evening with the Developer address at The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center.
“He claims he is looking out for the residents’ lifestyle. Now we are giving it away to people who live in the area,” Gallo said.
After being told that the CDD 7 board had no authority over amenities, Laird was encouraged to take her complaint to PWAC, which oversees amenities south of County Road 466. She followed through and that led Chairman Peter Moeller to rightly suggest the Guest ID policy be reviewed with the AAC, which oversees amenities north of County Road 466. He said he didn’t want to be “out of alignment” with that board.
Some Villagers probably don’t know it, but the current policy on Guest IDs was determined about a decade ago by a resident task force. As we all know, a lot of things have changed in the past 10 years, starting with the population in and around The Villages. So, it certainly makes sense for both boards to come together and review the policy that clearly needs to be changed.
As we said earlier, we applaud Moeller and PWAC for not being afraid to meet with their AAC counterparts to tackle this nasty issue. And we give huge kudos to Laird for sticking to her guns and making her views known. She easily could have dropped the entire issue after speaking to the CDD 7 board, but she is continuing to pursue a solution to a problem that clearly bothers her and many other Villagers as well.
By the way, we wholeheartedly agree with Gallo’s assessment on the complete disconnect between the Guest ID policy and The Villages Developer. Like Gallo, we heard him say that he’s looking out for the residents’ lifestyle.
So, we’re hoping the hard-working members of both PWAC and the AAC will take a hard look at this issue and recommend changes. Villagers pay hefty amenity fees to live in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown and they shouldn’t be burdened by excessive use of those amenities by local residents who don’t pay a dime to enjoy them.