Unless they have either been up north, only reading The Villages Daily Sun, or living in a cave, Sumter County residents understand that the cause of the recent massive county tax increase is the following:
The Developer is massively expanding The Villages. Such expansion will require massive expansion of infrastructure in Sumter County, such as roads, police-and-fire stations and equipment, sewer and water systems, libraries, parks, etc. There are only two ways to pay for the infrastructure– either increase the Developer’s impact fee or increase everybody else’s taxes. (Impact fees are per-house taxes paid by builders to cover the cost of such infrastructure expansion.)
The Developer’s impact fees have been set at a sweetheart rate: $901/house versus $2,600/house charged to other builders in Sumter County versus about $20,000/house in a senior community in Collier County. But rather than increase the Developer’s sweetheart rate, the County Commissioners chose to increase everybody else’s taxes.
Why did the County Commissioners choose to, in essence, give the Developer as much as $150 million at taxpayer expense? One can only imagine, but it has outraged many Sumter County residents, both Villagers and non-Villagers. It has provoked calls for replacing all five of the present Commissioners. Unfortunately, only three of them are up for reelection this year, and, in Sumter County, there appears to be no legal mechanism to recall County Commissioners. We have to vote them out as their terms expire.
Creating Sinkholes by Expanding The Villages and Draining Our Aquifer
A Second Reason for Voting Out the Present County Commissioners. While the tax-increase alone is sufficient reason for voting out all the present Commissioners, there is another equally compelling reason: the Commissioners’ actions that will not only deplete our aquifer, but will create more sinkholes.
Science Behind Our Sinkhole Epidemic. A feature article in Smithsonian Magazine
explores the reasons for the sinkhole epidemic in Florida, with a focus on The Villages. It should be must reading for all Villagers and is available on line: The Science Behind Florida’s Sinkhole Epidemic
The article points out, “In contrast to its otherwise serene status, The Villages is a hotbed of sinkholes,….and The Villages is smack in the middle of Sinkhole Alley—a swath of counties in Central Florida that carry the greatest risk.” The article also states that the following causes are behind the epidemic of sinkholes: development and draining the aquifer.
Our County Commissioners’ Role in Sinkhole Creation. Our County Commissioners have contributed to both causes of sinkholes. They did this by:
(a) as indicated above, giving, to the Developer, legislative and financial aid (at taxpayer expense) in massively expanding The Villages, and
(b) refusing citizen requests that the County Commissioners oppose the granting of a water-use permit, by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, to SWR Properties LLC, and then, after the permit was granted by the District, taking all the county actions necessary to allow the pumping of vast amounts of water out of Sumter County for use by commercial water bottlers. More details can be found in an article in the Orlando Sentinel, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/lake/os-lk-lauren-ritchie-another-niagara-wants-water-20151204-column.html , and in articles on villages-news.com, including the following: https://www.villages-news.com/2016/03/22/stand-room-crowd-protests-plan-trucking-water-sumter-county/?fbclid=IwAR0UPxrzgpaL-V8UWZAAj5GKSBlQrzHjiw1CMSjqYmnR2AF-_gdvgG9LJK8.
For some reason, The Villages Daily Sun has not said much about the subject. I can’t imagine why.
The August Republican Primary
As noted above, only three of the present Commissioners are up for reelection this year: Burgess, Butler, and Printz. In Sumter County, whoever wins the August 18 Republican primary will, almost certainly, be elected to the County Commission in November. So, mark your August calendar accordingly.
Scott Fenstermaker is a resident of The Villages and frequent contributor to Villages-News.com.