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The Villages
Friday, July 12, 2024

Headaches heading our way as The Villages doubles in size over the next 20 years

If you’re concerned about how fast The Villages is growing these days, then consider this: the mega-retirement community is likely to double in size in the next 20 years.

Yes, you read that correctly. The massive retirement mecca that never seems to end apparently is going to just keep growing and growing until every problem one can imagine will be right here in Florida’s Sprawling Retirement Hometown.

Crews are constantly moving dirt in the Villages of Southern Oaks.

Last year, Sumter County residents – many of whom have put up with large dust clouds, massive construction vehicles on their roadways, blasting at a nearby mine, a lack of restaurants and country clubs and the sounds of announcements from the federal prison in Coleman – learned that things are far from peachy when it comes to growth in The Villages.

In September, the puppet Sumter County Commission made sure to keep The Villages Developer happy by smacking residents with a 25 percent tax hike to largely fund infrastructure in the newer sections of the community. That decision followed several meetings where outraged residents shared their thoughts – they fell on deaf ears – about the inevitable plan to stick it to them that had been decided long before the commissioners ever pretended to listen to their concerns.

In case you aren’t aware of it, The Villages originally was supposed to stop at State Road 44 in Sumter County. In fact, late Developer H. Gary Morse even made that promise in his tightly controlled newspaper many years ago when he was fighting with a much different Sumter County Commission to continue building south of County Road 466. Clearly Morse – the retirement community guru who along with his father, Founder Harold Schwartz, is largely responsible for everything good about The Villages – knew continuing to build and build and build would come with plenty of downside. So, he made the promise to contain The Villages north of SR 44 and everything went along fine for many years.

Harold Schwartz and H. Gary Morse

But Morse died in 2014 and before long, the fourth generation of his family started spreading their wings and getting involved in the day-to-day management of the community. Apparently those Morse Millennials – the first generation that hasn’t had to work for it – weren’t satisfied with following their wise grandfather’s well-thought-out plan for his community. So, when Sumter County commissioners asked the Developer to keep the building machine going, the third and fourth generations clearly saw dollar signs and things haven’t slowed down yet.

So, what does all of this mean? For starters, Villagers can expect to see more than 60,000 new homes pop up in Sumter County at a record pace over the next two decades. Toss in another 8,900 or so homes – trust us, that will prove to be a conservative estimate – in Leesburg where The Villages Developer is gobbling up land near the Florida Turnpike at a rapid pace and it’s safe to say that the new section of the community will actually surpass the 65,000 homes north of SR 44 in the older section.

Rainey Construction heavy equipment appears to be everywhere south of State Road 44 in The Villages.

If you live in the newer areas of the community and the unbridled growth ahead scares you, it should. You’re going to have put up with those huge trucks rumbling up and down your streets for some time to come. We haven’t heard any announcements about fancy restaurants or country clubs coming your way, but food trucks seem to be a favorite of the Morse Millennials who seem to know more about what you need in your retirement years than you do. And don’t even get us started on the future tax increases the Developer will surely want, even though his puppet commissioners will be facing some stiff opposition later this year to hold onto those cushy jobs that have only required them to say “Yes Sir” and occasionally kiss the Developer’s ring.

Here’s the bottom line: With the kind of growth The Villages is planning will come things like more crime, nasty traffic and more apartments like those being built in Brownwood that have the Developer’s top staff downright giddy. The leaders of Community Development District 7 – the first of several, we’re guessing – already are considering breaking away from the Project Wide Advisory Committee because they fear residents will face heavier and heavier financial burdens as the growth continues. And let’s not forget the influx of even more adult children of Villagers – many of whom just can’t seem to stay of out trouble once they get here and start sponging off mom and dad.

The yellow areas show a portion of the Villages of Southern Oaks.

We have no doubt that Morse knew crossing SR 44 with his beloved retirement community would lead to all of these problems and many others that have yet to rear their ugly heads. He clearly knew that 65,000 homes would be manageable after buildout was completed. And we suspect he shared that knowledge more than once with his third generation family members with hopes that they’d take it to heart and pass it along to their kids before greed set in and they realized how much it would cost to lead the lifestyles they’d been accustomed to their entire lives.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and now we’re all looking at a retirement community that’s clearly out of control. Growth can be a wonderful thing when it’s planned out and handled within reason. But it’s a much different story when greed drives the boat and all the rules of logic get tossed aside so some fat wallets can get even fatter on the backs of those who came here to enjoy the best years of their lives.

City Manager Al Minner shows where a portion of The Villages will be located in Leesburg.

Given the leadership at the helm of The Villages, we shudder to think about what this community will look like 20 years from now. We’re guessing it will be a much different place – one that’s overcrowded and full of apartments and condos. It won’t be The Villages Schwartz and Morse spent the good part of their adult lives creating. But it will prove the old adage that family-owned companies always seem to crash and burn when the third and fourth generations get their hands on it.

We think it’s a crying shame and we feel bad for everyone who thought they were moving to a much different community – one that holds fond memories for many of us – instead of a corporate-machine-driven community where the needs of the residents no longer take precedence like they did for so many years.

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