The Villages desperately needs a workforce to support its massive expansion and that workforce needs some place to live. And to have a place to live, those people need water.
Lady Lake Commissioner Ruth Kussard, in a special workshop last week, made a simple, accurate observation: “Water is a precious commodity.”
Lady Lake has already been roped into providing water to a massive 300-unit apartment complex at County Road 466 and Cherry Lake Road – in Sumter County.
But last week, an attorney asked Lady Lake for more water for a developer who wants to put in another 109 houses on an additional 18.23 acres next to the apartment complex, retail development and 100 units of assisted living.
The Villages won’t allow the apartment complex and related development to hook up to its water and sewer infrastructure. In defense of The Villages, it’s a carefully planned community and its Developer knows down to the drop how much water it needs to satisfy its ambitious demands for growth. In short, The Villages has absolutely no intention of providing for “outsiders.”
Ironically, The Villages’ calculated decision to thumb its nose at those folks, could be its downfall in the long run.
The Villages desperately needs people to work in construction, retail, restaurants and the medical field. But it’s become abundantly clear that their affordable living options are few and far between. A recent report showed that 72 percent of people who work in Sumter County live outside the county.
Rachel Beverlin of Wildwood eloquently described the struggle in a recent Op-Ed.
But, back to Lady Lake.
Records show that in 2019, Lady Lake’s average withdrawal of water was 730,193 gallons per day. The town’s Consumptive Use Permit allows 1.118 million gallons per day through the year 2026. Commissioners pointed out that future development is on the horizon within the town limits that includes potential commercial development – all of which will require water and sewer service.
“What the town cannot anticipate is the unknown,” Kussard, a resident of the Village of La Reynalda, said.
Of course, selling water outside the town’s limits could bring in some lucrative surcharges. But at the end of the day, if you don’t have enough water to support your town’s potential growth and its citizens (should we say taxpayers?) you aren’t serving the people who elected you. And those voters don’t live in Sumter County.
So maybe we’re overdue for everyone – The Villages, Lady Lake, Wildwood, Fruitland Park, the counties and others – to get together and develop a long-range-plan to ensure that future needs of all parties are met.