It’s time for Sumter County residents to hide their wallets and lock up their pocketbooks because The Villages Developer has announced plans for a massive addition to his community – just 18 days before the controversial Sumter Commission election – that’s sure to cost residents a wad before it’s all over.
In case you missed it, The Villages released an eight-page puff piece in the Developer-owned newspaper on Friday that frothily talks about future plans for the mega-retirement community. All kinds of wonderful things are being promised in the pull-out section titled “Continuing The Dream,” though the write-up points out that they are still in the “dreaming and planning stages.” All of these wonderful new amenities, of course, are in the far south end of the community near County Road 470 and the Florida Turnpike, where the Developer has placed all of his focus as he continues to put the north end of the community in his rearview mirror. (Think Hacienda Hills Country Club.)
So, you’re asking, what kinds of things are being quasi-promised for the southernmost part of The Villages? According to the puff piece in the Pravda-like Daily Sun, they include:
- A 400-acre “Medical Village” that will include a new UF Health trauma center that also will serve as a teaching hospital for medical students;
- An “Urban core” shopping center near the medical complex and that will include complementary businesses;
- Housing for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals;
- A “Lifestyle Center” and some sort of town center;
- A “Super-Regional” recreation center;
- New golf courses, a Pitch & Putt and Putting Course;
- A lake large enough to host regional or international events such as dragon boat racing, skiing, rowing, remote-controlled boats and sailing;
- New bridges connecting the sprawling portions of the new areas, including one that will accommodate both multi-modal and automobile traffic (does anyone else think that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen?);
- A second K-8 Villages Charter School campus and an expanded high school campus that includes a sports complex, gym, stadium and performing arts center, among other things;
- A neighborhood near the new school campus for employees who work in The Villages (we’re guessing areas like Oxford Oaks and the Villages of Parkwood, not much-needed affordable housing for those with lower-paying jobs like cooks, waitresses, landscapers and sanitation workers who provide vital services to Villagers);
- New recreation centers;
- A new restaurant and pub; and
- An indoor farmer’s market.
By now we’re guessing that you’ve noticed the huge omission – no fourth town square. Yes, there’s mention of a “town center” with shopping areas, restaurants, etc. But it appears that the age-old Villages staple that was backed by both late Founder Harold Schwartz and his son, late Developer H. Gary Morse – Villages lore has it that he drew Spanish Springs Town Square on a napkin – will be a thing of the past. Frankly, that’s not surprising because so many things that made The Villages a special place have gone by the wayside as the Morse Millennials – the first generation of family members who haven’t had to work for it – have moved into roles of authority.
One burning question that needs to be asked is how much will this expansion eventually cost Sumter County residents. We all were surprised to learn last year that as The Villages grew, a whopping 25 percent tax increase was supposedly necessary to pay for infrastructure, road paving, etc.
Sadly, footing that bill became the responsibility of every Sumter County resident after the Developer’s puppet commission rammed the tax increase down their throats. And only when the Developer realized that he might lose control of the commission in this month’s election did we suddenly hear about a possible tax cut in the next county budget.
In other words, if you think you got screwed with that massive tax increase last September, then chances are you ain’t seen nothing yet! Because with the plans that have been tossed on the table for the southern end of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown, we can’t even begin to fathom the infrastructure costs that are coming down the pike. And we’re willing to bet that at some point the Developer is planning to stick it to residents again without a care in the world – just like he did when his puppet commissioners stuck residents with that unbelievable tax cut and then had to nerve to say not many people complained about it – and it really wasn’t a 25-percent hike in the first place. Talk about living outside reality!
Which brings us to another point. As we’ve learned over the past few months, the Developer and his minions will do whatever it takes to get his puppet incumbents – Don Burgess, Al Butler and Steve Printz – re-elected. They’ve gone so far as to get two fake candidates – write-ins Pete Wahl and Jerry Prince – to enter two of the races to prevent 45,000 Democratic and No Party Affiliation voters from participating in the election.
They’ve no doubt strong-armed a ton of contractors and sub-contractors into donating money to the three incumbents so they can run massive direct-mail campaigns in the southern end of the community where many new residents don’t know anything about the whopping tax hike of 2019.
And recently, we learned that amazingly, the Sumter Commission might actually be able to cut taxes again as the incumbents continue to run scared and face stiff and formidable opposition from anti-tax-raising candidates Gary Search, Craig Estep, Oren Miller and Daniel Myslakowski. That’s called desperation and manipulation, folks, plain and simple.
Which, of course, raises a second question. Does anyone besides us find the timing of this magical Villages expansion announcement suspect? We’re just 18 days away from potentially the most important election in Sumter County history, so it wouldn’t surprise us if in the coming days the Developer’s top political hack tells us that such an expansion wouldn’t be possible without incumbents who understand the importance of supporting growth in The Villages? Frankly, we can’t wait to hear how that warped message gets spun as the election draws closer.
Here’s the bottom line: The plans that were outlined for growth in the southern end of The Villages contained some wonderful things. But at this stage, let’s not forget that they are in the “dreaming and planning stage.” There’s been no talk of how much it will cost to build those dreams. And we wonder if we’ll even hear about them again if those incumbents get defeated and the Developer loses his heavy-handed control of Sumter County’s government.
As we said earlier, hide your wallets and lock up your pocketbooks. Because if the Developer’s puppets stay in office, you can be rest assured that one way or another, he’s coming after even more of your hard-earned money to invest in his community – whether you like it or not.