Wednesday, September 23, 2020
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The Villages

AAC needs to think long and hard about amenity privileges for apartment dwellers

It would appear that The Villages Developer is planning to construct some apartments at the site of the now-defunct Hacienda Hills Country Club and he’s asking the Amenity Authority Committee to grant amenity privileges for those who will reside in the age-restricted units.

Villages Operations Manager Ryan McCabe, the former son-in-law of Villages Vice President of Sales Jennifer Parr, has dangled the idea before the AAC and has attempted to sweeten the pot by promising a restaurant, resort-style pool, activity courts and walking paths at the site. Those would be owned by the Developer, but presumably made available to all Villagers.

Villagers watched with some sadness as the Hacienda Hills Country Club was demolished.

On the surface, we find many things wrong with this plan and we highly encourage the AAC to think long and hard before it gets into bed with the Developer at the site of the former beloved country club.

Luckily for Villagers, the AAC has some hard-won skepticism when it comes to self-serving plans from the Developer. The group wisely rejected a proposal from him last year to purchase the shuttered country club at “full market value” after many residents expressed skepticism and Community Development District 3 Supervisor Gail Lazenby made his opposition to the plan quite clear.

Of course, there were plenty of good reasons for the AAC to reject that snake-oil-feeling plan. The restaurant had a history of living on the edge with health inspectors, complaints about poor service and mediocre-at-best food.

The once-popular Hacienda Hills Country Club was reduced to rubble.

But the biggest reason to reject the purchase was because when the Developer previously came knocking with a worn-out building, the AAC took the bait and got stung. The group made the huge mistake of purchasing the old El Santiago Club restaurant from the Developer for $350,000 – a decision that was highly opposed by late AAC member Rich Lambrecht, who was known for protecting amenity fee dollars.

“We don’t know if it’s full of mold or what condition it’s in,” Lambrecht said at the time.

By now we all know the ending to this sordid tale. The AAC purchased the building and quickly found out it had been snookered into acquiring a giant lemon. Debates raged about keeping a restaurant at the site and in the end, the building was torn down to make room for a new recreation center.

Mark Cook Builders handled the demolition of the old El Santiago Club.

Let’s also not forget that the worn-out-building-peddling Developer also tried to sluff off the Tierra Del Sol Restaurant onto the AAC. The group wisely said “no thanks” and moved on, still licking its wounds from the El Santiago Club debacle.

Now the almighty Developer has come calling again. If you ask us, his request is just as bad this time because there’s so many unknowns the AAC needs to have clarified before making a making a decision.

Harold Schwartz

Of course, we all know the plan is to put apartments where the once-popular country club revered by Villages Founder Harold Schwartz proudly stood. Those multi-family dwellings seem to be the latest fascination for the Developer and the next generation of his family members –  the Morse Millennials – who seem to be trying their hardest to run the community into the ground while forgetting about everyone living north of County Road 466A.

There’s no doubt that these apartments will be a huge money-maker for the Developer, who has to keep the generation that never worked for it enjoying their extravagant lifestyles. Our question is where is his concern for the longtime residents that live in that area and never dreamed apartments could be in their back yards. We’re quite sure that possibility was never raised with them by the “yes” men and women who work for Properties of The Villages and sold them their homes.

The Lofts at Brownwood.

We’ve heard rumor that the Developer will request about 300 amenity privileges for his renters-to-be. We’re pretty sure they’ll have their own amenities like The Lofts at Brownwood does, but we’re guessing your average Villager will have no interest in visiting the apartment pool to take a swim. Those apartment dwellers, on the other hand, surely will want to use many of the facilities scattered across The Villages.

We’re also a little confused about the promise of a restaurant and pool at the site? We just watched construction crews tear down a restaurant and fill in a pool there, so does it make a whole lot of sense to build it again? We don’t think so, but we gave up trying to figure out how the Morse Millennials think when they started dispatching food trucks to the southern end of the community instead of building country clubs.

As we said early, we encourage the AAC to think long and hard about the latest shady proposal from the Developer. We can’t even imagine the traffic nightmares that would plague Morse Boulevard and other nearby roadways if a large apartment complex and restaurant were built at the site. We have no doubt that the Developer can get a traffic study telling us all not to worry, but an addition of several hundred cars a day on the already slammed Morse Boulevard seems totally unreasonable.

The once proud Hacienda Hills Country Club came down recently.

That said, we’re confident the AAC will ask a bunch of hard questions and make a good decision. That group certainly isn’t intimidated by the Developer and has never had any qualms about pinning him down for answers to their questions.

Frankly, we wouldn’t expect anything less from them and we look forward to seeing how they handle this situation that tells quite a story about the future of housing options planned for The Villages.

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