A three-hour meeting Wednesday of the Amenity Authority Committee revealed that members had been offered a difficult choice – an apartment complex or a parking garage at the site of the former Hacienda Hills Country Club.
The now-demolished country club is located on an approximately seven-acre piece of land owned by the Developer of The Villages.
“There will be development on this property. That’s not a threat. It’s a reality. You can’t expect it to remain vacant,” District Manager Richard Baier told the AAC.
The Developer previously had offered the Hacienda Hills site to the AAC for purchase at “full market value.” The AAC, under pressure from residents to pass on the offer, failed to make a deal with the Developer and the offer was taken off the table.
The property remained vacant for several months and then last month heavy equipment was brought in. The country club, pool and tennis courts were demolished.
This time, there would be no negotiation.
“The Developer was very, very clear. The Developer said, ‘I am not going to go back and forth with the AAC,’” Baier told AAC members on Wednesday.
AAC member Don Deakin said each AAC member had been invited – one-by-one – into a private meeting which included The Villages Vice President of Community Relations Gary Lester. In the meeting, Lester reportedly said the AAC had a choice between the age-restricted apartment building or a satellite parking facility for The Villages Regional Hospital.
“This is non-negotiable. There will be no compromises. I will build a parking garage for the hospital instead, or something else,” Deakin recalled Lester saying during his private meeting.
AAC member John Wilcox said that five years ago when the committee agreed to turn over 300 amenity privileges to the Developer, it was with the understanding they would be restricted for use by an assisted living facility or an independent living facility.
“Not apartments,” Wilcox said.
Deakin agreed with that recollection of the agreement from 2015.
“I feel like a victim of bait and switch,” he said.
The agreement calls for the amenity fees collected from the renters to go to the Developer. It is estimated that revenue will total about $560,000 per year. However, the AAC will collect a little more than $14 per unit to help cover the costs of Community Watch and public safety.