Thursday, October 22, 2020
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The Villages

Lame-duck Sumter commissioners have no business considering Villages apartments

The Villages Developer will ask the Sumter County Commission next month to clear the way for him to construct apartments throughout his mega-retirement community and if the three lame ducks had any shred of integrity they’d postpone that hearing until their replacements take office in November.

Of course, we all know that won’t happen because those commissioners – Al Butler, Steve Printz and Don Burgess – have long served as puppets for the Developer and his next generation of so-called Villages leaders – the Morse Millennials. All the Developer typically has to do is tell those three and their colleagues – Doug Gilpin and Garry Breeden – to jump and they’ll quickly ask where, when and how high. And then they’ll rubber-stamp anything the Developer shoves their way.

Don Burgess, Al Butler and Steve Printz, from left.

The issue will first go before the Sumter County Planning and Zoning Special Master on Monday, Sept. 21 at Everglades Recreation Center, down in the Village of Fenney. We all know how that fiasco will turn out – the request will move forward to the Commission with a glowing recommendation – but if you’re one of the many Villagers who have an opinion about apartments cropping up near your homes, it will be a chance for you to speak out.

As many of you know, a similar issue went before the Lady Lake Planning and Zoning Board this past week when the Developer proposed introducing apartments to Spanish Springs Town Square, including units in the former beloved Katie Belle’s, above Margarita Republic and the now-closed Demshar’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, and in the La Reina Building, which houses the MVP Athletic Club.

An overflow crowd of Villagers showed up for that contentious meeting and shouted down the apartment plan. Those residents – many of whom bought their homes in the late 1990s – feel like they’ve been duped. They demanded answers about the proposal that falsely claimed a lack of demand for commercial space on the second floor of Spanish Springs buildings was fueling the need for apartments, even though Villages Vice President Marty Dzuro admitted that really wasn’t true.

Darrin Taylor of Tallahassee consulting firm Carlton Fields, left, and Marty Dzuro, at podium, make the case for apartments before the Lady Lake Planning and Zoning Board last week.

Of course, we all know what’s driving the apartment frenzy – greed and the need for large amounts of cash to line the pockets of the Morse Millennials, who apparently enjoy referring to themselves as Generation 4 or “G4.” Hmmm, wonder if the “G” stands for “greed?” It certainly seems to these days, doesn’t it?

Just ask Judith Conley, who purchased her home on Hacienda Hills Championship Golf Course in 1997. The Developer is champing at the bit to toss up apartments at the site of the former Hacienda Hills Country Club and Conley said she wouldn’t have purchased her home if she had any inkling of what was to come.

Or ask Paul and Joann Whobrey, who bought their home on the Hacienda Hills golf course in 1996. They fear an increase in traffic on already taxed Morse Boulevard and a drop in their home’s value and pointed out that the Morse Millennials are changing the definition of The Villages from the way Founder Harold Schwartz and his son, Villages architect H. Gary Morse, saw the community.

Perhaps Eleanor Eisele, who with her husband Richard bought her home at Hacienda Hills in 1997, summed it up best – “This is not what we were promised.”

Which brings us back to the lame-duck commissioners and the need for them to put this issue on hold. Let’s remember that those three were soundly defeated by Villagers Gary Search, Craig Estep and Oren Miller, largely because they approved a 25 percent tax increase last year that clearly was a sweetheart deal for the Developer. Sumter County voters spoke loud and clear in August and when the ballots were counted, the incumbents were shown the door.

Gary Search, Craig Estep and Oren Miller, from left.

That, alone, should tell them that they have no business ramming these apartments down the throats of Villagers who don’t want them in their community. You can bet those residents weren’t told of the possibility of apartments being built near their homes by the say-anything-to-make-a-sale agents who work for the Stepford-like Properties of The Villages. And when they shelled out their hard-earned cash to purchase homes in a community that once promised to fulfill retirement dreams and actually meant it, we’re sure they never once considered the possibility of apartment complexes being built in their neighborhoods.

We don’t have a lot of faith in the lame ducks putting this issue on hold. We’re guessing they’re going to spend the rest of their time in office ramming through every greedy request from the Developer. But we hope every Villager who attends those meetings points out how they should do the right thing for once – listen to the people they supposedly represent instead of taking their marching orders from the Developer and his Morse Millennials who long ago made greed their mantra instead of taking care of the residents who came to Florida’s Friendliest Hometown to enjoy the best years of their lives.

For once, Mr. Butler, Mr. Burgess and Mr. Printz, think about those people who elected you and actually take care of their needs. We can’t think of a better way for you to end your terms as commissioners and actually go out on a high note.

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