First, a little history. In America for over the last 150 years, almost every successful family-owned company was never able to go past the grandchildren running the company. I would say The Villages is no exception to this rule.
Most importantly, the founding father of The Villages, Harold Schwartz, warned the Villagers of the danger of the grandchildren.
Harold said they were very greedy and you need to watch out for them. I would say the grandchildren have succeeded beyond his wildest expectations.
Harold’s dream was based on the idea the facilities were determined by population. So many executive golf courses per population as well as championship and recreation centers and regional recreation centers.
This can no longer happen due to the apartments and the way the newer sections are being built. The current constraints in the older sections are simply too many people due to the apartments. There was litigation about this some time ago. The Developer had to build a new recreation center as a result.
A short litany of their many mistakes, just to see there will be no end to the greed or wanting for more money out of the Villagers.
The Developer wants the Villagers to pay for the mistake in the building of the bridge over to Lake Sumter Landing. Over $1 million that was either the fault of the planning for the bridge or the construction of the bridge but, not the fault of the Villagers and should be covered by the party responsible for the mistake.
The Developer sold the Santiago Club restaurant to the Amenity Authority Committee for way over its value. It had to be torn down and Villagers lost a lot of money.
The Developer had open enrollment for all in The Villages for The Villages HMO accepting all Insurances then, when the numbers were right, the Developer said you had to have insurance through their HMO only and you had to either accept or get out. No disclosure beforehand when signing you up to the HMO.
The Developer brought in the Moffitt Cancer Center but was not able to work with them so we got Florida Cancer Specialists with three offices here in The Villages. They were fined $100 million by the federal government for not giving treatment information to patients and $20 million from the state of Florida.
There is a pattern here. The problems are far more perverse than just the apartments the developer wants to build:
• One, higher density makes for too many people in one small confined space. High density makes for more interaction, some not good, and will require more police protection.
• Two, you will have apartment dwellers with no equity in The Villages so they will not care what happens as they are transient.
• The influx of apartment people will mean an overload on the places here. There will not be enough eating places nor golf courses for all the apartment people and the residents of The Villages. Eating places will have to raise their prices as they will not be able to accommodate all the new people and in the sections already built. No more room to put in golf courses and other facilities.
This will end the lifestyle for which The Villages has become famous and replace it with just another development. There is more but you get the gist of it. Harold Schwartz’s dream is at risk and in order to stop losing it you have to take action.
About 70 percent of the people will see the need to stop the Developer and 30 percent will not. Not all are required to make this plan work.
The amenity fees are the way to stop The Villages’ Developer. If we get a very large group and instead of paying the amenity fees, we put them in an escrow account or some account not giving them to the Developer, until we come to agreement with him over the apartments. This would or should have a major impact on the way The Villages is run. As all the other avenues are closed. The Developer owns most all of the people who have a say at this point. Money is always key and is something the Developer understands.
Let’s take the amenity fees at say $138 a month and times that by 20,000 people who live here in The Villages that’s $2.76 million and most are paying more than at about $150 a month that would be $3 million a month. The last number I saw said there were 126,000 people living in the Villages, that number has grown. We have the numbers. It’s a question if you want to use them.
If the impasse went for six months the cost to The Villages would be $16.56 million or if you take the high number it would be $ 18 million that would be a lot of negotiating power. The thing is that all the people want is to protect their investment and enjoy the lifestyle we have all come to love. We are willing to let people come here and just buy a house. Keep Harold Schwartz’s dream alive. Don’t let the grandkids destroy the dream and The Villages all at the same time. To set this up is not a major undertaking but would need several volunteers. We could ask the Property Owners Association newsletter people for help with this as they have a long and successful record in dealing with the Developer. Or form a group. It’s all up to us to come together for self-protection.
Tom Ouellette is a resident of the Village of Mira Mesa.