Leesburg commissioners heard the first readings of ordinances on Monday night that signal a marked change in The Villages’ housing philosophy.
Commissioners are being asked to amend the city’s comprehensive plan to allow new Community Support Districts inside the age-restricted portion of The Villages that already has gained approval in the city. A memo from Planning and Zoning Manager Dan Miller to the commission said The Villages wants to create designated areas within The Villages of West Lake – which will be located on both the north and south sides of the Florida Turnpike and County Road 470 to County Road 48 – to provide housing for those younger residents who are working in the community.
Miller said approving The Villages’ request will reduce the number of “vehicular trips” into the community and “ensure appropriate land use compatibility with future development in the area.” Leesburg’s Planning Commission approved the request on Sept. 24.
According to a letter written to Miller from Villages representative Darrin F. Taylor of Carlton Fields in Tallahassee, the employee housing would be located “in close proximity” to the age-restricted homes in the new section of The Villages. He said the new Community Support Districts must also “include recreation and commercial uses, at a minimum, to serve its residents.”
Taylor also asked for commission to amend the Future Land Use Element Policy for the proposed development to add research and development and education to the list of permitted uses. It’s unclear from the letter exactly why that request was made, or what kind of housing will be provided. The Villages is hoping to build apartments in all three town squares and at the site of the former Hacienda Hills Country Club and that type of “multi-family” dwellings would be permitted in the Villages of West Lake.
Leesburg finalized a deal in November 2018 to sell The Villages Land Co, 1,127 acres for about $7.54 million. Since that time, the Developer has added more acreage and could build in excess of 6,100 dwelling units, 1 million square feet of commercial/retail and 100,000 square feet of government/office uses.
In March, the commission approved an ordinance designed to protect the government body from being taken over by any special interest group, such as The Villages or another large housing project. That ordinance called for a referendum question to be placed on the Nov. 3 General Election ballot that would start the process of the city switching to commissioners elected from five distinct districts instead of the current makeup of three from districts and two at-large representatives. That would require a change to the city’s charter and would prohibit any one group, neighborhood or developer from obtaining a three-person majority on the commission by getting both at-large candidates elected from their areas or communities.