The Villages has abandoned a plan for apartments at the site of the former Hacienda Hills Country Club.
Villagers living within 500 feet of the site – where more than 200 apartments had been proposed – received a pleasant surprise Wednesday afternoon when they got a sneak peak of The Villages’ revised plan for the property.
Instead of apartment buildings, The Villages plans to build 25 villas at the site. The villas, yet unnamed, will be owned by residents of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown. There will also be two pickleball courts and a resort-style swimming pool.
Noticeably absent from the site plan was a previously promised restaurant.
But that didn’t necessarily upset neighbors of the property.
“Not having a restaurant means there won’t be as much traffic,” said Maria Guerrera of the Village of Hacienda South.
Neighbors were thrilled that the apartment idea has been dropped. They had been worried about the possibility of a multi-story apartment building looming over them. They were also nervous about the increased noise and the less-invested nature of apartment dwellers.
It was a little over a year ago that furious residents were aghast when the Amenity Authority Committee voted 4-1 to hand over hundreds of amenity privileges to The Villages to entice the future apartment dwellers at the Hacienda Hills site. The neighbors later took their concerns to the Sumter County Commission, which at the time did not include Commissioners Craig Estep, Gary Search and Oren Miller. Estep, Search and Miller were barred from entering Wednesday’s invitation-only gathering at the Sumter County Service Center at Pinellas Plaza. Estep lives near the Hacienda Hills site, but not within 500 feet of the property.
Kenneth Whaley of the Village of Hacienda North was also barred from the meeting, because he does not live within the 500-feet perimeter.
“I think it’s a rotten shame,” Whaley said after traveling all the way to the Wildwood location, only to be turned away at the door.
The Wisconsin native bought his lot in 1995 and built his home in 1997. He’s seen plenty of changes through the years.
“This isn’t a good one,” he said.
Vi Mooibroek of the Village of Hacienda East lives on the Hacienda Hills Champion Golf Course. She regularly golfed with her girlfriends and followed up with lunch at the now-demolished country club.
“We were promised country club style living for life,” Mooiebroek said of the infamous invitation extended to potential homebuyers by Villages founder Harold Schwartz.
Residents were bitterly disappointed last year when the country club and its priority pool were demolished.
She added that she is concerned about the future of her property values. She was quick to add that she loves living in The Villages.
Bob and Phyllis Fitzpatrick have been in the Village of Hacienda North for 14 years.
“I am really happy we’re not getting apartments,” Phyllis Fitzpatrick said.
However, she said she is concerned that the villas won’t have sufficient parking. She noticed there is no guest or overflow parking.
“Where are they going to park?” she asked. “On my street?”
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