Villagers are blaming a short-term rental situation for fueling an armed standoff that forced them from their homes.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office’s SWAT team was called Sept. 29 to a home on Merryweather Way at Creekside Landing. The man who barricaded himself in the home was believed to be armed and some areas of the community were evacuated or under lockdown for six to seven hours.
“We did not know what was going on. We did not know what we were in for. I saw this guy with a big gun. The SWAT guys just kept coming and coming,” said Linda Sellars, who lives on Merryweather Way.
She and her neighbors described the terror they felt that day when they appeared Friday before the Community Development District 8 Board of Supervisors.
She and her neighbors said that the home in Creekside Landing has been a short-term rental and there has been turnover every couple of days or weeks.
“This coming and going and not knowing who is there is scary,” said Sellars, who has lived for 10 years in Creekside Landing, which for many years was used to house The Villages’ guests visiting on the Lifestyle Preview Plan. The Villages of Lake-Sumter Inc. still owns four homes on Merryweather Way.
Janet Coccioletti, who also lives on Merryweather Way, complained that the short-term rental situation has created a “revolving door.” She said some of the tenants included workers building homes in the southern end of The Villages. Coccioletti said they had large, diesel-spewing trucks.
“It was supposed to be rented to two people. There were 10 people staying there,” she said.
Coccioletti also said that during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when she and her neighbors stayed close to home, renters were freely coming and going from the rental property on Merryweather Way.
Howard Alls who lives on Southern Sun Drive in Creekside Landing said The Villages is changing.
“It’s not the community we bought into,” Alls said. “Society is changing. And our deed restrictions aren’t keeping up.”
CDD 8 supervisors could not offer much help.
“You can go online and rent a property. They can rent a house in The Villages for a couple of days and go to Disney. There is no control by The Villages,” said Supervisor Phil Walker.