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The Villages
Friday, December 3, 2021

Lady Lake officials want more time to decipher The Villages’ motives

Lady Lake commissioners want more time to decipher The Villages’ possible motives on future development within the town’s borders.

The Villages attorney Jo Thacker on Monday sought the Lady Lake Commission’s approval to rescind a 33-year-old development of regional impact agreement reached with the town back in the days of founder Harold Schwartz.

By rescinding the agreement, The Villages in the future would bring issues before the commission through the ordinary zoning process.

The Villages’ goal isn’t quite clear, and when Thacker stepped to the podium she revealed little.

Paul Hannan

However, Commissioner Paul Hannan remains openly suspicious of the Morse family’s motives.

“In the mid 80ʼs, Harold Schwartz created The Villages, and to entice us to move here he gave us amenities, such as free golf, free garbage collection, free cable TV. In later years, he upped the ante and gave us Katie Belle’s. Once we saw Katie Belle’s he hooked us into buying. That was yesterday, now the Developer of The Villages could care less about all those promises,” Hannan said. “He doesnʼt care a damn about the residents, he only cares about money (and) more money, so if he gets his way, shame on him, shame on him!”

Hannan said that rescinding the agreement is apparently part of the Developer’s strategy to force through apartments at downtown Spanish Springs. The commission voted 3-2 earlier this year in opposition to apartments at the square, prompting a lawsuit from The Villages.

James Rietz

Jim Rietz, who was appointed to the commission this past December but has been a 15-year resident of The Villages, said he has seen, “Spanish Springs go downhill in a big way.”

Rietz called for a workshop in which commission members could discuss the entire issue, including the motives of The Villages.

“There is a lot to understand. The only time we can talk among us is in a workshop. There is a reason why they are doing this,” said the former Illinois resident.

That angered Mayor Ruth Kussard who scolded her fellow commissioners for being ill-prepared to vote on The Villages’ request to rescind the agreement. She pointed out that the Florida statute allows The Villages to ask – and be granted – such a request.

“I spent an entire weekend reading all of the information, the statute. Why didn’t anyone else?” Kussard asked.

She added that the town attorney, town manager and staffers had been available to answer commissioners’ questions ahead of Monday’s meeting.

However, Commissioner Rietz countered that there is a lot to understand.

“That’s why I want a workshop,” Rietz said.

A workshop has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 25 at Lady Lake Town Hall. It is open to the public.

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