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The Villages
Tuesday, April 16, 2024

You could see this coming a mile away

Jiim Cipollone
Jim Cipollone

You could see this coming a mile away. No sooner did The Villages and The Town of Lady Lake abandon the DRI ordinance, developed by The Village’s founders and the Town of Lady Lake Commissioners at that time, amended several times since with conditions, The Villages Officials petitioned a filing plan to build “apartment homes” on the second floor of the now described as the Van Patten Building located in the center of Spanish Springs Town Square.

The Villages Machine never stops working. The Van Patten apartments plan The Villages Officials have adopted to reinvigorate and revitalize Spanish Springs, and they will pursue this endeavor against any and all businesses or residents’ push back. Weather this plan is a whim or an economic decision; it is a secret with no cause.

Spanish Springs Town Square was petitioned by The Villages’ founding fathers with approval from The Town of Lady Lake as a commercial business and entertainment place offering this mix to all Villages and surrounding area residents to enjoy the lifestyle offered by these places. As The Villages grew, new residents purchased homes because of the lifestyle offered by Spanish Springs Town Square; they attended events at these places and frequented restaurants and Katie Belle’s daily activities. Spanish Springs became a way of life for many residents creating the lifestyle as the founding fathers envisioned and wanted for the Villages.

Spanish Springs Town Square and Katie Belle’s were built for a particular purpose for entertainment and a lifestyle. A dispatcher will not send a gasoline tanker truck to a grocery warehouse to pick-up and deliver groceries to a supermarket even though it is a truck. Everything has a use by design.  Spanish Springs Town Square and Katie Belle’s have symmetry with the Villages trademark that are recognized as the best retirement place offering entertainment and lifestyle second to no other place. Why destroy these places?

The current Villages hierarchy intentionally abandoned the Spanish Springs movie house and Katie Belle’s because they did not want to be bothered with daily operations of a hands-on businesses and economic reasons. None of these issues were shared with The Villages residents, nor were the residents considered in a fix for any problem(s).

The Villages officials’ platform is based on the development of apartment complexes in and around the Villages that offers a new type of lifestyle. The Lofts located approximately a half a mile from Brownwood Paddock Square was designed into the landscape far enough away from Brownwood square entertainment activities. The initial rental rates were significantly reduced to attract renters.  Dedicated parking spaces are provided within the Lofts’ complex to facilitate car parking with additional charges for garage parking for cars and golf carts. Residents that prefer low maintenance apartment living are attracted to places like The Lofts, for both full-time and part-time residencies.  The apartment residents are a very small percentage of The Villages populous in this area and have minimal impact on entertainment functions or any economics of the close-by businesses.  Please do not be influenced by marketing manipulation as offered by notable Village officials that this lifestyle offering is the future of The Villages. New houses, new residents and new businesses are what made and makes The Villages.

There is no other place located geographically in The Villages that is similar in design to The Lofts. The Lofts are a planned renters residential complex suited for apartment-type living. By forcing apartments into any place in Spanish Springs Town Square only creates more issues than what to do with non-occupied buildings. The Villages officials at one time asked for suggestions as to what to do with the buildings located in Spanish Springs, but they never acknowledged any proposals as suggested.  The amenity fees The Village officials will levy on any proposed apartment sounds good, but The Villages will collect 90 percent of the new amenity fees per agreement with the then Amenity Authority Committee members back in June of 2020.

What about any parking accommodations that apartments will require? There are approximately 900 parking places available around Spanish Springs. Each apartment will require at least two parking places for residents.  What happens to guest and golf cart parking? Therefore each apartment may require two, three, or four designated parking places for each apartment, most likely within reasonable proximity to apartments. What is left for other residents that frequent Spanish Springs?  No swimming pool, tennis courts, etc.

There are many Villages residents that frequent Spanish Springs Town Square multiple times every week for entertainment and dining. The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center does not offer daily entertainment, but does offer top-notch entertainment that is attractive to certain people depending on the venue offered. Most of these events are late afternoon or early evening as scheduled. Most people that go to the Spanish Springs Town Squareon a particular evening, don’t go to the Sharon. Same for Savannah Center, people are attracted to what they like best. The facilities as mentioned are outstanding and the entertainment is excellent but only attended by certain people.  Anything built into the Van Patten Building should be by design something that attracts people from late morning there after every day.

Suggestion as requested by The Villages Officials:

The ground floor and second floor of the MVP Building are vacant.  Move the two retail stores located on the ground floor of the Van Patten Building to the ground floor of the MVP Building.  Move the MVP operations to the second floor of the buildings along Main Street when the second floor is vacated by The Villages Daily Sun. Put the Van Patten Building back the way it originally was built for entertainment purposes with the inclusion of a casino type operation. This will daily attract many people to Spanish Springs and bring potential customers to the businesses located in and around the square.  The MVP building then can be converted to apartment living since this building also has the great entrance as built and an area for dedicated parking, etc.

There is the area located within the Town of Lady Lake that is better suited for first class apartment style living including parking without inconvenience to any other residents.  The property located on Duck Lake Road, formally the golf cart assembly facility, contiguous with the Villages will suit an upscale apartment complex.  Village transportation services are an option that could bring occupants shopping, to entertainment activities or to any square of their choice.

What has to be considered is the few people allegedly waiting in line for apartments have no investment.  The people and residents that made the Villages, already invested in the existing lifestyle.  Apartments have a long term return on investment, but a viable operation can yield a fast return.

Villager Jim Cipollone is an outspoken opponent of apartments at Spanish Springs Town Square.

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