A war over impact fees roiled the Sumter County Commission in 2021.
Villagers Craig Estep, Oren Miller and Gary Search were elected in a landslide in 2020 over incumbents seen as puppets doing the bidding of the Developer of The Villagers. Voters were angry about a 25 percent property tax rate increase enacted a year earlier by the “puppet” commissioners.
The trio of new commissioners tried to shift the burden from the taxpayers to the Developer. However, The Villages got the legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis to retroactively cancel the impact fees. That effort was championed by state Rep. Brett Hage. It was revealed that he was drawing a $350,000 annual salary from The Villages.
In December, Miller and Search were arrested on felony charges of perjury. They are charged with lying about alleged communication in violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law, which demands that governmental business be conducted in open public meetings. In the wake of those arrests, critics have howled that the perjury charges are payback for the effort to stick the Developer with hefty impact fees and potentially a chance to reshape the commission. The governor has the power to remove the commissioners and appoint their replacements.