Villagers fear apartments and a parking power grab are signaling the end of Spanish Springs Town Square.
The Villages will go before the Lady Lake Commission on Monday night to update officials on its plan to bring apartments to the former home of Katie Belle’s in the Van Patten House. The plan calls for specially reserved parking spots for the renters on Alverez Avenue, right in front of the building. It also calls for additional reserved renter spots at the square.
“Who owns the land where the parking space are to be reserved for occupants of apartments located in the old Katie Belle’s? Who pays for maintenance of the parking spaces?” asked Frank Walter, a 14-year resident of The Villages.
He said the move is a betrayal of the homebuyers lured to Florida’s Friendliest Hometown thanks to its original town square.
Fellow resident Ellen Gomes points to the statue of The Villages founder Harold Schwartz at town square.
“I don’t think that putting in apartments is fair to the people who bought 22 years ago. We had promises made to us and they are breaking them all. This is a disgrace to The Villages and Mr. Schwartz,” Gomes said.
Villager Joe Harris said the apartments and the parking will set a terrible precedent in The Villages.
“Why bother to buy when renters will obviously be the new priority? Owners need to be considered more than renters. Owners need to speak up,” Harris said.
Many Villagers believe Spanish Springs has not been a priority for the Morse family for a long time.
“I have been a permanent resident in the Spanish Springs area for the last eight years. And in those years I’ve seen the Developer do everything he can to make Spanish Springs a ghost town. Where is it going to stop?” asked Villager Larry Jaspring.
Villager Geraldine Russo also fears this could be the end of fun and music at Spanish Springs Town Square.
“By putting apartments in the square you are going to have to stop all the activities. How can you provide ‘reserved’ parking in public areas? Whoever is running The Villages nowadays is being very, very selfish. You are ruining something that a lot of people enjoy,” Russo said.
Villager Julia Himmelsbach agreed the apartments could be part of a broader conspiracy to suck the life out of Spanish Springs.
“If you start eliminating music at the square and get rid of parking and happy hour you are eliminating the best of The Villages. The small town feel is why we are here. Down south development is totally changing this feel. When you drive down there you see walls and power lines and hear the freeway,” she said
“Leave Spanish Springs alone,” she added.