The acute need for workforce housing near The Villages is clashing with the vanishing rural way of life of residents who are already coping with some of the worst traffic in the tri-county area.
Massive development on the drawing board for the tranquil pasture land between Cherry Lake Road, Lake Ella Road and Rolling Acres Road on Monday night went before the Lady Lake Planning & Zoning Board.
Greg Beliveau of LPG Urban-Regional Planners of Mount Dora, a familiar voice frequently hired to help shepherd sensitive projects through local government, said large-scale family development is desperately needed to support the enormous growth of The Villages.
“The Villages creates 1,200 to 1,400 new jobs per year. It has put pressure on the job market,” Beliveau told members of the planning and zoning board. “Almost two-thirds of the people who work here, don’t live here.”
He said many people, on average, are driving 45 minutes to their jobs in The Villages. He said employers desperately need people and those people need somewhere to live and raise a family.
“They aren’t spending their money here. Their money is leaving your area,” Beliveau added.
Hammock Oaks would be the largest project on the hundreds of acres to be developed.
Hammock Oaks would include 1,320 units on 330 acres. They would be broken down as follows:
• 670 single family homes
• 100 age restricted homes
• 550 townhomes
The overall density would be four units per acre. There would also be 130 acres of open space, 7.4 acres of amenity space and 65.8 acres devoted to storm water retention.
John Curtis, senior land development manager for Kolter Land, which is the developer of the project, said his firm is aware of concerns about traffic and has been working with officials in Lake and Sumter counties. He promised they would be employing tools like roundabouts as “traffic calming” devices.
“The county is supportive of what we are proposing to be the best and safest alternative,” said Curtis.
But the property owners who gathered at Monday’s meeting at Lady Lake Town Hall remained suspicious of their potential new neighbors.
“The amount of traffic is already astronomical,” said Pam Madison.
She said she could not fathom the impact the 4,000 new residents of the entire development will have on traffic.
Lenora Collins who lives on Lake Ella Road said she and her husband invested in a rural area so they could live peacefully with their horses.
“We wanted to look at the stars, hear the quiet and enjoy our retirement.” she said. “How many signatures would you need to stop this?”