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The Villages
Friday, June 9, 2023

Nagging questions dog unpopular rule forbidding rock landscaping at patio villas

Officials want to see the original study responsible for a rule forbidding rock at patio villas in The Villages.

The Community Development District 3 Board of Supervisors has been wrestling with the rule that prohibits rock landscaping at patio villas. Patio villas must have sod, while residents of courtyard villas are allowed to replace sod with rock landscaping.

Patio villa residents throughout The Villages, many of whom purchased their homes with the rock landscaping already in place, have been confounded by the no-rock rule. Some owners of patio villas have been assessed steep fines for not being in compliance with the rule.

Historically, the explanation has been that sod is needed in the patio villas to ensure proper drainage, particularly in heavy rain or a hurricane. But not everyone is buying that story.

Supervisor Terry Biddle noted that he has been in The Villages for about 20 years.

“I’ve seen several hurricanes come through and the rock did not seem to be problem,” Biddle said.

In spite of the rule, numerous patio villas in The Villages have rock instead of sod. Technically, those homeowners are in violation of the rule, but are only vulnerable if a complaint is lodged with Community Standards.

“I don’t like the whole issue,” said CDD 3 Supervisor Gail Lazenby.

He pointed out that Properties of The Villages is selling patio villas with the violation clearly in place.

“The Villages has listed the home and accepted the home for sale and the picture shows that the rock is OK,”  Lazenby said.

He noted that he previously lived in a patio villa and wonders if the tiny landscaping area really makes a difference when it comes to drainage.

“I could have used a pair of scissors to cut the lawn,” he said.

Lee Clymer, head of the Clymer Farner Barley engineering and surveying firm which has worked for decades for The Villages, was called before the CDD 3 board on Friday at its meeting at Savannah Center. He attempted to explain why the rule is in place.

“I think the concern is that if every home put rock in their watershed, the Southwest Florida Water Management District would not permit it,” Clymer said.

CDD 3 officials said they would like to hear directly from a SWFMD representative, prompting Clymer to backtrack a bit and clarify that The Villages provided a 65-35 formula that was the basis for the permit issued by SWFMD. The 65-35 ratio is the surface ratio needed for proper drainage.

Apparently when the 65-35 ratio was developed by The Villages, the decision was reached to lump patio villas on the 35 side of the ledger.

Supervisors changed their tactic and concluded they would like to see the study that supports the 65-35 rationale. They have requested that District staff acquire a copy of that study from the Developer and that it be reviewed at a future meeting.

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