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The Villages
Monday, June 5, 2023

Wildwood commissioners at odds on moratorium on growth

Wildwood will move ahead with residential development after commissioners rejected a proposed moratorium at a special meeting Monday.

But City Manager Jason McHugh warned that it won’t be business as usual.

Commissioners voted 3-2 against the moratorium, which would have continued until the end of the year.

The moratorium would have halted the processing of comprehensive plan amendments and rezoning requests for residential development. It would not have affected 8,400 units outside The Villages already approved or under review.

It also would not have affected home building in the Village of Southern Oaks unless The Villages wanted to add more property to the area defined by its master plan and development agreements.

Wildwood faces a shortage of wastewater treatment capacity that would not keep pace with development. A project is under way to expand the existing 40-year-old plant’s capacity and build a new plant nest to it.

After the moratorium’s rejection, McHugh said city staff members will adjust to the work flow.

“We’re not going to be able to maintain that level of service,” he said. “We will be changing how we operate to make sure we’re protecting the public interest.”

The proposed moratorium was left off the printed agenda, but added by voice vote.

Commissioner Joe Elliot moved for its approval, but the motion did not receive a second until Mayor Ed Wolf temporarily relinquished the chair so he could second it.

“I want to make sure we rent these apartments before we overbuild,” Wolf said, arguing in favor of what he called a “lenient” moratorium.

Voting against the moratorium were commissioners Julian Green, Pamala Harrison-Bivens and Marcos Flores.

Green said it could prevent the city from taking advantage of $400 million the state has earmarked to support affordable housing.

“This ordinance is not in step with our master plan,” he said, suggesting that it could be amended to exclude work force housing.

Commissioners later voted to keep part of the moratorium ordinance that called for research into Wildwood’s housing market, possibly with the help of a consultant.

Wastewater treatment capacity is Wildwood’s greatest concern about residential development.

Commissioners recently approved a contract with PC Construction to expand the existing treatment plant’s capacity and build a new plant on city-owned property next to it.

The two plants would be capable of handling six million gallons daily, up from the existing plant’s capacity of 2.8 million gallons.

Last fall, commissioners approved a $2.3-million contract with CPH Engineers to handle pre-construction phases of the project.


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