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The Villages
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Grand Oaks neighbors angry about plan for ‘trailer park’ at equine resort

Neighbors of Grand Oaks Resort are angry about a plan for a “trailer park” at the pastoral setting which is famed for carriage rides and equestrian events.

Rural-loving residents living near the resort went to the podium Monday night and gave Lady Lake commissioners an earful over a pitch to annex the property into the town to pave the way for 795 manufactured homes.

They were “shocked” when they first learned of the major change envisioned at Grand Oaks in a Sept. 20 news article in Villages-News.com.

“I have been there since before Grand Oaks,” said Renee Custer who lives on Kendra Lane.

She saluted the work of Gloria Austin, who established the Florida Carriage Museum at Grand Oaks.

“Gloria Austin has done a wonderful job,” Custer said.

Gloria Austin helps drive a team of horses at Grand Oaks
Gloria Austin helps drive a team of horses at Grand Oaks.

But she did not try to varnish her horror at the thought of nearly 800 manufactured homes coming to the beautiful acreage currently dedicated to love and affection for horses.

“I will be extremely angry if they put a trailer park in there,” Custer said. “That is why we are pleading to you all to not let this happen.”

Ed Wise, who was born and raised in Lady Lake and makes his home on Marion County Road, said he and his neighbors were completely caught off guard by Grand Oaks’ plan for manufactured homes. He pointed out the resort doesn’t share any common borders with the town.

“How can you annex that into the town?” he asked.

This proposed layout at Grand Oaks was presented to the Lady Lake Commission
This proposed layout at Grand Oaks was presented in September to the Lady Lake Commission.

His wife Glenda decried the scheme for the manufactured home community which is said to be aimed at working families with a price point of homes at about $165,000.

“The concept of ‘lot rent’ and ‘rent to own’ is a trailer park not this ‘mobile home community’ they are trying to promise,” she said. “They will be ripping off the working class people they are proposing to help.”

This rendering was shown to commissioners to provide them with an example of the type of homes to be offered at Grand Oaks
This rendering was shown to commissioners to provide them with an example of the type of homes to be offered at Grand Oaks.

In the presentation last month, a representative for Grand Oaks said the development will provide consumer financing to homeowners through its affiliated national lending company.

Lady Lake officials told the residents that the “conceptual” presentation by Grand Oaks was simply an opportunity to pitch the idea to commissioners to see if they agreed to the potential of the plan. Commissioners said there were be many more steps, including a traffic study and public hearings, before Grand Oaks could move forward with the development. Last month, Grand Oaks’ representative said a change in the business model is being considered because the World Equestrian Center in Ocala has completely dominated horse-related events since it opened in 2021.

Mayor Jim Rietz suggested that the neighbors express their concerns to the owners and management at Grand Oaks.

Neighbor Kathleen Farner called Grand Oaks the morning after she saw the news article to request a meeting with the manager.  She said she received a text saying her request would be forwarded up the ladder, but is still waiting for a return call.
“The owner is a billionaire in New York, so we don’t see him too often,” said John DeHart, another resident living near Grand Oaks Resort.

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