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The Villages
Thursday, April 18, 2024

Commissioner to cast deciding vote in controversial annexation

Commissioner Mike Sage
Commissioner Mike Sage

A Lady Lake commissioner will be called upon to cast the deciding vote in the proposed annexation of 24 acres of pasture land that would provide a key link for an enormous development stretching from County Road 466 to Lake Ella Road.

Commissioner Mike Sage, who last year defeated Mayor Jim Rietz in Ward 5, will be asked to break a 2-2 deadlock with regard to the 24 acres of pasture land that could be the future home of 82 residential units and part of the massive Hammock Oaks development.

Sage, a resident of the Historic Side of The Villages, was absent from Monday’s meeting which became a tug-of-war standoff with Mayor Ed Freeman and Commissioner Ed Regan opposed to the annexation and Commissioners Treva Roberts and John Gourlie adamantly in favor of it.

The Caudill property is located off Lake Ella Road
The Caudill property is located off Lake Ella Road.

The property at 403 Lake Ella Road is owned by 73-year-old David Caudill and his life estate. The 24 acres will provide a vital link for Hammock Oaks, which is set to include a Walmart in the far northern corner at County Road 466 and Cherry Lake Road, town homes, market rate homes, age-restricted homes, a community development district and additional retail, including, quite possibly a restaurant.

For a detailed look at the development, check out this link: Overall Plan Hammock Oaks

Commissioner Ed Regan
Commissioner Ed Regan

Commissioner Regan, a Villager and former member of the town’s planning and zoning board, said he is worried about traffic and the overcrowded schools. He pointed out that high schoolers who live in the development will likely be taking a lengthy bus ride to Leesburg.

“That’s a long haul,” he said.

He said while it’s encouraging that the Villages Elementary of Lady Lake will soon see a brick-and-mortar expansion to add capacity for more students, the portable classrooms probably “aren’t going anywhere” as the enrollment continues to swell at an astonishing pace.

He added that the “country roads” of Lake Ella Road, Cherry Lake Road and Rolling Acres Road are already being overwhelmed.

The green outline shows the location of the 24 acre Caudill land
The green outline shows the location of the 24-acre Caudill land.

“I share Commissioner Regan’s concern about traffic,” Mayor Freeman said.

Treva Roberts
Treva Roberts

However, Commissioner Roberts argued that there was another side to the coin.

“Mr. Caudill has a right to sell his property,” she said.

Caudill’s wife, a longtime teacher in Lake County, died in 2022. The developer of Hammock Oaks has likely offered him a princely sum for the coveted acreage, although the purchase price has not been disclosed.

Roberts also cited traffic studies that indicate the roads will be able to handle the predicted volume of vehicles. She said the school enrollment is a matter for the Lake County School Board.

The commissioners were deadlocked 2-2.

Mayor Freeman suggested tabling the matter until a future meeting at which Commissioner Sage will be present.

In fairness, we should wait for Commissioner Sage,” Freeman said.

Commissioner Sage will likely be called upon to cast his vote at the April 15 meeting.

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