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The Villages
Friday, May 24, 2024

Neighbors fear treehouse resort will create Tarzan-like environment

Despite opposition by the zoning special master and county staff, Sumter County commissioners Tuesday night approved a special use permit for an unusual tree house resort along State Road 471 near Webster.

The resort will feature 10 tree houses where guests can book a minimum of two-night stays along with a community hall, owner’s home, office, business center and gym on 40 acres.

Other amenities are expected to include a pool, bathhouse, dog park and pickle ballcourt.

During a public hearing of more than 90 minutes, land owner Lenteisa Hill and her attorney, Mary Solik, discussed the vision for the resort.

“It’s going to be a place for serenity and peace – a place to relax,” Hill said.

Two years ago, commissioners rejected a plan by Hill for a luxury RV park on the property.

Solik said the resort could provide lodging for people at a nearby wedding venue.

Ranging in size from 400 to 960 square feet, the tree houses will cost $310 to $510 a night.

Hill said no trees will be cut down unless they are diseased. The resort will have six employees and the tree houses won’t exceed the height restriction of 35 feet.

A 29-year U.S. Navy veteran who will work for Lockheed Martin in Orlando and Tampa, Hill said she will live on the property along with her mother and sister.

A staff report said the resort is not compatible with agricultural zoning because it provides “transient lodging.”

But commissioners approved the permit on a 4-1 vote with County Chairman Craig Estep voting against it.

Commissioner Roberta Ulrich described the project as “unique” and “creative” while Commissioner Don Wiley said it would not bring the kind of “evils” associated with other projects.

Commissioner Jeffrey Bogue, who visited the property and was given a tour by Hill, made the motion to approve the permit.

Solik said most neighbors support the resort, but several raised objections at the hearing.

“It’s right in my backyard,” said Jermaine Canty, who runs DoughJ’s Chicken & Donuts. “I don’t want to walk out on my porch and see somebody with their Tarzan suit on.”

William Watson said the resort will mean more traffic on State Road 471 and will not be compatible with the surrounding area.

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