The Villages clears final hurdle to expand into Leesburg

Leesburg commissioners took a monumental vote Monday night that officially cleared the way for The Villages to expand into the city.

That moment came when commissioners approved a public facilities development agreement with The Villages Land Company. The action was required for the city and the owner of the fastest-growing retirement community in the world to close the 1,127-acre “470 Land Sale.”

The Villages of West Lake sits on 1,127 acres in Leesburg and will contain 2,800 homes – down from the original plan of between 4,000 and 5,000 houses.

The official closing is expected to take place on or before Nov. 16 – a date commissioners had agreed upon in August when they approved a second extension on the due diligence process on the parcel known as the Villages of West Lake.

Looking east on County Road 470 from the Villages of West Lake property in Leesburg.

That property, which eventually will contain about 2,800 homes, is located north of County Road 470 near the Florida Turnpike, next to the Villages of Southern Oaks in Wildwood, where The Villages has been cleared to build up to 26,590 homes on 13,637 acres.

The agreement approved Monday night hammers out critical details necessary for the sale to go through. Those include:

  • Methods that will be used for Leesburg to deliver reuse water to The Villages – a detail deemed essential to selling the property. The agreement provides for maximum/minimums regarding The Villages taking water and the city keeping it. It provides details on operating conditions during abnormal and wet-weather periods. And it conveys protections for each party, whereby The Villages is guaranteed 6.5 million gallons per day and Leesburg is protected from operational breaches in the event of uncontrollable factors affecting delivery.
  • The Villages will provide fire and emergency medical services in the Leesburg section of the community, and in return seeks an annual fee from the city in the amount of $150 per home, or an estimated annual payment of $420,000.
  • The Villages will provide solid waste service and Leesburg will receive a 5 percent franchise fee on all sales. Those funds will be a direct net revenue for the city’s general fund, estimated at $30,000 annually, plus potential commercial sales, according to Leesburg City Manager Al Minner.
  • Impact fees will be waived for water and sewer, as The Villages will provide those services directly. Leesburg will be the bulk sewer treatment provider and a capacity agreement for the cost associated with treatment has been previously agreed upon at $9 million for a 3-million-gallon-daily sewer reservation in the Turnpike Wastewater Treatment Facility.
  • Sumter County will provide building permitting and inspection services for all homes and structures in The Villages portion of Leesburg per an agreement that both parties signed off on last month.
  • Recreation services will be developed and maintained by The Villages in exchange for an impact fee waiver.
  • The Villages will develop roads and eventually dedicate them to the city for future maintenance.
  • The Villages will maintain landscaping and stormwater in exchange for relief from a stormwater assessment.
  • Leesburg will receive a 5 percent franchise fee for all municipal services provided by The Villages – water, sewer, solid waste and reuse.
Leesburg City Manager Al Minner shows where the Villages of West Lake will be located.
Looking west from County Road 470 at the Villages of West Lake property that eventually will contain 2,800 homes.

The sale of the property to The Villages is expected to provide the local area with significant increases in tax base, job creation and private investment for many years. In Leesburg alone, the new net revenue for the general fund is expected to be more than $2.6 million annually – a 9.8 percent increase. And that doesn’t include commercial development, which is expected to come once homes start being built.

Minner said The Villages land sale also will lead to several other positive factors for the city, including:

  • A 46 percent increase in general fund property tax revenues (more than $2.2 million on homes each with an estimated value of $275,000);
  • A 41 percent increase in taxable property assessments;
    $4.6 million annually in new revenue for the Lake County School Board;
  • $3.7 million annually in new revenue for the Lake County Board of County Commissioners; and
  • Underdetermined sales, gas and discretionary sales tax revenues.

Leesburg also expects to have about $923,000 in expenses associated with the new development. Those include:

  • $275,000 for up to three new police officers;
  • $420,000 for fire services;
  • 125,000 for street lighting;
  • $50,000 for road maintenance; and
  • $25,000 for traffic signals.
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