ORLANDO-The Villages of Lady Lake, FL, one of the fastest-growing active retirement communities in the United States, anticipates breaking ground by fall on the first phase of an estimated $100 million expansion.
The development will comprise 43,000 new homes, four million sf of retail, 2,000 acres of golf courses and two town centers over 7,000 acres in Lake, Sumter and Marion counties, 60 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando.
Most of the new phase will be centered south of County Road 466 in Sumter County where the first 11,094 homes are planned.
Villages developer Gary Morse, a staunch campaign-funds supporter of Gov. Jeb Bush and President Bush, plans to increase the community’s population in Lake, Sumter and Marion counties by 2020 to 60,000 from 30,000 today.
When Morse and his family bought the former Orange Blossoms Mobile Home Park in 1982, there were 400 residences and no commercial. Today, the Villages has about one million sf of commercial/retail.
The impetus for the new expansion comes as Morse wins a judgment from Florida Administrative Judge Don W. Davis on a water-use and environmental issue raised by activist Dan Farnsworth and the Sumter Citizens Against Irresponsible Development.
Farnsworth has sued Morse unsuccessfully since 1994 to block new development in this largely rural area of northwest Central Florida. Farnsworth and Morse couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline. But Farnsworth associates tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity Farnsworth plans to appeal the June 24 ruling in Lake Circuit civil court.
“That would delay the project even more,” a vendor who has done business with the Morse family company tells GlobeSt.com. “But the Villages government is used to such delay tactics and they’ll just follow the book until they get a final OK for ground-breaking.”
Stuck in the center of the dispute is a state agency, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which previously approved the use of 1.1 million gallons of water a day four household uses and another 2.8 million gallons for commercial and general irrigation purposes. The agency meets in July to sign off on final water permits to the Villages.