Villages one step closer to closing deal for 4,500 homes in Leesburg

Leesburg city commissioners unanimously approved three legally-mandated, second readings of amendments needed for The Villages’ entrée into their city.

Their votes, at Monday night’s commission meeting, continued the collaborative process that had begun with exploratory meetings between the Villages’ developer and city officials in December 2016 and a contract signing five months later.

The first action amended part of the city’s code that established and set development standards for an Age Restricted Development (ARD) Zoning District. This would change the site’s designation from institutional-use to an age-restricted, 55-plus community.

Then, the five Commissioners accepted an “ordinance rezoning (of) approximately 2,631 acres from City PUD (planned urban development) to an ARD for a property generally located near the Florida Turnpike and north and south of County Road 470. (Villages West Lake zoning).”

Finally, they agreed to execute a development agreement between the City of Leesburg and the Villages Land Company, LLC.

During the meeting, there was no public opposition.

Leesburg City Manager Al Minner shows where the development would take place.

“Now, that the property is properly zoned in the Villages’ style of development, the two parties must collaborate on a mineral rights appraisal as well as general service administrative agreement issues,” explained City Manager Al Minner during an interview with the Villages-News.com.  “The Villages already has agreed to pay impact fees to the city and county for required improvements such as additional roads and parks, increased fire and police support and library fees. The city’s School Board already has waived its school impact fees. The Villages will pay for its own water treatment and recreational facilities so there are no impact fees there.

Once those agreements have been reached, the next essential step will be the preparation of  a Consumptive Water Use Permit that will specify how much water The Villages’ can  withdraw from the City’s water sources, and also stipulates how ‘waste water’ will be reused.

Then we can finalize the deal sometime between June and August with an October closing. I am hopeful we can get it done before that.”

He added the infrastructure build-out will take three to five years before construction begins of the approximately 4,500 homes and recreational facilities.

The Villages will pay $11.63 million for the land.  In turn, Leesburg must reimburse the federal  Environmental Protection Agency $3.41 million for 650 acres that have been given to the city for environmental purposes in the early 1980s that was to be used as spray field for the dispersal of waste water. The balance of $8.22 million is earmarked for the city’s general fund.

“We probably will not sell all the property at this time,” he forecast.  “There are a lot of infrastructure issues and other improvements that first must be completed.  But, ultimately the land will be sold and developed by The Villages.

“By in large, the Commission and City residents are very happy about a Villages’ type expansion coming to Leesburg,” Minner continued.  “The new development is a humongous boast to our local economy, with additional growth, jobs and commerce, and new opportunities.  Our number one priority has been to close the deal.”