Casino Meeting to Unveil Villages of Fruitland Parl Plan

Image of Casino Community Center

The Casino Community Center opened 99 years ago.

Fruitland Park — Fruitland Park city commissioners have scheduled a public meeting for 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 19 to seek public input on the proposed Villages of Fruitland Park development.

Mayor Chris Bell said the meeting will be held in The Casino, the 99-year old city-owned community center on Berkman Street one block west of city hall.

Bell scheduled the meeting to gauge resident concerns over the development’s impact.

Under terms of a developer’s agreement proposed six weeks ago, The Villages of Lake-Sumter Inc. would acquire and develop approximately 620 acres of the 987-acre Pine Ridge Dairy tract that forms the western edge of Fruitland Park and abuts The Villages at the Sumter County line.

The Villages of Fruitland Park would bring 1,972 new homes and an estimated 3,648 new residents into the city over the span of about two years once development is approved.

In July the city commissioned LPG Urban & Regional Planning and Consulting in Mount Dora to conduct the Impact Analysis to identify infrastructure needs and costs.

Commissioners received their copies of the Impact Analysis over the weekend and plan to hold a workshop meeting in the City Hall conference room on Thursday to discuss it.

Community Development Director Charlie Rector said he has fielded about 30 calls so far from worried residents but heard little opposition to the project.

“On the face of it, the project proposal is a very good deal for the city,” Rector said. “Eventually, the Pine Ridge Dairy property will be developed, and history has shown that The Villages is one of the most capable and successful developers in Florida,” Rector said.

But the devil is in the details. To serve almost 2,000 new homes, the city must upgrade its wells and build a 500,000-gallon storage facility at an estimated cost of $3.35 million.

The police department will need to hire, train and equip nine officers and one civilian support staff at an initial cost of more than $1 million and an annual cost thereafter estimated at $750,000. The city’s current budget for law enforcement is just over $1 million.
Rector said Villages developers expect to offset many of those costs.

“They have a vested interest in making sure the city is able to adequately serve their new home buyers,” Rector said. “Our interest is in serving all the city’s residents—including newcomers—without increasing property taxes,” Rector said.

Rector said estimates are the Villages will pay more than $13.5 million in impact fees, permit fees, inspection fees and the like over the two-year buildout period—and that’s not counting property taxes the new home owners will contribute.

“There are literally hundreds of details that we are negotiating now and the Villages has been very receptive to all of our concerns,” Rector said.

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