The Villages, Florida
|The Villages, Florida|
|Master-planned age-restricted retirement community which includes a CDP|
|Motto: Florida's Friendliest Hometown|
Location of The Villages in Sumter County, Florida
|• Total||5.6 sq mi (14.4 km2)|
|• Land||5.2 sq mi (13.4 km2)|
|• Water||0.4 sq mi (1 km2)|
|Elevation||66 ft (20 m)|
|Population (2010 Census)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||1828956|
The Villages is a census-designated place (CDP) in Sumter County, Florida, United States. It shares its name with a broader master-planned age-restricted community that spreads into portions of Lake and Marion counties. The community is controlled by several Community Development Districts (CDD's), most of which are controlled by H. Gary Morse, the owner of the development company which created The Villages. The overall development lies in central Florida, approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of Ocala and approximately 45 miles (72 km) northwest of Orlando.
As of the 2010 United States Census, The Villages had a population of 51,442, reflecting an increase of 43,109 (517.33%) from the 8,333 counted in the 2000 Census. It is the center of The Villages Micropolitan Statistical Area (μSA), which consists of all of Sumter County; Lake County is included in the Orlando–Kissimmee–Sanford, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, and Marion County is included in the Ocala, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area).
The Villages consistently ranks as a very high growth area. A 2008 Census Bureau report ranked The Villages the No. 1 fastest-growing micropolitan area in the United States. In 2014, Forbes magazine ranked The Villages as the number one fastest-growing small city in the United States.
- 1 History
- 2 Structure
- 3 Geography
- 4 Demographics
- 5 Government
- 6 Recreational activities
- 7 Media
- 8 Transportation
- 9 Education
- 10 Criticism
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Harold Schwartz, a Michigan businessman, began selling land tracts via mail order in The Villages area in the 1960s. He and his business partner Al Tarrson were put out of business by a 1968 Federal law that banned mail order sales of real estate.
Stuck with considerable portions of Florida land, in the early 1970s Schwartz and Tarrson began development of a mobile home park, Orange Blossom Gardens, in the northwestern corner of Lake County. By the early 1980s, the community had sold only 400 units. Trying to improve the business, Schwartz decided to buy out Tarrson's interest and bring his son, H. Gary Morse, on board in 1983.
Morse noted that the successful retirement communities (such as Del Webb's Sun City developments) offered numerous well-maintained amenities to the residents. They also had diverse and nearby commercial development. Morse began to significantly upgrade the development. Their sales improved in the mid-1980s. Schwartz began to buy large tracts of land in nearby Sumter and Marion counties for future expansion. In 1992 Morse officially changed the overall development name to The Villages. The development is still controlled in all major aspects by descendants of Schwartz and Morse.
A Declaration of Restrictions has been created for each individual neighborhood, which regulates design and operational aspects, such as landscaping, repairs and maintenance, placement of satellite dishes, hedges, etc. An Architectural Review Committee controls the composition and consistency of the exterior of the residential properties within The Villages. The committee, which consists of Villages residents, reviews and approves alterations and modifications to the properties and homes built by the developer. Committee members serve for three years and are selected by the sitting committee.
In order to qualify for an exception to the Housing for Older Persons Act prohibitions against discrimination, at least 80% of the homes within The Villages must have at least one person 55 years of age or older residing in the home. Persons under the age of 19 years are not permitted to reside within The Villages unless an exemption is granted. Three subdivisions have been designated as "family units" and are not subject to this restriction. Otherwise, persons under age 19 (such as grandchildren) are permitted to visit for no more than 30 days within a calendar year.
The Villages is located at (28.937803, -81.971220).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 5.6 mi² (14.5 km²). 5.2 mi² (13.4 km²) of it is land and 0.4 mi² (1.0 km²) of it (6.99%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 8,333 people, 4,392 households, and 3,583 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 1,605.5 people per square mile (619.9/km²). There were 5,065 housing units at an average density of 975.9/mi (376.8/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 98.4% White, 0.5% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.5% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.06% from other races, and 0.4% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race made up 1.3% of the population.
There were 4,393 households out of which 0.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 80.1% were married couples living together, 1.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.4% were non-families. 15.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.89 and the average family size was 2.05.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 0.3% under the age of 18, 0.3% from 18 to 24, 1.5% from 25 to 44, 40.4% from 45 to 64, and 57.5% 65 years of age or older. The median age was 66 years. For every 100 females there were 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.9 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $42,542, and the median income for a family was $45,078. Males had a median income of $58,173 versus $26,176 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $28,343. About 2.8% of families and 3.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including none under age 18 and 2.8% of those aged 65 or over.
Considered a heavily Republican community, The Villages is a popular election stop and platform for political figures such as former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and talk show host/author Glenn Beck.
As a gated community known for low crime rates, The Villages received publicity after a resident was killed in her home during a hold-up in July 2006. It was the first murder in the retirement community.
Residents of The Villages have a high 80% turnout rate in elections. Republicans outnumber Democrats two-to-one. Some Democratic residents complain about the distinctly Republican coverage in local broadcasting and newspaper, an orientation attributed to The Villages' owner, as well as voicing concerns about politically oriented vandalism.
The entirety of The Villages is within the boundaries of Florida Senate District 20 (currently represented by Republican Alan Hays), and is within the boundaries of Florida House of Representatives District 42 (currently represented by Republican H. Marlene O'Toole).
The portion of The Villages within Lake County is within Lake County District 1.
The portion of The Villages within Marion County is within Marion County District 3.
Areas of The Villages in Sumter County are divided between Sumter County District 1, which takes areas east of Morse Boulevard, and Sumter County District 3, which takes areas west of Morse Boulevard.
Sumter County operates The Villages Sumter County Service Center at 7375 Powell Road in Wildwood.
Local government (Community Development Districts)
The majority of The Villages is developed and maintained using several Community Development Districts (CDD). The CDD is a form of special purpose local government available under Florida law; around 225 communities in Florida currently use this form of government. The portion of The Villages located in Lake County is under the jurisdiction of the city of Lady Lake and is not part of any of the District CDD's but a portion is under the larger CDD's (see below).
The Villages currently operates 12 CDD's. Ten of the 12 CDD's cover the various areas of The Villages where residents own homes, and provide and maintain the roads and transportation paths, storm water systems and structures, underground utilities, curbs and gutters, and street lights. The costs of building and maintaining this infrastructure are paid for by annual special assessments included in the property tax bill. District residents (including landowners who have yet to build on their property) elect the members of the District Board of Supervisors. The current district setup is as follows:
- District 1 – consists of approximately 998 acres (4.04 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County, which includes 3,420 residential units
- District 2 – consists of approximately 990 acres (4.0 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County, which includes 3,668 residential units
- District 3 – consists of approximately 894 acres (3.62 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County, which includes 3,762 residential units
- District 4 – consists of approximately 1,187 acres (4.80 km2) in the southern portion of Marion County, which includes 5,132 residential units
- District 5 – consists of approximately 1,408 acres (5.70 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County, which includes 6,399 residential units
- District 6 – consists of approximately 1,497 acres (6.06 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County, which includes 6,677 residential units (planned)
- District 7 – consists of approximately 976 acres (3.95 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County, which includes 4,765 residential units (planned)
- District 8 – consists of approximately 1,070 acres (4.3 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County, which includes 5,140 residential units (planned)
- District 9 – consists of approximately 946 acres (3.83 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County; as of 2010 development is beginning
- District 10 – consists of approximately 999 acres (4.04 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County; as of 2010 development is beginning
The remaining two CDD's are:
- Village Center Community Development District (VCCDD) – located in Lake, Marion, and Sumter counties, VCCDD provides water and sewer utility services, recreation, security services, fire protection and paramedic services to the residents. The cost of operations is funded by amenity and utility fees that residents pay monthly. VCCDD also provides for the maintenance of common areas and roadways for the commercial areas within its boundaries. The cost of maintenance in the commercial areas is funded through commercial maintenance assessments.
- Sumter Landing Community Development District (SLCDD) – located in Sumter County, SLCDD provides recreation and security services to the residents. The cost of operations is funded by amenity fees that residents pay monthly. This CDD also provides for the maintenance of common areas and roadways for the commercial areas within its boundaries. The cost of maintenance in the commercial areas is funded through commercial maintenance assessments.
Unlike the residential CDD's, there are no residents within the CDD boundaries. Thus, the five-member Board of Supervisors for each district is composed of the developer's employees or affiliates. 
There are also two quasi-homeowners associations in The Villages: The Property Owners Association (POA) and The Villages Homeowners Association (VHA).
Unlike traditional associations (in which membership is mandatory for property owners, and where the association has the authority to enforce building standards), both the POA and the VHA are voluntary organizations that work to inform and serve the residents. Neither association assesses mandatory dues and residents can join either or both associations (the primary benefit of which is the ability to gain discounts on local services).
According to author Andrew D. Blechman in his book Leisureville (see Criticism section below), the VHA is traditionally aligned with the developers while the POA has traditionally maintained a stance in opposition to the developers.
As a master planned retirement community, The Villages offers numerous forms of recreation. The majority of the costs are paid for via the monthly amenities fee assessed to residents (the facilities are owned by the centralized CDD's discussed above).
The centerpiece of The Villages is its numerous assortment of golf courses. The ability to play "Free Golf for Life" is a key component of The Villages advertising campaigns (though technically the statement is inaccurate as the costs are covered by the mandatory monthly amenity fees assessed on each residential lot). As of June 2012[update], The Villages operates 39 courses.
The majority (32) of the courses are executive golf courses, all of which are 9-hole layouts. It is these courses at which residents of The Villages can play "free golf for life" (i.e., no green fees) and can walk the courses for free as well; fees are charged for riding a golf cart on the courses. These courses are owned by the Villages residents and managed by the Villages Community Center Development District (VCDD)
The remaining 10 courses are country club championship courses. Among notable course architects are Arnold Palmer and Nancy Lopez. The Orange Blossom Hills and Tierra Del Sol clubs are 18-hole layouts; the other eight clubs are 27-hole layouts. Residents of The Villages are automatically members of these clubs; however, unlike the executive courses residents must pay green fees to play the courses and the clubs charge for priority tee times. These championship courses are owned by the Villages Developer and through an agreement with the VCDD, are managed by that entity.
By final buildout, The Villages will operate 12 country-club championship courses (the last two will be 27-hole layouts; there are no plans to expand Orange Blossom Hills or Tierra Del Sol beyond their existing 18-hole layouts) and 35 9-hole executive golf courses, for a total of 621 holes of golf.
The Villages also operates a golf instruction academy for all skill levels.
In addition, The Villages operates numerous recreation centers. There are three classes of centers (the number shown are as of March 2011 and are based on the types of swimming pools offered):
- "Neighborhood Centers" (32; these centers offer local adult-only pools as well as bocce, horseshoe, and shuffleboard courts)
- "Village Centers" (17; these centers offer family pools (except for Silverlake, which has no pool), facilities with billiard meeting rooms and full kitchens, bocce, horseshoe, and shuffleboard courts, plus tennis and pickleball courts)
- "Regional Centers" (eight; these centers offer resident-only sports pools (except for Paradise, which offers a family pool), larger venues with stages for theatrical and musical productions, and many of the same features as the village centers; all but two also operate fitness centers for which a membership must be purchased)
In addition, The Villages operates 11 parks, dog parks, and fitness trails, which are separate from the recreation centers.
Beyond the golf courses and recreation centers, The Villages also operates numerous softball fields, a polo stadium (The Villages Polo Stadium), and a woodworking shop, plus the Lifelong Learning College.
Nightly activities are held in The Villages three town squares, Lake Sumter Landing's Market Square and Spanish Springs Town Square. A third town square, Brownwood Paddock Square, opened on October 12, 2012.
The Villages is served by television channels from the Orlando market, by radio stations from both the Orlando and Gainesville/Ocala markets, and by area newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel, the Tampa Bay Times, the Leesburg Daily Commercial, and the Ocala Star-Banner.
The Villages developers or their successors operate three media properties:
- The Villages News Network (VNN), which is aired on the local Comcast cable network
- The Villages Daily Sun, a local newspaper
- WVLG AM-640 radio (a Fox News Radio affiliate).
The Villages development is bounded roughly by US 27/US 441 to the east, US 301 to the west, County Road 42 to the north, and County Road 466A to the south, though construction has now proceeded well south of 466A with the development of several new villages, the Bonifay Country Club, and the Brownwood town center in that area. County Road 466 serves as the main east-west corridor, with Buena Vista Boulevard and Morse Boulevard serving as major north-south corridors.
Due to the prevalence of golf courses many residents in The Villages use golf carts (some of which are street-legal, and some of which are solar-powered) to travel around the community. Tunnels have been built in most of The Villages where a highway must be crossed, but one overpass exists across US 27/US 441 because there was no way to construct a tunnel in this area.
Sumter County Transit operates The Villages shuttle. They provide various weekday loops through the Villages.
The Villages developers operate a trolley-style bus tour of the community which operates from the sales and information center located at The Market Square in Lake Sumter Landing.
There are a number of options available for travel between Orlando International Airport and The Villages, such as the shuttle service provided by The Villages Transportation. Travel between The Villages and The Orlando International Airport lasts approximately 90 minutes.
Amtrak serves The Villages by connecting bus to Jacksonville and Lakeland
Primary and secondary education
The following school listings are primarily for tax base purposes only, as The Villages does not allow full-time residents under age 19 except in the three family unit neighborhoods of Bison Valley, Spring Arbor, and Oak Meadows or by exception granted for hardship cases.
- The portion of The Villages located in Marion County is zoned to Lake Weir High School of the Marion County School District. There are no family unit neighborhoods in the Marion County portion of The Villages.
- The portion of The Villages located in Sumter County is zoned to Wildwood Middle High School of Sumter District Schools. There is one family unit neighborhood (Bison Valley) in the Sumter County portion of The Villages.
- The portion of The Villages located in Lake County is zoned to Leesburg High School of the Lake County Schools. There are two family unit neighborhoods (Oak Meadows and Spring Arbor) in the Lake County portion of The Villages.
In spite of the fact that children cannot legally reside in most neighborhoods of The Villages, The Villages Charter Schools is a PK-12 charter school in unincorporated Sumter County. Children are eligible to attend the charter school if one or both of their parents work directly for The Villages or one of its direct subcontractors, or if a parent works for a business located within The Villages. Children of residents who reside in a family unit neighborhood or by granted exemption do not automatically qualify for attendance based solely on their residence.
In addition to the Lifelong Learning College operated by The Villages developer, several publicly financed options are also available.
Sumter District Schools operates the Sumter County Adult Community Education Center in unincorporated Sumter County.
For residents of Lake and Sumter counties, Lake-Sumter State College provides adult education at the South Lake Campus in Clermont, the Leesburg Campus in Leesburg and the Sumter Campus in unincorporated Sumter County.
The Villages has been criticized by author Andrew D. Blechman in his book Leisureville: Adventures in America's Retirement Utopias. According to the Orlando Sentinel, "Blechman explains how Villages developer Gary Morse has maintained firm control over local decision-making in a community that sprawls across Lake, Sumter and Marion counties. . . . [The author] highlights the complex political and economic arrangements that gave rise to The Villages, and he asserts that few of its 65,000 or so residents understand, let alone oppose, the limitations on their civic power."
As Blechman told National Public Radio in March 2010, "Everything's owned by the developer. . . . The government is owned by the developer. Everything's privatized — and they're happy with that. You know, they've traded in the ballot box for the corporate suggestion box."
There was a fight for control between the county and The Villages. Former Sumter County Commissioner Jim Roberts stated, "In 2004 the developer and his contractors put together a referendum to change the nature of electing county commissioners from having single districts...to a county-wide vote. The people of the Villages were able to elect their commissioners as well as everyone elses. Their numbers just so outnumber the population of the county that they control every election".
As stated previously, the local newspaper, cable channel, and radio station are owned by the developer, so according to Blechman it tends to ignore issues raised by the POA and anything negative about The Villages in general. Blechman also criticized the local media for being slanted toward the policies and views of the developers.
IRS audit of CDD bonds
In January 2008, the Village Center CDD was notified by the Internal Revenue Service of the IRS' intent to audit several recreational bonds issued in 2003 to determine compliance with tax regulations (mainly due to their status as municipal bonds which are exempt from Federal income tax). The IRS sent three "Notices of Proposed Issues" in January 2009 challenging the tax-exempt status of the bonds on three grounds:
- the Issuer does not qualify as a political subdivision or "on behalf of the issuer" of tax-exempt bonds pursuant to Section 1.103-I(b) of the Internal Revenue Code regulations,
- the opinions of value do not support the price paid by the Issuer to the developer for the Series 2003 Facilities and the payment of the sales price for the facilities to the developer by the Issuer is not a governmental use of the proceeds of the Bonds, and
- the Bonds are private activity bonds the interest on which is not excludable under IRS Section 103.
The position stems in large part from the interrelationship between VCCDD and The Villages developers (since VCCDD has no residents, the Board of Supervisors consists solely of individuals who work for or have an affiliation with The Villages developers, and VCCDD's infrastructure was purchased by the developers-controlled board from the developers). Essentially, the IRS position is that the VCCDD is an "alter ego" for the developers.
After an IRS settlement offer was rejected by VCCDD, the IRS further expanded its audit in July 2009 to include all recreational and utility revenue bonds issued by VCCDD as well as similar bonds issued by Sumter Landing CDD, on the basis that Sumter Landing CDD is also an "alter ego" of the developers. However, the 10 district CDD's were not included in the expanded audit, since as shown above the District CDD's Boards are elected by the residents.
VCCDD opposes the position taken by the IRS, and in January 2010 it formally requested technical advice from the IRS as to the position it has taken. On June 14, 2011, VCCDD (after discussions with the IRS) submitted its final Request for Technical Advice, outlining its position on the matter. In June 2013, the IRS ruled that $426 million in bonds were not tax free since the bureaucracy running The Villages could not be considered a real government. The IRS found that the bureaucracy was not structured to represent the residents.
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- "One man's crusade." St. Petersburg Times. July 7, 2002.
- Show, Christine (October 5, 2008). "Villages' Morse acts as magnet for GOP". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
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- "Senate GOP Candidate Marco Rubio Woos The Villages". Thevillagesfloridabook.com. 2009-11-01. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
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- "Huckabee, Beck, Palin…tis a privilege to live in The Villages – Central Florida Political Pulse". Blogs.orlandosentinel.com. 2009-11-11. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
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- Michael Van Sickler and John Martin (August 12, 2012). "The Villages: Florida retirement community provides foundation for Republican candidates". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved August 16, 2012. "Drawing retirees from the Northeast and Midwest, this planned community is one of the most critical — and dependable — voting blocs in the nation. The development's 61,000 registered voters reside in a battleground region Republicans need to dominate if they are to defeat President Barack Obama in November. Twice as many Republicans as Democrats live here. Independents tilt rightward, too. With a turnout averaging 80 percent, it has become a fixed stop on the campaign trail for Mitt Romney."
- Michael Van Sickler and John Martin (August 12, 2012). "The Villages: Florida retirement community provides foundation for Republican candidates". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved August 16, 2012. "For Flynn and other Democrats who live in the Villages, [the creator of the Villages, H. Gary] Morse's politics sometimes upset their otherwise pleasant lives. The newspaper Morse owns, 'The Villages Daily Sun,' runs conservative columnists like Ann Coulter and Oliver North, but no liberal counterpoint or bad news about Morse or the Villages, Flynn says. Curt Hills, assistant managing editor at the 'Daily Sun,' didn't return phone calls. When Democratic candidates drop by to campaign, local reporters don't usually cover them. Meanwhile they lavish front page coverage on top Republicans who visit."
- Dave Jamieson (November 6, 2012). "The Villages' Democrats Find Second-Rate Citizenry In A Billionaire's Republican Kingdom". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 21, 2013. "rumors have swirled of pro-Obama carts being vandalized or serving as depositories for dog droppings. Susan Hausner, an active Democrat in The Villages, penned a letter to the Tampa Bay Times in which she said the atmosphere Morse has fostered has led "'family values' party members to do things like key cars that have Obama bumper stickers and put dog waste on golf carts with Obama signs. Our car was keyed, and I am furious. But it makes me vow to work even harder to get President Barack Obama re-elected." One Democrat at the breakfast described the political atmosphere as "the only snake in the garden of Eden.""
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- Village Center Community Development District, Annual Report for Fiscal Year ended September 30, 2009, p. 20.
- Sumter Landing Community Development District, Annual Report for Fiscal Year ended September 30, 2009, p. 21.
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- < The Villages Championship
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- "Recreation". The Villages. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
- Villages Recreation Centers NOTE: There is a discrepancy in the numbers depending on which map is used; the count is taken from the PDF map.
- "Recreation". The Villages. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
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- Richie, Lauren (May 31, 2009). "'What ifs' for The Villages in IRS fight". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
- IRS Expands Florida CDD Audits, Peter Schroder, Bond Buyer, July 27, 2009, accessed April 23, 2010
- Village Center Community Development District, Annual Report for Fiscal Year ended September 30, 2009, pp. 42-43
- Sumter Landing Community Development District, Annual Report for Fiscal Year ended September 30, 2009, pp. 34-35.
- Ritchie, Lauren, “IRS ruling on Villages tax-free bonds a long time coming”, Orlando Sentinel, 7 June 2013
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Villages, Florida.|
- The Villages
- The Villages Community Development District (the website provides public information on all 12 Community Development Districts located within The Villages area)
- The Property Owners' Association of The Villages
- The Villages Homeowners' Association
- The Villages Portal - Residents' Portal Site
- The Villages Daily Sun - Local Newspaper
- golf cart overpass over US 27-441 in the center of The Villages The location of the