The Villages, Florida

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The Villages
Sumter Landing in The Villages
Sumter Landing in The Villages
Official logo of The Villages
Nickname(s): 
Florida's Friendliest Hometown, Boomer Paradise
Interactive map of The Villages
Coordinates: 28°53′55″N 81°59′39″W / 28.89861°N 81.99417°W / 28.89861; -81.99417Coordinates: 28°53′55″N 81°59′39″W / 28.89861°N 81.99417°W / 28.89861; -81.99417[1]
CountryUnited States
StateFlorida
CountySumter
Area
 • Total33.95 sq mi (87.94 km2)
 • Land32.65 sq mi (84.57 km2)
 • Water1.30 sq mi (3.37 km2)
Elevation75 ft (23 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total79,077
 • Density2,421.89/sq mi (935.08/km2)
Demonym(s)Villager
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code(s)
32159, 32162, 32163, 34731, 34785
Area code(s)352
FIPS code12-71625[4]
GNIS feature ID1828956[3]
Websitethevillages.com

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 overall development lies in central Florida, approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of Ocala and approximately 45 miles (72 km) northwest of Orlando.

Between 2010 and 2020, The Villages was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States, growing 39 percent, from about 93,000 in 2010 to about 130,000 in 2020.[5] The Villages covers an area of approximately 32 square miles, an area larger than Manhattan, and is expanding mostly to the south of the current community.[6]

The Villages is made up of 17 special purpose Community Development Districts (CDD), which are controlled by a board of supervisors (BoS), five individuals elected by the landowners of the district.[7] H. Gary Morse, the son of the original owner, transferred most direct ownership in the company to his three children in 2006; Morse died in 2014.[8]

The community is the center of The Villages, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area, 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.

History[edit]

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 forced to close this aspect of the business following the implementation of a 1968 federal law banning sales of real estate by mail order.[9][10]

Stuck with considerable portions of Florida land, in the early 1970s, Schwartz and Tarrson began the 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. To improve the business, Schwartz bought out Tarrson's interest and brought his son, H. Gary Morse, on board in 1983.

Morse noted that the thriving 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 upgrade the development significantly. 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 significant aspects by descendants of Schwartz and Morse.

By the early 1990s, The Villages had more than 8,000 residents, three golf courses, the first Winn Dixie supermarket opened, just four restaurants, and nightly dances were held in a tent.[11]

Expansion[edit]

In January 2017, the Holding Company of the Villages announced the purchase of 8,000 acres of land south of Florida State Road 44 in and around the villages of Southern Oaks and Fenney. In the spring of 2017, The Villages announced a planned acquisition of 2,600 acres north and south of County Road 470 along the east side of Florida's Turnpike for future development. The deal has passed due diligence by the Leesburg City Commission, and zoning ordinance changes were approved by the Leesburg Planning Commission (with the city commission giving final approval).[12] The initial plans call for the building of approximately 4,500 homes with some commercial development also being planned.[13]

According to data from RCLCO Real Estate, the Holding Company of the Villages sold 2,231 homes in 2017, a 13% increase over 2016. The Villages was the top-selling master-planned community in the United States in 2017 and one of only four communities to sell more than 1,000 homes.[14]

The Villages also claimed the title of best-selling master-planned community of the decade, with 24,440 new home sales from 2010 through 2019.[15]

In January 2022, RCLCO Real Estate Advisors named The Villages the top-selling planned community for the ninth consecutive year, with 4,004 new homes sold in 2021, an increase of 63 percent over 2021.[16][17][18]

New home sales for master-planned communities (MPCs) in the Villages by year[18][16]

Structure[edit]

A Declaration of Restrictions has been created for each neighborhood, which regulates the 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.[19]

To qualify for an exception to the Housing for Older Persons Act prohibitions against discrimination, at least 80 percent of the homes within The Villages must have at least one person 55 years of age or older residing in the home.[20] 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"[21] 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.[22]

Geography[edit]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP (Sumter County only) has a total area of 5.6 sq mi (15 km2), of which 5.2 sq mi (13 km2) is land and 0.4 sq mi (1.0 km2) (6.99%) is water. The Villages is located approximately 45 miles northwest of Orlando and 75 miles northeast of Tampa.

As of 2018, The Villages covers a land area of approximately 32 square miles (83 km2) and has approximately 750 miles (1,210 km) of mostly private roads.[23]

Demographics[edit]

The finish line of a 5K run in Lake Sumter Landing in 2018.

As of the census estimate of July 1, 2016, there were 123,966 people and 49,362 households residing in the CDP (Sumter County). The population per square mile in 2010 was 170.8. There were 68,199 housing units as of 2010.

Historical population
Census Pop.
201051,442
202079,07753.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[24]

The racial makeup of The Villages CDP was 98% White, 0.4% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, and 0.5% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race made up 1.2% of the population.[25]

As of 2019, persons under 5 years accounted for .1% of the population, persons under 18 years accounted for .8%, persons 65 years and over accounted for 81.6%, and 53.6% of the population was female.[25] Median household income in 2019 was $63,841.[25]

In 2018, the median age for both sexes in The Villages metropolitan statistical area is 67.4, with this being 29 years older than a typical American, and five years older than the median age of residents in the next-oldest county in the United States, which is on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.[26]

The Villages is the home of the largest veteran population anywhere in the United States that doesn't have a military base.[27]

The Villages was ranked number 53 in the Forbes 2017 list of The Best Small Places For Businesses And Careers.[28]

Circa 2014 large groups of residents are from the Midwest and Northeast, with Staten Island supplying many of the residents.[29]

Home ownership[edit]

According to the data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, women purchased 468 homes while men purchased 406; this means approved mortgages for women as a percentage of approved mortgages for men was 115%, making The Villages the highest rate of the 400 metropolitan areas in the United States.[30]

According to a November 2021 article on Realtor.com, the average down payment on a home in The Villages is 27.1 percent, which is the highest in the U.S. and the median home list price is $366,950.[31]

Crime[edit]

According to an investigative report by WFTV News in Orlando, crime in The Villages is low and usually imported from other areas outside of the community. The report stated that property crime and crimes of opportunity are approximately one-third lower than the average for the state of Florida. The statistics for violent crimes in The Villages area is half the state average according to federal statistics. The Villages are just about average for driving under the influence charges as any similar-sized place in Florida.[32]

Politics[edit]

The Villages has been a popular election stop and platform for Republican political figures such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, former presidential and vice presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin,[33] former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee,[34] 2016 GOP presidential primary candidates Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and talk show hosts/authors Glenn Beck[35] and Brian Kilmeade. In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence visited to campaign for his running mate, Donald Trump.[36]

Presidential and vice presidential visits[edit]

In October 2004, George W. Bush became the first President to visit The Villages with a rally in the new Lake Sumter Landing Market Square with approximately 20,000 supporters. The visit was less than two weeks before the 2004 United States presidential election while Bush was seeking to be elected to a second term.[37]

A White House official announced that President Trump would be visiting the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center on August 6, 2019, to speak about Medicare to an invitation-only event.[38] Due to the separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio, Trump postponed the visit.[39]

On October 4, 2019, Trump touched down at Ocala International Airport aboard Air Force One. He briefly greeted officials and supporters before boarding Marine One and flying to The Villages Polo Club.[40] From there, Trump traveled via motorcade to the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center where he delivered an hour-long speech about expanding Medicare eligibility to an invitation-only audience of roughly 1,000 supporters.[41] A live video feed of the event was broadcast to crowds in Spanish Springs Town Square. Trump was the second sitting president to visit The Villages.[42] During his visit to The Villages, Trump said, "I'm thrilled to be here, one of the most famous and thriving communities anywhere in Florida, and really anywhere in the world as far as I'm concerned." At the close of the event, Trump signed an executive order to expand private insurance options for seniors under Medicare.[43][44]

On October 10, 2020, Vice President Mike Pence spoke before a crowd of approximately 1,100 supporter in the Brownwood Paddock Square portion of the community. Topics covered by Pence included support for veterans, the economy and job creation, the administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and NASA funding.[45]

On October 23, 2020, Trump visited The Villages appearing with Governor Ron DeSantis and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. After arriving by helicopter on Marine One, he appeared before approximately 10,000 supporters in a field behind The Villages Polo Club. During the speech, Trump said he loved The Villages and joked about moving to the community. Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to visit The Villages twice.[46]

Business[edit]

Polo Stadium in The Villages Florida.

As of 2016, The Villages built 5.7 million square feet of commercial business space, with another 3.3 million square feet planned for the near future. Major businesses include restaurants, retail geared toward older Americans, and healthcare providers.[47] The average commercial occupancy rate in The Villages is approximately 97 percent.[48]

Commercial areas in The Villages include town centers, regional shopping centers and neighborhood retail plazas. The main business areas are the 500,000-square-foot town centers that feature a mixture of retailers, restaurants, entertainment and service providers.[49] The Villages has a total of 14 grocery stores including seven Publix, three Winn-Dixie locations, The Fresh Market, Target, Walmart Supercenter, and a Walmart Neighborhood Market.[48] Citizens First Bank, a community bank headquartered in The Villages, has nine locations throughout the community.[50]

In the ten years from 2007 to 2017, The Villages metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was the 9th fastest growing area in the United States with the GDP growing 51.4% to $2.1 billion.[51] According to state and federal jobs data, between 2010 and 2018 The Villages metropolitan statistical area added 13,893 jobs.[52]

In February 2019, WalletHub, compared the median credit scores of the residents in 2,571 cities and The Villages scored the highest in the United States with a credit score of 806.[53]

Government[edit]

Residents of The Villages have a historically high 80% turnout rate in elections. Republicans outnumber Democrats two-to-one.[54]

A critical part of Central Florida's Republican party, The Villages has been visited frequently along the campaign trail by Florida governor Rick Scott and United States senator Marco Rubio. During the 2014 Florida gubernatorial election, Scott visited The Villages on the eve of the election to rally votes.[55] Just before the 2016 election for Florida senator, Rubio stopped off at the temporary Republican Headquarters established at Lake Sumter Landing in The Villages.

The Villages is in Florida's 11th congressional district represented by Representative Daniel Webster.

State representation[edit]

The entirety of The Villages is within the boundaries of Florida Senate District 12 (represented by Republican Dennis Baxley), and is within the boundaries of Florida House of Representatives District 33 (represented by Republican Brett Hage).

County[edit]

The portion of The Villages within Lake County is within Lake County District 1.[56]

The portion of The Villages within Marion County is within Marion County District 3.[57]

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.[58][59]

Local government (Community Development Districts)[edit]

The majority of The Villages is developed and maintained using several Community Development Districts (CDD).[60] 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.[60] 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 CDDs, but a portion is under the larger CDDs (see below).

The Villages currently operates 17 CDDs. Thirteen of the 17 CDDs cover the various areas of The Village 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:[61]

Sortable table
District Location Number of Residential Units
District 1 Consists of approximately 998 acres (4.04 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County 3,420 residential units
District 2 Consists of approximately 990 acres (4.0 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County 3,668 residential units
District 3 Consists of approximately 894.3 acres (3.619 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County 3,762 residential units
District 4 Consists of approximately 1,253.5 acres (5.073 km2) in the southern portion of Marion County 5,432 residential units
District 5 Consists of approximately 1,408 acres (5.70 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County 6,399 residential units
District 6 Consists of approximately 1,497 acres (6.06 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County 6,677 residential units
District 7 Consists of approximately 976 acres (3.95 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County 4,765 residential units
District 8 Consists of approximately 1,070 acres (4.3 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County 5,140 residential units
District 9 Consists of approximately 1,285.7 acres (5.203 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County 5,409 residential units
District 10 Consists of approximately 1,588.8 acres (6.430 km2) in the northeast corner of Sumter County 6,639 residential units
District 11 Consists of approximately 692.80 acres (2.8037 km2) in the City of Fruitland Park 2,055 residential units
District 12 Consists of approximately 1,490 acres (6.0 km2) in the City of Wildwood 2,490 residential units
District 13 Consists of approximately 2,464.70 acres (9.9743 km2) in the City of Wildwood Unknown

The remaining four CDDs 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.
  • Brownwood Community Development District (BCDD) – located in Sumter County and provides for the maintenance of common areas and roadways for the 239 acres (0.97 km2) of commercial areas within its boundaries.
  • North Sumter County Utility Dependent District (NSCUDD) – provides water, reclaimed water, and wastewater services to residences of The Villages who are north of county route 466A and south of county route 466. The NSCUDD also provides municipal solid waste disposal for the portions of Sumter County, Marion County, and the City of Fruitland Park which is inside of boundaries of The Villages.

Unlike the residential CDDs, 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. [62][63]

Ownership associations[edit]

There are also two homeowners associations in The Villages: The Property Owners Association (POA) and The Villages Homeowners Association (VHA).[64]

Recreational activities[edit]

The 18th green at Tierra Del Sol, one of the twelve country club golf courses at The Villages

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 CDDs discussed above).[65]

Golf courses[edit]

The Villages has many golf courses located throughout the community. The ability to play "Free Golf for Life" is a key component of The Villages advertising campaigns. As of February 2022, The Villages operates 55 courses.[66]

The majority (42) of the courses[66] 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 greens 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 (VCCDD)[67] In 2020, more than 2.5 millions rounds of golf were played on the executive golf courses.[68]

The remaining 13 courses are country club championship courses.[66] 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 greens fees to play the courses, and the clubs charge for priority tee times. The Villages Developer owns these championship courses and, through an agreement with the VCCDD, are managed by that entity.[69]

The Villages also operates three specialty courses, including the Fenny putt and play multi-functional facility in the Village of Fenney. This course includes a lake stocked with fish and fishing poles, a walking trail, and an area to play croquet and lawn bowling.[70] The Marsh View Pitch & Putt is an 18-hole plus a 19th hole putting challenge. The total yardage of the course is between 1,061 and 1,247 yards. The Clifton Cove Putting Course is 2 nine hole courses.[66]

The Villages also operates a golf instruction academy[71] for all skill levels.

Recreation centers[edit]

The Fenney Recreational Center showing a portion of the Fenney Springs Nature Trail.
The Fenney Recreational Center showing a portion of the Fenney Springs Nature Trail.

In addition, The Villages operates 100 recreation centers.[72] There are three classes of centers (the number shown are as of December 2020 and are based on the types of swimming pools offered):

  • Neighborhood Centers (59; these centers offer local adult-only pools as well as bocce, horseshoe, and shuffleboard courts)[73][72]
  • Village Centers (29; 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)[74][72]
  • Regional Centers (12; 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)[75][72]

In December 2020, the Aviary Neighborhood Recreation Center opened, making it The Villages’ 100th recreation facility and 29th recreation center.[72]

The Villages operates 11 parks, dog parks, and fitness trails, which are separate from the recreation centers.

Entertainment[edit]

The Villages offers various venues for the performing arts. In April 2015, The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center, a venue with over 1,000 seats, opened.[76] The Sharon has featured various popular artists such as Frankie Avalon,[77] Willie Nelson,[78] The Beach Boys,[79] Jerry Lewis,[80] Felix Cavaliere,[81] Little River Band,[82] Bobby Rydell,[83] Ray Stevens,[84] The Spinners,[85] Kenny G,[86] and Chubby Checker.[87] The Studio Tierra Del Sol, a black box theatre with seating for 100, opened in November 2016.[88]

Fictitious historical markers and architectural details provide atmosphere for the residents. Amanda Brian, author of "The Faux History of The Villages, Florida," wrote that "The Villages' faux history gives a patina of stability and continuity to a highly volatile region and stage of life."[89][90] Many of the plaques represent the "downtown areas" as if events derived from notions of an idyllic small town in the 1800s had occurred there.[91] Such "American myths" feature in the designs for Brownwood, Lake Sumter Landing, and Spanish Springs.[92]

Other activities[edit]

Beyond the golf courses and recreation centers, The Villages also operates numerous softball fields, a polo stadium (The Villages Polo Stadium),[93] and a woodworking shop, plus the Lifelong Learning College.[94] The newest softball complex, Soaring Eagle, opened in 2015. The Villages offers two seventeen-lane outdoor target archery ranges, one in Paradise Park and the other named Dudley Archery Range in the Village of DeSoto, near Fenney.

Nightly activities are held in The Villages three town squares,[95] Lake Sumter Landing's Market Square[96] and Spanish Springs Town Square.[97] A third town square, Brownwood Paddock Square, opened on October 12, 2012.[98]

Clubs[edit]

As of 2018, The Villages also offer over 2700 social clubs for residents of the area. Some of the most popular are location focused and based upon where a resident grew up, dance clubs, genealogy clubs, singles clubs, sports clubs, a Beatlemaniacs club, and gardening clubs.[99]

Media[edit]

The Villages is served by television channels from the Orlando market, although channels from the Tampa market also cover the area. It is also served 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.

A documentary called Some Kind of Heaven, about four residents of The Villages, was released in January 2021.[100]

Local media[edit]

The Villages developers or their successors own and operate three media properties:

Public radio station WMFV (89.5) serves the area and is owned by the same group as Orlando public radio station WMFE-FM, with some variations from WMFE's master schedule.

Transportation[edit]

Golf cart bridge over US 27/US 441
Golf cart bridge over SR 44 at Brownwood Paddock Square

Highway system[edit]

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 468 well south of 466A with the development of several new villages, Fenney, and the Brownwood town center in that area. On December 10, 2013, The Villages of Lake-Sumter Inc. agreed to an $8 million deal to purchase Pine Ridge Dairy tract in Fruitland Park, Florida with a planned construction of 2,038 new Villages homes.[102] Although County Road 466 previously served as the main east–west corridor, the addition of homes and facilities south of County Road 466 and in the city of Fruitland Park, Florida has turned County Road 466A into a secondary east–west corridor.[103] Buena Vista Boulevard and Morse Boulevard serve as major north–south corridors.[104]

A second overpass, crossing Florida State Road 44 near Brownwood Paddock Square, is currently under construction. In August 2019, the 232-foot-long bridge was lowered in place. Construction is set to finish sometime in 2020.[105]

Plans are in place to construct three other overpasses, one crossing Florida State Road 44 near Rohan Recreation Center, with the other two spanning Florida's Turnpike.[105]

Public transportation[edit]

Sumter County Transit operates The Villages shuttle. They provide various weekday loops through the Villages.[106]

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.

Until 2004, when the train was shortened to Savannah, Georgia, Amtrak's Palmetto (then on a New York - Tampa itinerary) served adjacent Wildwood. Amtrak's Thruway Motorcoach bus service makes a stop in The Villages. The bus travels from Jacksonville to Dade City, and is timed to meet arrivals and departures of the Silver Star train in Jacksonville.

Autonomous vehicles[edit]

In early 2018, The Villages was chosen for a pilot program offering autonomous taxis in the area of Lake Sumter Landing. In the early stages of the program, the vehicle will have a safety driver in the driver's seat and later the driver will be removed and the automobile would be monitored from a control station. The technology-rich Ford Fusion Hybrid and Chrysler Pacifica minivan taxis will be operated by Voyage Auto, a San Jose, California startup company. The Villages has 0.5 per cent stake in Voyage Auto.[23][107]

The Villages became one of the first cities in the United States to offer paid taxi service using autonomous vehicles throughout the community.[108]

Education[edit]

Primary and secondary education[edit]

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[21] or by exception granted for hardship cases.

Although children cannot legally reside in most neighborhoods of The Villages under most circumstances, The Villages Charter Schools is a kindergarten to 12th grade charter school in unincorporated Sumter County.[111] 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.[112]

Post-secondary education[edit]

Enrichment Academy[edit]

In the fall of 2017, The Villages launched The Enrichment Academy with more than 140 fee-based, lifelong learning, noncredit courses on topics such as scuba diving, literature, philosophy and psychology, culinary arts, technology, foreign language, photography, and more. The academy is part of the Recreation and Parks Department and take place at designated Recreation locations, and other approved locations throughout The Villages.[113][114]

Continuing education in the area[edit]

Sumter District Schools operates the Sumter County Adult Community Education Center in unincorporated Sumter County.[115]

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.[116]

College of Central Florida serves residents of Marion County,[117] operating the Ocala Campus and the Hampton Center in Ocala in Marion County and centers and campuses in adjacent counties.[118]

Annual events[edit]

  • Each year, in April, The Villages host The Villages Senior Games where approximately 2,000 residents compete in hundreds of athletic events. The top five athletes in each age divisions and win in the Villages are invited to compete in the Florida Senior Games. The games have taken place in The Villages for 18 years and include track and field, tennis, basketball, bowling, volleyball, pickleball, fencing, clay shooting, and others.[119][120]

Criticism[edit]

IRS audit of CDD bonds[edit]

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:

  1. 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,
  2. 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
  3. the Bonds are private activity bonds, the interest on which is not excludable under IRS Section 103.

The position stemmed largely 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 the developers-controlled board purchased VCCDDs infrastructure from the developers). Essentially, the IRS position is that the VCCDD is an "alter ego" for the developers.[121]

After an IRS settlement offer was rejected by VCCDD,[122] the IRS further expanded its audit in July 2009 to include all recreational and utility revenue bonds issued by VCCDD[123] as well as similar bonds issued by Sumter Landing CDD,[124] on the basis that Sumter Landing CDD is also an "alter ego" of the developers. However, the 10 district CDDs were not included in the expanded audit since, as shown above, the residents elect the District CDDs boards.

VCCDD opposed the position taken by the IRS, and in January 2010, it formally requested technical advice from the IRS as to the position it took.[125] On June 14, 2011, VCCDD (after discussions with the IRS) submitted its final Request for Technical Advice, outlining its position on the matter.[126] 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.[127] On April 30, 2014, the IRS Office of Tax Exempt Bonds issued a negative response instead of The Villages requests for tax relief on the grounds of qualifying as a political subdivision under IRS regulations.[128]

From March 2008 until October 1, 2013, it was estimated that through the Amenity Authority Committee and CDD government, Villages' residents bore approximately $750,000.00 in legal fees in defending against the IRS audit.[129]

In a memo dated July 11, 2016, the IRS, noting that the remaining Village Center municipal bonds had been redeemed in 2015, stated, "We have concluded that closing this examination without further IRS action supports sound tax administration. The IRS had tried to settle the case in November 2016 for $1.5 million. However, the Village Center Supervisors unanimously refused that settlement offer." Now the IRS has closed the examination with no penalty.

'Faux history'[edit]

The effort to present a "fanciful past" for The Villages through fictionalized plaques and building details demonstrates "the role that history plays in retirement migration."[89][130] Critics have negatively compared this presentation to the approach of the Walt Disney theme parks, claiming that the plaques generally do not address ethnic minorities nor "conflict".[91] Brian argued that "The Villages' "history" whitewashes Florida's past and celebrates a straightforward tale of economic growth."[131]

Notable people[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

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  8. ^ Yardley, William (November 10, 2014). "H. Gary Morse, Who Built Mecca for Retirees, Is Dead at 77". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 15, 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  9. ^ Ryan Erisman, The Complete Guide to The Villages Florida, Chapter 3.
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  16. ^ a b "The Top-Selling Master-Planned Communities of 2021". Retrieved January 5, 2022. The top-selling community this year is Active Adult community, The Villages, in Central Florida with 4,004 sales.
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External sources[edit]

  • Oppenheim, Lance (Director). Some Kind of Heaven (color documentary, running time 1 hr. 21 min.). Released January 15, 2020 in the United States. Filmed in The Villages, Florida. Production companies: 30WEST, Los Angeles Media Fund, Protozoa Pictures.
  • The Villages Community Development District (the website provides public information on all 17 Community Development Districts located within The Villages area)
  • Today's The Villages, Florida front page at the Newseum website