For years, South Lake County has been the hotbed for growth in the county, not surprising since it sits on the edge of Metro Orlando. But the most recent certified Lake County tax roll shows a new contender for fastest booming municipality, and it's near Lake's northern edge -- closer to Ocala than Orlando.
Fruitland Park, with just a few thousand residents, grew its taxable value of land by 74.4 percent to $299.48 million from $171.72 million in the past year, according to Lake County's newest Tax Roll statistics, which will be delivered to the state by June 1.
Its nearest competitor, Groveland, saw a 16.28 percent increase in taxable land value. Overall, Lake County's taxable value grew by 6.87 percent.
Fruitland Park has a not-so-secret weapon in the growth race. The Villages retirement community started building a new section of its booming age-restricted neighborhood inside city limits last year, adding 409 new homes worth $60.9 million in construction value to the town's total of $62.47 million.
"We expected to at least be no. 2," said Charlie Rector,Fruitland Park's community development director. "We are proud of it, we will take it."
The town might have a good chance of making no. 1 again next year. The total build-out for The Villages Fruitland Park will be 2,055 homes when complete.
The Villages estimated it would be bringing in 10 to 12 new home permits each day to Fruitland Park.
All the growth at The Villages, and then commercial development that typically follows, has the town expanding its sewer system to handle the new resident demand.
Other top tax roll growers were Groveland, Minneola and Tavares and, with traditional winner leading the pack.
Slower growing towns were those like Mount Dora and Leesburg that are already more densely developed.
Umatilla, a sleepy town on the edge of the Ocala National Forest, grew the least last year, with a 3.54 percent increase to $123.82 million in total value, with new construction value of $839,699.
New home sales were also a key driving factor of tax roll growth county-wide, said Property Appraiser Carey Baker.
"Most areas of the county experienced strong sales volume and increasing sales prices," said Baker. "We processed nearly 22,000 deeds in 2015, of which 11,147 were single-family residential sales."