The developer of The Villages, a burgeoning age-restricted community spanning three counties, is narrowly circling a land buy to expand thousands of homes further into Lake County.
The Villages Land Company LLC — which owns more than 34 square miles in Sumter, Marion and Lake counties upon which its expanding 55-plus community grows monthly — will buy 1,115 vacant acres from the City of Leesburg along the Florida Turnpike, near its intersections with C.R. 470 and S.R. 48.
Plans now project a 3,000-home development, and a $7.8 million sale value for the land has been established with closing pegged for October, Leesburg City Manager Al Minner told GrowthSpotter.
Dubbed “The Villages of West Lake,” Leesburg Commissioners had initially approved a sale of 1,938 acres to The Villages for up to 7,900 homes and 535,000 square feet of retail in May 2017.
And this past January, they approved a development agreement for those entitlements and a new Age-Restricted Development (ARD) zoning for a vast 2,631 acres near the turnpike.
However, the current iteration of the sale holds back 823 acres for wastewater management and culls 5,000 homes from the plan.
Nevertheless, it could catapult growth in Leesburg.
“All of these things are getting put back on the table,” Minner said. “Back in '05, '06, there were a ton of developments proposed that didn’t flourish. Talks started, stopped, and restarted again. Now that development engine is starting to crank up.”
Attorney James Argento, a state prosecutor and chairman of Leesburg's Planning and Zoning Commission, is optimistic that the influx of new population will prompt commercial development that will benefit everyone.
"We're a balance of people here in Leesburg, young professionals with families and a lot of retirees, and there's a prospect of The Villages coming in and enhancing the lives for all members of the community," he said. "I would love to see more retail and entertainment spots, and with a retirement community like The Villages it can be a magnet for some of that."
The Villages' roughly 116,000-resident community first sprouted in 1959 as Orange Blossom Gardens, a mobile home park built on mail-order sales by Midwest founder Howard Schwartz.
When business stagnated in the 1980s, his son Gary Morse revitalized the development with brick-and-mortar homes. The overall development was named The Villages in 1992.
The Villages Land Company LLC is an entity of the Morse family. Officials with the company did not respond to requests for comment this week.