STAND UP SPEAK UP BE HEARD
We’ve talked about The Villages, their intense Lifestyle marketing, and representations made. Several residents have shared their Broken Promises stories with V2PW, and now they share them with you.
Intro: The roads in areas north of CR466 were built by the developer in late 1990’s and early 2000’s. N Morse Blvd, which extended from Hwy 27/441 to CR466, was built in 1998. This is a two laned road, designed for normal residential traffic only. It was turned over to Sumter County for care and maintenance in 2004, when the developer began development South of CR466. At that time, it became a major thru street utilized not only by trucks and service vehicles for The Villages and its residents, but also became a faster way for normal business traffic to cut thru from Hwy 27/441 to CR466, and back, for business in support of the commercial businesses along CR466 as well as in Lake Sumter Landing, the second “small town” erected by The Villages Developer.
As the population of The Villages increased, the need for golf cart paths increased. Narrow paths were marked on either side of N Morse Blvd, thus enabling golf cart and car traffic to travel on the same pavement. When golf cart paths were widened by the AAC in approximately 2010, it was explored as to whether N Morse Blvd could be widened to 4 lanes by the County, an effort to make it safer for residents in golf carts. This was not deemed feasible by Sumter County, since it would require the acquisition of portions of property already owned and occupied by residents. Thus, the cart path lines on the pavement of N Morse Blvd were made darker, and expanded about 6-8 inches, making the “path” wider on each side. There is no provision for a turn lane, other than at the two stop lights along N Morse Blvd. Golf cart vs car (or truck) accidents are not unusual. Significantly, this segment of N Morse Blvd is designated as a level of service “F” by the Sumter Board of County Commissioners. In other words, it is considered substandard, with no prospect of improvement.
The following is a recent personal example of the impact N Morse Blvd has had on one family:
Judy’s Story: My husband (Steve) went by golf cart to the store on the afternoon of June 12, 2020. Upon coming home from work at approximately 5:00 pm, I saw the wreckage of our golf cart, still in the road, where several police officers were taking measurements. You can only imagine my panic! My husband had attempted a left hand turn across traffic on N Morse Blvd to get into our neighborhood, and a very large truck, going quite a bit over the 30mph speed limit, struck him. The truck had skidded about 50 feet when he hit my husband’s cart, and then the truck continued to skid about another 40 feet. He was thrown from the cart, and sustained multiple injuries to his head, legs, face, chest, and shoulders. He was Emergency Evacuated to Ocala Trauma Center, where he underwent 3 surgeries the next day. They repaired his broken jaw with a metal plate and screws, wired his jaw shut, popped his shoulder back in place and repaired a major gash to his face. His leg, where skin was mixed with tar and gravel, waited until his body was ready for another surgery with yet another surgeon at a later date. He was black and blue all over! My husband has now been home for a few months, but recovery is very slow…older bodies do not bounce back quickly from such trauma! His recovery will be long term, not short term.
As for myself, I am embarrassed to admit that this accident has been so traumatizing for our family that we are afraid to travel N Morse Blvd in a golf cart. I love my house, but with this Change of Use for Hacienda Hills Country Club, and the addition of yet more cars and golf carts on N Morse Blvd….I will be putting my home up for sale! I am afraid to share N Morse Blvd with motor vehicles and golf carts. If there was a separate golf cart path along one side, that would at least be a safer solution. By the way, I learned from the police report that this was a commercial truck that was cutting through from CR466 to CR441 on Morse. We seem to get a lot of this cut thru traffic on a residential road.
And the developer calls this a “golf cart friendly community”?
Definitely not along N Morse Blvd!
Maria’s Story: The proposal to build apartments where the Hacienda Hills Country Club used to be is an ill-conceived idea.
Whenever the Sumter County Commissioners reviewed and approved the development of the Hacienda Hills Country Club and its surrounding communities, it made an explicit commitment to the buyers of the surrounding properties that the development was to be a single-family community. Accordingly, the infrastructure (i.e. roads & utilities) was built to support single family units. We the buyers trusted and depended on that commitment to purchase our homes and live in quiet peaceful surroundings. For some of us this will be our last home, living behind apartments will turn our dreams into a nightmare and make it hell on earth.
The financial impact on those of us who live close to the proposed units will be significant; our property values will decline by 30-50%. Why would the Commissioners who are entrusted with ensuring the welfare of the community allow such injury be inflicted upon us? The idea of building apartments in that area is not for the betterment of the community.
The Commissioners are our representatives; it is the duty of those individuals to protect us against changes that would hurt this community. We relied on their commitment that the area was zoned as single-family. We now demand that they use their hearts and honor their original commitment and deny the request to change the usage of the land to multi-family units.
Marie’s Story: The Villages, Florida’s friendliest hometown for Active Adults 55 and over. The founder Harold Schwartz and his son Gary Morse had a vision. They designed a “Walt Disney” like community for adults. A fun and active place to live out your golden years. Everyone gets around in golf carts, which serves as the main transportation for many. Everything you need in life can be accessed by golf cart. There is music and dancing every night in the three town squares. You have activity clubs, free golf, pickle ball, swimming pools and lots more.
After Gary Morse’s passing at the end of 2014, his children took over. The third generation greatly accelerated the growth of The Villages by buying massive amounts of land and building new housing. Now they are “reimagining” the country clubs and the town squares. The Hacienda Hill Country Club has been torn down and they are planning to build rental apartments in its place. They are also planning to build rental apartments in the Spanish Springs and Lake Sumter town squares. There is no transparency and no communication into what their plans are for the villages in the future. Where will their rental apartment vision end? Will other country clubs, golf courses, and other preserve lands be repurposed for these apartments?
They are drastically changing the vision that their father and grandfather had for The Villages. So, if you are thinking about retiring and moving to The Villages, “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown”, think again. Do your homework before you invest money and time.
Josephine’s Story: I thought I had found the retirement community of my dreams. Those dreams are shattered.
On October 13th, I pulled myself together, approached the podium, and addressed the five Sumter County Commissioners seated above me on the dais. I had just come from the hospital where I visited with my extremely sick son and, despite my resolve to share my story with the commissioners, I could barely find my voice. You see my son is disabled and over the years his health has deteriorated requiring countless operations and physical therapies. Because of my good fortune to have moved to The Villages nine years ago, a place that I could not fault until this past summer, I asked my son to move here to be with us. It was the answer to all of our prayers. By using his scooter from Palo Alto to the Hacienda Hills pool, he got the invaluable exercise he required. He gained further independence with the continuing use of the pool, and found the strength to walk with a walker. The destruction of Hacienda Hills Pool without notice was not only an inconvenience to us, but a life change event. His scooter cannot make the longer journey to Orange Blossom or Tierra del Sol. Because he must be able to exercise, we need a pool now, and so my husband and I must tap into our retirement fund to build a pool. This was not in our retirement plans, but our son is everything to us, and so we shall persevere.
I was too overcome to finish my address to the commissioners. My request to the Sumter County Board of Commissioners, and to The Villages Family as well, is to please stop your plans to change our beautiful single-family community into a community of apartment buildings and dwellers. Actions can have intended, or unintended, consequences. The destruction of the Hacienda Hills pool deprived my son of his exercise resulting in his hospitalization due to breathing issues and low oxygen levels. He has lost any strength in his legs, and thus his independence. Furthermore, I believe the apartments will devalue my property, another hit to my retirement, already reduced by the cost of a new pool. The Villages chose to cater to a more vulnerable population. And that’s ok. But now they see a shiny new penny, apartments, and we just don’t matter. Greed changes everything.
Milt & Pat’s Story: We are the only village that does not have a Rec Center. But we knew that before we purchased our home. We had a Country Club, Hacienda Hills, with a pool within easy walking distance. And we were happy.
Now the country club and pool have been taken from us. Madero Drive, my street, is a very busy street and at times it is impossible to enter Morse Blvd, the main boulevard that runs the length of The Villages. Morse Blvd is used as a thru street not only for village people but for residents outside The Villages and for workers to get back and forth between 27/441 and 466. With an additional 300 people living right on Morse Blvd it will become a huge traffic problem. We paid good money for our home and we do not want to see the value decline by the building of apartments in our established residential neighborhood. Now a new country club restaurant with a pro shop and pool? That makes a lot of sense to me! We bought in 1997 and moved here in 1998, and we love our home on the Sharon L. Morse Owl Preserve. I never thought I would see the day the family would do this kind of thing.
Milt & Pat Wiest
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