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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Leesburg City Commission approves next step for Villages of West Lake

The southward expansion of The Villages into Leesburg took another step to reality, Monday evening, as the city commissioners endorsed the development of the Villages of West Lake.

The commission meeting had called for an obligatory “public first reading” of required modifications to existing ordinances needed to amend the site’s designation from “mixed use development” to an “age restricted development zoning district” allowing for a 55-plus community. 

The procedural approval helps pave the way for construction of thousands of homes, golf courses, recreation facilities and commercial sites.  Last year, The Villages Land Company announced plans to purchase the land from Leesburg for $11.9 million. 

The mandated “second and final reading” is scheduled for the Commission’s Feb. 12 meeting.

The proposed community, adjacent to the Villages’ to-be-built Villages of Southern Oaks, will be situated on both the north and south sides of the Florida Turnpike and both sides of County Road 470 to County Road 48.  Plans also call for the southward continuation of Buena Vista Boulevard from State Road 44 to CR 470.

The Commission meetings allow for comments from the public. 

The lone voice of concern was from Rev. Amanda Borbenkipcher, of the Corpus Christi Episcopal Church in Okahumpka – a .2 square mile “census development place” located about two miles from the Villages’ new development on County Road 470.  More than 31 percent of its 250 residents live below the poverty line.

“We are worried about its impact – such as population increase and widened, rural roads — on Okahumpka and other historic but forgotten communities,” she said.

The commissioners, while expressing their understanding, explained that the area is outside Leesburg’s city limits and therefore not in their jurisdiction. They recommended that she contact Lake County officials. 

Commissioner Jay Hurley

With the first reading requirements completed, Commissioner Jay Hurley expressed his strong support for The Villages and the expected boom to the city. “Tonight is another step in the right direction, and a new community partnership that lends itself to success in many ways,” he said.  “For example, tonight we had been exploring ways to offer additional recreational opportunities to our residents.  The Villages is well experienced in these areas, so we look forward to their recommendations.  We have many shared goals. This is really very nice,” he said.

Leesburg officials estimate that the City will net some $8.7 million from the land sale. Construction is expected to cost between $900 million to $1.2 billion. Once completed, the city should annually collect $4.5 million in property taxes. 

Previously, Leesburg, with a 2016 population of 22,419, had seen an average of 176 homes built every year for the past 15 years. 

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