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Friday, May 24, 2024

Leesburg Commission expected to OK multiple ordinances backing Villages growth

Just days after The Villages finalized the deal to purchase a large chunk of land from the City of Leesburg, commissioners are expected to give their blessings to six ordinances Tuesday night that will help pave the way for the building of new homes in the area known as the Villages of West Lake.

Tuesday night’s commission meeting will include the second and final readings of the ordinances – one of which clears the way for cell phone towers – connected with the 1,127-acre parcel of land The Villages officially purchased for $7.54 million this past Thursday.

The Villages of West Lake will contain up to 2,800 homes north of County Road 470 near the Florida Turnpike, next to the Villages of Southern Oaks in Wildwood.

The property, which eventually will contain about 2,800 homes, is located north of County Road 470 near the Florida Turnpike, next to the Villages of Southern Oaks in Wildwood, where The Villages Land Company has been cleared to build up to 26,950 homes on 13,637 acres.

One of the ordinances stands the chance of being connected with controversy down the road because it clears the way for cell phone towers to be constructed in the Villages of West Lake. The ordinance, which also contains a revised legal description of the land being purchased by The Villages, amends the West Lake Chapter 163 agreement that was approved in February to also allow antennas and other communication towers. It deems the 1,127-acre parcel as “suitable for cell tower uses because the location, design and construction of cell towers would be compatible with surrounding uses and would require similar buffering requirements from neighboring uses.”

An ordinance expected to be approved Tuesday night will allow cell phone and other types of communication towers, along with antennas, in the Villages of West Lake, a 1,127-acre parcel north of County Road 470 near the Florida Turnpike that eventually will contain about 2,800 homes. The city hasn’t yet set the parameters or outlined specific guidelines that companies will have to follow to place their towers in The Villages portion of Leesburg.

At least one similar tower has caused consternation with Villagers in recent months. In August, a three-story monopole off Bonita Boulevard raised the ire of several residents who expressed fears of falling home prices.

Two of the ordinances center on an 11-acre parcel of land in the Villages of West Lake. One is a comprehensive plan amendment changing the future land use on the small parcel to age restricted development from industrial and technology commerce park. And the other rezones those acres to age restricted development from city planned unit development.

The Villages of West Lake is a 1,127 acre parcel that The Villages purchased from Leesburg for $7.54 million.
Looking west from County Road 470 at the Villages of West Lake property that eventually will contain up to 2,800 homes.

Another ordinance contains provisions to amend existing Age Restricted Development requirements in the city to:

  • Establish a 1,000-acre minimum threshold;
  • Clarify the process for amending an existing Age Restricted Development project;
  • Add a list of existing Age Restricted Development projects approved by the city, which currently only includes the Villages of West Lake; and
  • Allow communications towers and antennas as permitted within the Villages of West Lake area.

And finally, two of the ordinances center around roughly 400 acres south of County Road 470 that The Villages initially wanted to purchase but couldn’t because it has to remain as a spray field owned by the city.

Looking east on County Road 470 at the future Villages of West Lake property in Leesburg.

The first one changes the comprehensive plan amendment on the spray field/general municipal use property to institutional and conservation from age restricted development – a designation no longer needed since the land won’t contain homes. And the second one contains the accompanying rezoning request to designate the land to city public from age restricted and planned unit development.

In the past, Leesburg City Manager Al Minner has said the city must hold onto that land until The Villages is ready to accept 6 million gallons per day of reuse water on a yearly basis. Currently, he said, the community can only take the reuse water nine months of the year, excluding its peak snowbird season.

In September, that spray field issue proved to be a sore subject with Leesburg planning commissioners. They went so far as to call the amended sale a “knuckleball” and accused The Villages of “cherrypicking” the land deal that once was envisioned to include 4,000 to 5,000 homes.

Leesburg Planning Commission Chairman James Argento, standing at left, and City Manager Al Minner, standing at right, look at an aerial view of The Villages land purchase during a September meeting.

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