The Villages, Florida facts for kids

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The Villages, Florida
Census-designated place
Nickname(s): Florida's Friendliest Hometown
Location in Sumter County and the state of Florida
Location in Sumter County and the state of Florida
Country United States
State Florida
County Sumter
Area
 • Total 32.1 sq mi (83 km2)
 • Land 30.8 sq mi (80 km2)
 • Water 1.3 sq mi (3 km2)
Elevation 75 ft (23 m)
Population (2016)
 • Total 157,000
 • Density 1,669.8/sq mi (644.7/km2)
Demonym(s) Villager
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code(s) 32159, 32162, 32163, 34731, 34785
Area code(s) 352
FIPS code 12-71625
GNIS feature ID 1828956

The Villages is a census-designated place (CDP) in Sumter County, Florida, United States. It shares its name with a broader master-planned age-restricted community that spreads into portions of Lake and Marion counties. The Villages consistently ranks as a very high growth area. The US Census ranked The Villages as the fastest-growing U.S. city for the second year in a row (during the 12 months ending in July 2014); As of April 2016, the total population of The Villages reached 157,000 people, due to new areas stretching from Fruitland Park to South SR 44.

The Villages is controlled by several quasi-governmental Community Development Districts (CDD), which are, in turn, controlled by the development company which created The Villages. H. Gary Morse, the son of the original owner and who was responsible for turning The Villages into one of the most well-known and fastest-growing retirement communities, transferred most direct ownership in the company to his three children in 2006; Morse died in 2014. The overall development lies in central Florida, approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of Ocala and approximately 45 miles (72 km) northwest of Orlando.

As of the 2010 United States Census, The Villages had a population of 51,442, reflecting an increase of 43,109 (517.33%) from the 8,333 counted in 2000. It is the center of The Villages Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which consists of all of Sumter County; Lake County is included in the Orlando–Kissimmee–Sanford, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area; and Marion County is included in the Ocala, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area.

History

Harold Schwartz, a Michigan businessman, began selling land tracts via mail order in The Villages area in the 1960s. He and his business partner, Al Tarrson, were forced to close the mail-order aspect of the business due to a 1968 Federal law banning sales of real estate by mail order.

Stuck with considerable portions of Florida land, in the early 1970s Schwartz and Tarrson began development of a mobile home park, Orange Blossom Gardens, in the northwestern corner of Lake County. By the early 1980s, the community had sold only 400 units. In an attempt to improve the business, Schwartz bought out Tarrson's interest and brought his son, H. Gary Morse, on board in 1983.

Morse noted that the successful retirement communities (such as Del Webb's Sun City developments) offered numerous well-maintained amenities to the residents. They also had diverse and nearby commercial development. Morse began to significantly upgrade the development. Their sales improved in the mid-1980s. Schwartz began to buy large tracts of land in nearby Sumter and Marion counties for future expansion. In 1992, Morse officially changed the overall development name to The Villages. The development is still controlled in all major aspects by descendants of Schwartz and Morse.

Structure

A Declaration of Restrictions has been created for each individual neighborhood, which regulates design and operational aspects, such as landscaping, repairs and maintenance, placement of satellite dishes, hedges, etc. An Architectural Review Committee controls the composition and consistency of the exterior of the residential properties within The Villages. The committee, which consists of Villages residents, reviews and approves alterations and modifications to the properties and homes built by the developer. Committee members serve for three years and are selected by the sitting committee.

To qualify for an exception to the Housing for Older Persons Act prohibitions against discrimination, at least 80% of the homes within The Villages must have at least one person 55 years of age or older residing in the home. Persons under the age of 19 years are not permitted to reside within The Villages unless an exemption is granted. Three subdivisions have been designated as "family units" and are not subject to this restriction. Otherwise, persons under age 19 (such as grandchildren) are permitted to visit for no more than 30 days within a calendar year.

Geography

The Villages is located at (28.937803, −81.971220).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP (Sumter County only) has a total area of 5.6 mi² (14.5 km²), of which 5.2 mi² (13.4 km²) is land and 0.4 mi² (1.0 km²) (6.99%) is water. The Villages is located approximately 45 miles northwest of Orlando and 75 miles northeast of Tampa.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 8,333 people, 4,392 households, and 3,583 families residing in the CDP (Sumter County). The population density was 1,605.5 people per square mile (619.9/km²). There were 5,065 housing units at an average density of 975.9/mi (376.8/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 98.4% White, 0.5% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.5% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.06% from other races, and 0.4% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race made up 1.3% of the population.

There were 4,393 households out of which 0.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 80.1% were married couples living together, 1.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.4% were non-families. 15.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.89 and the average family size was 2.05.

In the CDP, the population was spread out with 0.3% under the age of 18, 0.3% from 18 to 24, 1.5% from 25 to 44, 40.4% from 45 to 64, and 57.5% 65 years of age or older. The median age was 66 years. For every 100 females there were 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.9 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $42,542, and the median income for a family was $45,078. Males had a median income of $58,173 versus $26,176 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $28,343. About 2.8% of families and 3.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including none under age 18 and 2.8% of those who are at least age 65.

Considered a conservative community, The Villages is a popular election stop and platform for political figures such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, former presidential and vice presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, 2016 GOP presidential primary candidates Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and talk show hosts/authors Glenn Beck and Brian Kilmeade. In the lead-up to the 2016 Presidential Election, GOP Vice Presidential Nominee Mike Pence visited to campaign for his running mate, Donald Trump.

As a gated community known for low crime rates, The Villages received publicity after a resident was killed in her home during a hold-up in July 2006. It was the first murder in the retirement community.

Recreational activities

TheVillagesGolf
The 18th green at Tierra Del Sol, one of the nine country club golf courses at The Villages

As a master planned retirement community, The Villages offers numerous forms of recreation. The majority of the costs are paid for via the monthly amenities fee assessed to residents (the facilities are owned by the centralized CDDs discussed above).

Golf courses

Further information: List of golf courses in The Villages

The centerpiece of The Villages is its numerous assortment of golf courses. The ability to play "Free Golf for Life" is a key component of The Villages advertising campaigns (though technically the statement is inaccurate as the costs are covered by the mandatory monthly amenity fees assessed on each residential lot). As of February 2017, The Villages operates 48 courses.

The majority (36) of the courses are executive golf courses, all of which are 9-hole layouts. It is these courses at which residents of The Villages can play "free golf for life" (i.e., no greens fees) and can walk the courses for free as well; fees are charged for riding a golf cart on the courses. These courses are owned by the Villages residents and managed by the Villages Community Center Development District (VCDD)

The remaining 12 courses are country club championship courses. Among notable course architects are Arnold Palmer and Nancy Lopez. The Orange Blossom Hills and Tierra Del Sol clubs are 18-hole layouts; the other eight clubs are 27-hole layouts. Residents of The Villages are automatically members of these clubs; however, unlike the executive courses residents must pay greens fees to play the courses and the clubs charge for priority tee times. These championship courses are owned by the Villages Developer and through an agreement with the VCDD, are managed by that entity.

On October 15, 2013, The Villages officially opened executive courses Sweetgum and Mangrove. The most recent championship course (Belle Glade) was opened for public play on November 26, 2014.

By final buildout, The Villages will operate 12 country-club championship courses (the last two will be 27-hole layouts; there are no plans to expand Orange Blossom Hills or Tierra Del Sol beyond their existing 18-hole layouts) and 35 9-hole executive golf courses, for a total of 621 holes of golf.

The Villages also operates a golf instruction academy for all skill levels.

Recreation centers

In addition, The Villages operates numerous recreation centers. There are three classes of centers (the number shown are as of March 2011 and are based on the types of swimming pools offered):

  • "Neighborhood Centers" (32; these centers offer local adult-only pools as well as bocce, horseshoe, and shuffleboard courts)
  • "Village Centers" (17; these centers offer family pools (except for Silverlake, which has no pool), facilities with billiard meeting rooms and full kitchens, bocce, horseshoe, and shuffleboard courts, plus tennis and pickleball courts)
  • "Regional Centers" (eight; these centers offer resident-only sports pools (except for Paradise, which offers a family pool), larger venues with stages for theatrical and musical productions, and many of the same features as the village centers; all but two also operate fitness centers for which a membership must be purchased)

The Villages operates 11 parks, dog parks, and fitness trails, which are separate from the recreation centers.

Entertainment

The Villages has become a popular spot for many artists. In April 2015, The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center, a venue with over 1,000 seats, opened to much fanfare. The Sharon has featured many popular artists including former teen idol Frankie Avalon, comedic legend Jerry Lewis, singer and songwriter Felix Cavaliere, ARIA Hall of Fame artists Little River Band, former teen idol Bobby Rydell, comedic singer Ray Stevens, Motown legends The Spinners, saxophonist Kenny G, and singer Chubby Checker, among others.

Other activities

Beyond the golf courses and recreation centers, The Villages also operates numerous softball fields, a polo stadium (The Villages Polo Stadium), and a woodworking shop, plus the Lifelong Learning College. The newest softball complex, Soaring Eagle, opened on January 16, 2015.

Nightly activities are held in The Villages three town squares, Lake Sumter Landing's Market Square and Spanish Springs Town Square. A third town square, Brownwood Paddock Square, opened on October 12, 2012.

Transportation

Villages FL golf arch03
Golf cart bridge over US 27/US 441

Highway system

The Villages development is bounded roughly by US 27/US 441 to the east, US 301 to the west, County Road 42 to the north, and County Road 466A to the south, though construction has now proceeded well south of 466A with the development of several new villages, the Bonifay Country Club, and the Brownwood town center in that area. On December 10, 2013, The Villages of Lake-Sumter Inc. agreed to an $8 million deal to purchase Pine Ridge Dairy tract in Fruitland Park, Florida with a planned construction of 2,038 new Villages homes. Although County Road 466 previously served as the main east-west corridor, the addition of homes and facilities south of County Road 466 and in the city of Fruitland Park, Florida has turned County Road 466A into a secondary east-west corridor. Buena Vista Boulevard and Morse Boulevard serve as major north-south corridors.

Due to the prevalence of golf courses many residents in The Villages use golf carts (some of which are street-legal, and some of which are solar-powered) to travel around the community. Tunnels have been built in most of The Villages where a highway must be crossed, but one overpass exists across US 27/US 441 because there was no way to construct a tunnel in this area.

Public transportation

Sumter County Transit operates The Villages shuttle. They provide various weekday loops through the Villages.

The Villages developers operate a trolley-style bus tour of the community which operates from the sales and information center located at The Market Square in Lake Sumter Landing.

There are a number of options available for travel between Orlando International Airport and The Villages, such as the shuttle service provided by The Villages Transportation. Travel between The Villages and The Orlando International Airport lasts approximately 90 minutes.

Amtrak serves The Villages by connecting bus to Jacksonville and Lakeland.

Criticism

IRS audit of CDD bonds

In January 2008, the Village Center CDD was notified by the Internal Revenue Service of the IRS' intent to audit several recreational bonds issued in 2003 to determine compliance with tax regulations (mainly due to their status as municipal bonds which are exempt from Federal income tax). The IRS sent three "Notices of Proposed Issues" in January 2009 challenging the tax-exempt status of the bonds on three grounds:

  1. the Issuer does not qualify as a political subdivision or "on behalf of the issuer" of tax-exempt bonds pursuant to Section 1.103-I(b) of the Internal Revenue Code regulations,
  2. the opinions of value do not support the price paid by the Issuer to the developer for the Series 2003 Facilities and the payment of the sales price for the facilities to the developer by the Issuer is not a governmental use of the proceeds of the Bonds, and
  3. the Bonds are private activity bonds, the interest on which is not excludable under IRS Section 103.

The position stems in large part from the interrelationship between VCCDD and The Villages developers (since VCCDD has no residents, the Board of Supervisors consists solely of individuals who work for or have an affiliation with The Villages developers, and VCCDDs infrastructure was purchased by the developers-controlled board from the developers). Essentially, the IRS position is that the VCCDD is an "alter ego" for the developers.

After an IRS settlement offer was rejected by VCCDD, the IRS further expanded its audit in July 2009 to include all recreational and utility revenue bonds issued by VCCDD as well as similar bonds issued by Sumter Landing CDD, on the basis that Sumter Landing CDD is also an "alter ego" of the developers. However, the 10 district CDDs were not included in the expanded audit, since as shown above the District CDDs Boards are elected by the residents.

VCCDD opposes the position taken by the IRS, and in January 2010 it formally requested technical advice from the IRS as to the position it has taken. On June 14, 2011, VCCDD (after discussions with the IRS) submitted its final Request for Technical Advice, outlining its position on the matter. In June 2013, the IRS ruled that $426 million in bonds were not tax free since the bureaucracy running The Villages could not be considered a real government. The IRS found that the bureaucracy was not structured to represent the residents. On April 30, 2014, the IRS Office of Tax Exempt Bonds issued a negative response in lieu of The Villages requests for tax relief on the grounds of qualifying as a political subdivision under IRS regulations.

From March 2008 until October 1, 2013, it is estimated that through the Amenity Authority Committee and CDD government, Villages' residents bore approximately $750,000.00 in legal fees in defending against the IRS audit.

In a memo dated July 11, 2016, the IRS, noting that the remaining Village Center municipal bonds had been redeemed in 2015, stated, "We have concluded that closing this examination without further IRS action supports sound tax administration. The IRS had tried to settle the case in November 2016 for $1.5 million dollars. However, the Village Center Supervisors unanimously refused that settlement offer. Now the IRS has closed the examination with no penalty.


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