Sink Holes

By TomL

A little history first: Villages creator & founder was Harold Swartz. Mr. Swartz had several ventures in the Marion County area. One was a development called Lake Tropicana near Dunnellon Florida. It was a large unincorporated area that Swartz subdivided into 1.25 acre plots and 2.5 acre plots, all dirt roads. You could buy land $49 down and $49 per month. Many people took advantage of that easy to purchase deal, especially since they did not have a high down payment. It helped many people fulfill their dream of owning land.  Today they have built there won roads and maintain them.

The Villages: We will get to the sinkholes in a minute. The development started As Orange Blossom Garden which was a trailer park/prefab homes on the east side of US Hwy 441 some 30 years ago. Swartz bought the prefab home factory that he was buying from and kept evolving over years until it was over 50,000 modern built homes. They are a huge voting block and very powerful politically. Let’s go back some 30 years ago… The Villages had water rights for Cattle Ranching and Farming which allowed them the use of over 60 million gallons of water a year. Seems like a lot doesn’t it! That’s a drop in the bucket now.

Today The Villages is made up of many community development districts, separately run and owned by the family of Harold Swartz who had the dream to own his own town. I met him many years ago. I took a tour and he told me about his dream. He accomplished his dream with his family’s help before he passed. The last thing I remember about his dream was “the hospital”.

Water Rights! Acquiring more water was challenging but do-able. As they grew they started encountering water problems. A Hydrologist who was a well-known professor from Orlando had developed equipment to measure underground water resources. The professor also held the rights and patents to this equipment. He was asked to study The Villages area and found some astonishing information. Much of Sumter County was missing the middle aquifer. Marion/Lake County have three aquifers: upper, middle and lower. In much of Sumter there is no middle, making it hard to replenish itself. Usually water goes slowly from one level to another. In this case the shallow water tries to get to the lower level to replenish itself taking sand/dirt/rock with it. That leaves a void creating a sink hole. The Professor was told that they did not need his services any more. Sinkholes would happen in any case but not as much as if the land were for cattle ranching or farming. Now The Villages has permission to use over 12 billion gallons of water per year coming from two water districts in three counties.

On the positive side The Villages is one of the best kept developments with groomed yards, streets with activities around the clock 7 days a week. Many golf course are also well kept and groomed. The residents can shop in the three DownTown squares or dance to the music supplied nightly. All this you can do by golf cart. There are many special traffic lanes just for golf carts and plenty of special golf cart parking. If you like playing golf, entertainment, shopping, eating at the finest restaurants by golf cart, then the Villages is the place to be. You will have sinkholes, I think some seven homes are effected out of over 50,000.  What is opinion?