Villages expansion plans threaten some Fruitland Park residents

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Some Lake County residents are worried The Villages' plans to expand could mean they lose complete control of their government.

A project would develop 600 acres in Fruitland Park into The Villages of Fruitland Park.

People who already live there said new residents could leave them without a voice.

Commission members are elected at-large so all voters have a say.

Long-time residents are worried that the people who move into the new Villages development will outnumber them and be able to control every election.

Many folks who settled in the Lake County city of Fruitland Park said they bought property there for good reason.

"It's free, peaceful, easy living over here. I don't want to be overrun by The Villages," Larry Bates, Fruitland Park resident, said.

Bates and neighbor Mark Whales don't like the soon-to-be developed Villages of Fruitland Park.

At 600 acres, 2,000 high-priced homes and 4,000 people, it would outnumber Fruitland Park's current residents.

"They're trying to take over like they took over Lady Lake. Lady Lake ain't Lady Lake no more. It's The Villages," Whales said.

Some are afraid City Hall is next. The future Villagers would have enough votes to control local politics and stack Fruitland Park's city commission with their candidates.

Some Villagers say it makes sense.

"Makes a lot of sense. You're paying all the taxes. It's going to benefit the people in Fruitland Park that live there now," resident Jan Swan-Brown said.

Those who don't want it want the city to change the way its leaders are elected by creating single-member districts.

That way the large block of Villages voters may only be able to control one city commission seat.

"They built around us for a reason. Because we want to stay the way we are. We don't need their interference coming in to live like they do. We're not retired yet," Bates said.