• Villages' expansion plans point of controversy in small community


    FRUITLAND PARK, Fla. - A plan to expand the Villages retirement community into Fruitland Park is under fire.

    Developers want to build nearly 2,000 new homes on a 600 acre plot of land along Pine Ridge Dairy Road.

    Some residents of Fruitland Park said they are afraid the development could ruin their way of life.

    A public meeting Thursday drew more than 200 people -- that's a lot for the small town. City leaders said most of those at the meeting approve of the proposed project.

    Critics of the plan who spoke with Channel 9's Berndt Petersen said they believe they are in the majority.

    The proposed development would sit on the western edge of the Fruitland Park.

    "There's more cons than pros, but they just want to tell you the pros," said one area resident who didn't want to be identified.

    He told Petersen that he has lived in the area since 1972. He said he is against the plan to expand the huge Villages community into the town and onto his farm.

    He said he doesn't have a dislike of new neighborhoods or shopping centers, he just doesn't want the cars, trucks and golf carts that come along with the development.

    Fruitland Park city leaders said the project would nearly double their town's population and the tax revenue. They said it would generate $13 million in fees during construction.

    Some Villages residents are trying to figure out why anyone would say no.

    "You know, everyone likes their own way of life. I guess they were used to it a long time ago when it was empty and lonely," said Jim McElynn.

    State Road 466A would have to be widened all the way to U.S. 441, where major construction has been ongoing for nearly three years.

    The city would have to hire at least nine more police officers.

    City and county approval are still needed to allow the project to go forward. Those decisions will be made in the months ahead.

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