villageOpinion By: Edwin L. Crammer, CPA Until I visited the place. Don’t worry, I am not about to retire and move to the Villages. I just happened to visit the place a few weeks ago because a close family member of my wife moved there and called together a family circle meeting on the premises. For those of you who are not familiar with family circle meetings, it is not as it sounds, a sinister get together of the elder clans of a family to plot something evil. It is when family members of the second and/or third generation who have scattered to various places across the country, get together periodically to meet and swap family stories, and keep everyone up to date with what is happening in their lives, This is done so as not to drift apart permanently.
I was pleasantly surprised when my wife and I arrived there. If you have never been to the Villages or have no idea what I am talking about, let me explain. Some years ago, a bunch of real estate people came up with the idea of building a community strictly for retired people. This was free of the encumbrances and challenges of most city living. They purchased vast acres of land in North Central, Florida right about where the Turnpike ends, and designed this town that they called the Villages to be populated by retired people mostly from the North.
golf cart As of this date, about fifty five thousand families live in this town, which is divided into a number of small individually named smaller enclaves, thus the name the Villages. Within the towns environs there are vast green areas, which contain a number of golf courses of various degrees of difficulty. To keep the community environmentally friendly, the residents are discouraged from using their automobiles to travel from place to place. Instead, most homeowners drive around in golf carts that are designed to look more attractive than the ones you see at the local golf courses down here. They even have special roads throughout the community that are strictly for the use of these golf carts.
Most of the residents of the Villages are families that have moved to Florida from up North usually from the mid-western parts of the United States. In order to make the area palatable for these transplanted Northerners, the downtown areas of the township are designed to look like a Northeastern or North Central small town. The designed the areas using architecture that you would find in New England or even a small older Midwestern towns. When you go downtown in a shopping area of the Villages, you would think you were up North from the way the place looks.
As a fully recognized town the one thing it does not have is schools as children are not allowed to live there. When living in the Villages you are kind of locked into the town for all of your social life such as dining out or visual entertainment. The reason is that the town stands alone in the middle of nowhere. Once you leave the town you have to drive forty five minutes or more to another town that offers other options in a social entertainment. It is an hour to Orlando and about one hour to Tampa. This type of lifestyle is not for me. I am used to having a number of choices available to me for my social lifestyle and not to be restricted as is the case in the Villages.
Oh! By the way, when we visited the Villages we took our six year old granddaughter with us. Yes they do allow children in the town on a short term basis. She loved the place and indicated that she would like to move there. When I told her that she could not move there as there were no schools, she loved the place even more.
There were a couple of strange things I did notice during my visit to the Villages. They were that in the downtown area, on almost every light pole there were speakers, that about every ten minutes they blurted out the theme song for the Villages that you hear on their television commercials.
The other thing I noticed is that although this is a town whose residents were made up entirely of retired people, which means old, there was not a single cemetery or funeral home within the confines of the town. Which means that once you are a resident of the town, and then you die, your were banished from the town for eternity.
Is the town modeled after the ‘Stepford” concept? Well in my belief it is in some small ways. If you recall the movie the town was based on an evil cabal. Obviously, this town is not that way, but by being a town that has numerous restrictions, it is, however, an interesting concept that has made a number of smart people rich and will continue to do so into the future. As I observed, there is a lot more land still available for future development. The residents I observed, for the most part, as I walked around the town seemed happy and I guess that is all that is necessary.
You may contact Edwin L. Crammer CPA at Edwin@edwinlcrammer.com