Sumter County commissioners Tuesday night approved rezoning, a development agreement and a land use plan amendment for Panasoffkee Preserve, another large age-restricted community planned along State Road 44 about 2.5 miles west of Interstate 75.

Before the commission voted, public hearings were held on each aspect of the project. Although 400 people packed the room to protest a water pumping permit, no one other than county development services director Karl Holley testified about the Panasoffkee Preserve project.

The development at County Road 475 will include 2,000 active adult residential units, 500 single-family homes, 350 apartments and 20,000 square feet of specialty retail space. The homes would surround a central park area. The project will be built in phases with full completion expected by 2035.

Walton Acquisitions Florida of Cummings, Ga., a subsidiary of Walton International of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is the developer. The company has offices in a dozen cities worldwide.

The proposed active adult housing will be predominately single-family with a variety of housing styles such as craftsman and farmhouse, Dana Boyte, of Dewberry Engineers of Orlando, said earlier this year. She said some apartments may be included.

As a development of regional impact, the project was reviewed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which suggested that the county develop a site specific policy since it is outside the urban service area. The agency also said it must be served by water and sewer services and the county should spell out how this will be done.

These issues are addressed in the development agreement, which requires the developer either to contract with Wildwood for water and sewer services or build its own infrastructure.

The agreement also requires Walton Acquisitions to pay for turn lane improvements on both CR 475 and SR 44 and the development will have access from both roads. The developer also has the option of establishing a community development district or property owners association.

Although the project is outside current urban service boundaries, an analysis determined that it will not contribute to urban sprawl.

“The ability to acquire the necessary contiguous land area to develop a large-scale mixed-use project is severely limited in developed urban areas due to multiple ownerships, multiple land use and zoning assignments and existing public infrastructure,” the analysis stated. “The proposed project is located as close to the existing urbanized fringe as is reasonable given the nature and scale of the development.”

The Panasoffkee Preserve project is the latest of several active adult communities proposed in Sumter County. The Village of Fenney, several miles south of The Villages along County Road 468, is under construction and the first phase of 400 rental bungalows in the WholeLife project across County Road 466A from Pinellas Plaza is expected to begin soon.

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