Three Questions With Wildwood Mayor Ed Wolf - The Villages Daily Sun: Growth

Three Questions With Wildwood Mayor Ed Wolf

Daily Sun Senior Writer | Posted: Monday, May 22, 2017 6:00 am

Over the past 16 months, Mayor Ed Wolf and the Wildwood City Commission spent considerable time evaluating The Villages expansion south of State Road 44 — similar to actions that took place in Fruitland Park and now about to begin in Leesburg with The Villages Developer’s recent agreement in principal to purchase nearly 2,000 acres of city-owned land. The Wildwood commission actions authorized the Developer to move forward to develop 14,000 homes on 8,000 acres in and around the villages of Fenney and Southern Oaks, which could increase the city’s population by nearly fourfold over the next decade and result in a considerable amount of new tax revenue.

What do you say to critics who worry that residential development will kill a small town’s character?

We had two options. We could put our hands in our pockets and watch the growth occur in the county without us. Or we could annex it and partner up with The Villages for our mutual benefit. If we hadn’t approved the growth, Wildwood could have really struggled with the existing tax base. By partnering with The Villages, we’ll be able to take additional property tax and franchise fee revenue for the benefit of all Wildwood residents and revitalize Main Street Wildwood and our existing neighborhoods. It’s going to give us the resources where we can begin to revitalize.

How has the expansion affected city revenue and the cost of providing services?

I can remember nearly a decade ago when we ran the city with a budget of less than a million dollars. In the fiscal year 2016-17 budget, we had a projected $1.88 million in cash-forward reserves. Brownwood, the Villages of Collier at Antrim Dells and Alden Bungalows are bringing in more tax dollars than the city was collecting six to eight years ago. And that will increase every year with the growth of the villages of Fenney and Southern Oaks. Then we have all of these new utility franchise contracts for providing services to Fenney and Southern Oaks. Those utilities will be paying the city franchise fees. So, we’ll have that additional revenue coming into the general fund, with commission spending those dollars unencumbered at its discretion.

How will the expansion affect Wildwood schools?

It won’t have a negative impact, because The Villages is an age-restricted community. But all of the new ad valorem tax dollars coming from The Villages expansion, including the Brownwood area, will allow the Sumter County School District to continue improving all of the schools, including the ones in Wildwood. Then there’s the intangible benefit of all of these volunteers from The Villages. Historically, they’ve been active volunteering in our schools for years. Now, there will just be more of them volunteering their time and resources.