The Villages, a master-planned retirement community in Florida, faced a significant property tax increase in 2019 that was meant to fund further development, benefiting the local developer, rather than cover new amenities or upgrades for the residents.
The tax hike caused discontent among the community of 130,000 who are primarily on fixed incomes. To fund its expansions, the developer has not paid impact fees for schools, fire, emergency medical services, police, parks, recreation, and government buildings, and has only paid 40% of the recommended amount for roads. The residents, in response, began organizing against the developer and seeking political representation. The Villages had an ally in Brett Hage, a contractor and a Republican lawmaker, who introduced legislation to block a proposed impact fee hike. He was also on the Villages’ payroll when he did so. In June 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law, which benefitted the developer and was retroactive. The Villages’ executives have close ties with the governor, who frequently visits for fundraisers, and they have bankrolled DeSantis. The community’s county commission has also been tweaked to favor the Villages, and democratic decision-making potential is limited.