Here's a favorite, sent to both myself and Washington Post Book World maven Jonathan Yardley, perhaps the most respected man in the business.
Dear Mr Yardley and Mr Blechman:
It was quite interesting to read the article in the Washington Post book section on Leisureville, the book, that I have not read at this time. Your article gave enough incorrect information that I feel I must write both of you in hopes that the corrections can at least be discussed and maybe corrected.
Number one, the man who was the brain child of The Villages was named Harold Schwartz, a Jewish name, and a man who spent many years coming up with the concept before making it become a success. Mr. Schwartz hired the architectural firm from Universal Studies and Disney as well has Dell Webb, a builder of successful communities. Mr. Schwartz' statue stands in the center of Spanish Springs, so I guess Mr. Blechman missed it.
Number two, the first side of the Villages has been around a long time and includes trailers and small villas that are not high in price and very much a part of The Villages. I stayed in one right on the Orange Blossom golf course (the oldest of the villages) and found people on very limited incomes living there with every benefit of the highest priced areas.
Number three, you can rent your home to anyone you wish for months, without any problem, to anyone of any age with no limit to the time they are in your home. We rented from a real estate agent of The Villages so I can assure you this is correct.
Number four, 20% or more of the owners may be 50 to 55 years of age and that is only required of one person of a couple so the second could be any age. Mr. Blechman can rent our home for a fee and would not be limited except by our agreement as the owners of the home.
Number five, there are Villages that are especially for families...that means children, and when a real estate agent of The Villages takes you on a tour, they ask if you have any interest in a "family type" village where children live permanently as a family. Also of interest is The Village that is built just for people who are employees and wish to also benefit from being in The Villages for their private homes.
Number six, there are always children anywhere you go. The Villages has one of the best high schools in Florida and a grade school. The teens perform as part of the entertainment on the squares and parades in The Villages. In April, a five year old won a hula hoop contest and she could really keep that hoop going to the music...sorry Mr. Blechman missed it. I have never been around the "downtown areas" that there were not children and young people around.
Number seven, the "gated community" does not keep anyone out. They are there to greet every person who drives in and to answer any questions and to give directions. They simply make people feel welcome and that is their only response to you as you enter. There are resident gates at the back of villages for the benefit of traffic and to honor the owners that live there. Even those have a place to buzz to go in on a guest side.
Number eight, there is no one monitoring anyone. People come from all of the surrounding towns to enjoy the entertainment 7 nights a week and they are all ages and all ethnic groups and all income levels. When you drive in to Spanish Springs there is no gate, no one to ask your age, no one to check if you have a child with you and pets are seen everywhere. We have sat at entertainment with people from Ocala, Leesburg, Clemont, etc. and they come for shows, theatre, the night entertainment and the great food. As owners, we just pay a lower price for tickets but the public are welcome to buy tickets to everything.
Number nine, we have a golf cart. It is not allowed to go over the speed limit for a golf cart which is 19 miles an hour. Ours is electric and will top out at 17 miles an hour going downhill. The police do give golf cart drivers tickets!
The carts have a governor on them that does not allow more than the maximum except carts that are street legal and their maximum is 35 miles an hour and they can only drive them where the speed limit is 35 and must have windshields, turn signals that are different and engine equipment for the street. Otherwise golf carts have their own paths and are also the same golf carts that are used on the golf courses. If a governor is removed,s the police can ticket that person for being illegal and for speeding in a cart.
Number ten, we have a condo in Virginia that has far stricter rules than The Villages, including ten mile an hour speed limits on the 37 acres, curtains all the same color, pet size requirements, etc. and this community was built in 1977.
Number eleven, most important, any couple can move to The Villages and have a two bedroom, two bath home with garage for under $200,000 and many are at $150,000. They build Villas in each of the villages and they are for anyone. I don't know where we could do that anywhere near the cities we live around.
Number twelve, as I'm sure you know, there are 36 golf courses and more being built. There are more than 1000 clubs with no limits. You could even start one for people like Mr. Blechman, who are guests in The Villages. That is an obvious reason that couples age 50 and up would enjoy such a place. Does he mention the buffalo that are fun to see that number more than 100 and roam in the areas considered part of the scenery and the preserves? As for the facades of the "downtown areas", being covered in clapboards and decorative second story porches, Mr. Blechman might want to check out how Mr. Schwartz and his grandchildren have gotten the ideas for the designs. I bet he does not know that Grandmother Morse and her daughter named the Villages and the streets, some after people who worked to build them.
Mr. Yardley, you are too talented to just quote something without checking the facts. I will look forward to hearing from both of you at your convenience.
As for me, I am an owner in The Villages, a former Presidential Appointee in Washington, DC, a wife, mother, and grandmother and hope my information makes a difference.