Frequently Asked Questions
An improvement district is an independent special district authorized to plan, finance, construct, operate and maintain public infrastructure in planned developments.
These kinds of districts are quite common and many other communities in Florida have similar entities. Development districts are created around the concept of growth paying for itself.
An improvement district is typically used for larger-scale projects that will take multiple decades to complete. A community development district is commonly used for a project with a smaller build out or with a smaller physical footprint.
The WVID covers more than 12,000 acres, and projects will take between 20 and 30 years to complete. Being an improvement district allows the WVID to take a long-term, measured approach in developing key public infrastructure.
The WVID was created by an act of the Florida Legislature on June 17, 2004.
The WVID was created to ensure a timely, cohesive, cost-effective, high-quality design and implementation of public infrastructure within Wellen Park. The WVID currently spans 12,444 acres within the City of North Port and unincorporated Sarasota County.
The district includes residential neighborhoods, commercial hubs, the Atlanta Braves’ spring training home and the soon-to-be completed Downtown Wellen. The WVID gives thousands of acres of land their own identity, creating a sense of place that makes the community unique.
The district covers more than 12,000 acres, including Gran Paradiso, IslandWalk, Oasis, Preserve, Renaissance, Tortuga, Avelina, Sunstone, Solstice, Gran Living, Gran Place, Wellen Park Golf & Country Club, Wisteria, Antigua and future residential neighborhoods. It also includes commercial, retail and entertainment centers throughout the District.
Sarasota National, Grand Palm and Boca Royale are not part of the WVID.
The WVID and Wellen Park are two entirely separate entities.
The WVID is a wholly public entity, meaning the district must adhere to the same laws that govern how a local government – such as a city, county or special taxing district – must operate, including open government, ethics and public disclosure laws.
Wellen Park is a private developer that is creating Wellen Park, a master-planned community being developed in the City of North Port and unincorporated Sarasota County. The WVID serves substantially all of the Wellen Park community.
The WVID is governed by a five-member Board of Supervisors. In accordance with state law, four members of the Board of Supervisors are currently chosen by a landowners’ election. The fifth seat is held by a resident-elected representative pursuant to a general election process conducted by the Supervisor of elections.
The West Villages Improvement District (WVID) is statutorily required to prepare population estimates to determine the timely transition of seats on the WVID Board of Supervisors from a one-acre, one-vote landowner election to a general election of qualified electors. This report is conducted annually using criteria outlined in Florida Statutes for defining urban areas.
The transition of seats occurs when urban areas reach certain population thresholds. Urban areas are determined by calculating the acreage of the developed and inhabited residential properties within the district. Currently, if an urban area constitutes 25% or less of the District, one member of the Board of Supervisors is elected by qualified electors, while the remaining members of the Board of Supervisors are elected through a one-acre, one-vote landowners’ election. A second resident seat transitions when the urban area constitutes 26% to 50% of the District.
Based on current methodology, a second seat could transition to a resident-elected seat between 2024 and 2026, depending on population growth within the District.
The WVID began transitioning board seats in 2014, when the 26% threshold was significantly far from being met. As such, in order to prudently utilize staff resources the WVID used a generalized method of determining population, which included all property within a platted urban area, rather than focusing solely on inhabited areas. This method resulted in an over-calculation of the urban area.
With development heavily underway, the WVID updated its model to create a more precise urban area map in 2022. This model used the number of single-family residential lots with a certificate of occupancy (CO) to determine urbanization. At that time, 6.58% of the District was in an urban area.
In 2023, the map was updated to show that 1,017 acres, or 8.17% of the District, was in the urban areas. It’s worthwhile to note that this percentage is in line with the current district population versus the anticipated total district population at build-out, which is approximately 9.6%.
The District also engaged Dewberry, the District’s engineers, to develop an alternative map, which included all developed areas, not just inhabited areas, as a comparison. Using this more liberal approach which is more expansive than the statutes require, the District estimated 2,540 acres, or 20.41%, is in the urban area.
Both methodologies, along with a separate, independent analysis by Sarasota County Engineer which found substantially the same amount of urbanization utilizing substantially the same process that WVID followed for its more liberal calculation, show the percentage of urban area is below the 26% threshold for turnover of a second resident seat on the Board of Supervisors. This report was prepared in conjunction with the Sarasota County planning and legal departments.
It’s important to note: The WVID is one of the only improvement or stewardship districts in the State of Florida that uses this antiquated methodology for turning over seats to residents. Understanding the importance of a timely turnover and in a desire to use a more transparent and objective turnover process utilized by nearly all improvement and stewardship districts established in the past 20 years, the WVID Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Sept. 14, 2023, to authorize staff to seek a legislative change to WVID’s enabling documents to clearly define specific population triggers for each seat’s transition to ensure clarity.
The WVID Board of Supervisors meets monthly at 11 a.m. at the Public Safety Building training room, 19955 Preto Blvd., Venice, Florida 34293.
As a public entity, the WVID Board of Supervisors, and its staff, must adhere to Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law. This law provides the public with the right to access governmental proceedings at the local and state level, meaning board actions occur at meetings that are properly noticed and open to the public. The law also provides the public with the ability to request, review and access public records, such as documents related to official business.
Simply put: Every decision made by the WVID must be done with full transparence, guaranteeing that decisions benefit current and future residents.
The WVID has contracted with Special District Services, a management company that specializes in managing special districts across Florida, to manage its day-to-day operations. Special District Services represents and manages more than 100 special districts across the state of Florida and has represented the WVID since it’s inception.
William Crosley serves as the district’s manager, overseeing the daily administration and customer service needs of the district.
The WVID has retained Kutak Rock, which represents more than 200 special districts in the state of Florida, as its legal counsel. Lindsay Whelan currently serves as the district’s general counsel and has extensive experience in special district governance, public financing and land development.
The WVID has also retained Dewberry, which serves as district engineer for more than 50 community development districts to serve as its district engineer. Richard Ellis serves as district engineer.
Finally, David Kelly with RESPEC Company LLC serves as the District’s irrigation consultant. He has more than 25 years of water resource and water supply planning experience, as well as extensive experience in water supply planning, sustainable yield evaluation, and water rights and water use permitting.
The WVID is responsible for planning, financing, constructing, operating and maintaining the public infrastructure serving Wellen Park. This could include, among other things, roadways, entry features, landscaping, parks and playgrounds, and water management systems.
The district is not responsible for policing powers, fire rescue or emergency services in the district. Those services are handled by the city of North Port and Sarasota County. The district does not have its own zoning powers, instead it abides by the zoning and comprehensive planning laws that the city and county have in place.
The WVID has the authority to finance projects through borrowing money and issuing bonds. The district can use financing to pay for projects such as roadways, stormwater management systems, water and wastewater utilities, public parking facilities, parks and recreation, landscaping, entry features, public facilities and other amenities.
The WVID also has the authority to levy non-ad valorem assessments and collect other fees.
The WVID levies an assessment against properties each year that represent a share of the cost of public infrastructure financed by the district and a share of the cost to administer and maintain the district. The annual assessment varies by neighborhood, and assessments are tied to the benefits being received not the value of a home.
The assessment appears on your property tax bill sent in November each year and is paid annually through the Sarasota County Tax Collector.
Improvement districts allow the costs of improvements to be spread over the life of the bonds, rather than be included in the price of an initial home sale. Therefore, residents will only pay for the district improvements while they own the property.
While bonds are secured for 30 years and can be paid off, there will always be an assessment for the operations and maintenance of the district, resulting in a small fee.
Additionally, improvement districts use tax exempt financing, which often enables public infrastructure to be built for less than if a private entity developed it. Improvement districts also allow for a perpetual maintenance entity and can collect assessments on the tax rolls, which ensures that properties will continue to be maintained at a high-level long term.
The WVID has historically overseen the construction of many of the large roadways and other major infrastructure within the district. However, due to changing market conditions the district has achieved considerable cost savings recently by partnering with the master developer to construct public infrastructure projects.
WVID staff works with the master developer on a case-by-case basis to identify which projects are best suited to be handled by the developer or the district. Privatizing the bid process for some projects allows the developers to negotiate with contractors, resulting in a substantial cost savings for the district. Once constructed, the ownership of the infrastructure transfers from the developer to the WVID or to the City of North Port or Sarasota County, which is then responsible for future maintenance.
The development and construction of Downtown Wellen is being 100% funded by the master developer, Wellen Park LLLP. Once Downtown Wellen is completed, the WVID is responsible for maintaining its roads, pathways and the Grand Lake.
The planned improvements are being constructed by the WVID and being funded by the District and Wellen Park. Residents will not experience any new cost impacts for initial planning, design, permitting and construction of planned improvements. Additionally, no assessment increases or new bonds are planned to cover costs related to the U.S. 41 project. Once improvements are completed, the WVID will own the sidewalks, curbs and landscaping, as well as the roadway, which will be maintained by Wellen Park to take advantage of financial economies of scale.
Golf carts that are not licensed, registered and insured by the state of Florida are prohibited to travel on any public roads or sidewalks within the WVID.
The wells are not owned by the residents, and neither residents nor an individual homeowner association can independently pull water from irrigation wells for their own use. The WVID holds easements, as necessary, which provides access to the wells for operation and maintenance needs.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) issued a 50-year water use permit to the WVID and the master developer. This permit allows the WVID to use reclaimed water, surfacewater from lakes and to pull water from the wells owned by Wellen Park for irrigation. The permit also governs how much water is allocated to the WVID in a given period.
The SWFWMD strictly governs how much irrigation water can be used during a given period. If the WVID uses more water than the permit allows, the district could be at risk of penalties, including g the potential of losing its water permit, meaning the district – and its residents – would no longer have access to irrigation water.