Monday, February 29, 2016

Petition and Letter Sent to Request FDOT Approval of the Traffic Light at US41 and Corradino/Galleria in the West Villages

Copy of letter sent today (02/29/2016) is below, followed by a link to the petition if you would like to add your name.

To: Billy Hattaway, FDOT District 1 Secretary; JoAnn May, FDOT Public Information Office; Lora Hollingsworth, FDOT Safety Office; Brian Blanchard, FDOT Operations and Engineering; Trey Tillander, FDOT Operations and Engineering, Program Management; Julio Gonzalez, State Representative; Nancy Detert, State Senate; Rick Scott, Florida Governor
RE: Traffic light at US41 and Corradino/Galleria
Emailed February 29th, 2016

My name is Ali Johnston, and I am a resident of Gran Paradiso at the West Villages. I am contacting you in hopes that you may be of assistance in furtherance of a cause that is greatly important to me and to most of my neighbors within the West Villages Improvement District. A traffic light is desperately needed at the intersection of US41/Tamiami Trail and the intersecting cross streets of Corradino and Galleria Boulevard. I was informed that although the developers of the sister communities (IslandWalk and Gran Paradiso) are responsible for the actual installation of the traffic light, the FDOT has yet to approve it, which must be done before any work can begin.
For a little background, a warrant study was conducted in late January of 2014 by Kimley-Horn and Associates. Their report, completed in early April of 2014, recommended a traffic light, but residents were told that FDOT said that warrants were not met to approve the installation. I do have a copy of that report, if you would be interested to see it for yourself.
At the time of the s­tudy, there were only about 550 households between the two communities. Gran Paradiso re-opened for new construction in October 2013, meaning that by January, there had not been enough time to add new homes and residents from that project. In the two years from the day after that warrant study was completed, DiVosta sold and closed on 460 new homes. As of this week, Lennar has closed on 464 homes since opening the community to new sales. Lennar alone has over 140 homes under contract to be completed and closed at varying stages over the next six months or so. It is probably safe to assume that DiVosta is likely in that same ballpark as well. The West Villages - with just its two communities of IslandWalk and Gran Paradiso - is second only to Lakewood Ranch for growth in the region with only about 15% fewer new home starts than that area had last year (according the Metrostudy report just released), and Lakewood Ranch is nearly ten times the size.

One resident's contact to the FDOT Public Information Office last week indicated that approval is awaiting a new warrant study to be commissioned by the developers. Please, please, please, do not make us wait for this! They are incentivized to delay ordering and obtaining one, plus the last one took over two months from study to completed report, not counting the time it will take to get the project started and then additional to get it completed. The previous warrant study almost validated the necessity for the project; and, as you can see by the numbers, there was less than 30 percent of the homes then compared to what will be in place by this year's end.
We, the residents, started a petition a few days ago to show you that the need is felt throughout the community. In just a few days, we have gathered over 400 signatures and are still going. Names and many comments are attached for your reference. The traffic has obviously and dramatically increased in the last two years. It is becoming increasingly precarious and an unsafe intersection. Not only are there significantly more residents, but more residents' guests, services, and prospective buyers that are touring the neighborhoods as well. Please, assist us in expediting approval and installation of a traffic light as soon as possible. We do not want to wait until there is a fatality to implement safety measures.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter.

Ali Johnston

Petition Link to Add Your here!

[Also, letter was amended for the Governor's office, as it was a form contact box. No attached petition, so it said available. I added that the reason for contacting that office was, because it was at the head of the FDOT organizational chart. And, the pie chart could not be included.]
Ali H. Johnston, MHA, MBA in Real Estate
Realtor®, Lic. Broker #BK3284964
West Villages Realty LLC
Mobile: 941-539-5771

Friday, February 26, 2016

West Villages Improvement District Meeting Tuesday February 23 2016

This past Tuesday was another meeting of the West Villages Improvement District Supervisory Board. Meetings are now held at the IslandWalk Event Center, which has certainly increased public attendance. To open, the District Manager, Todd Wodraska, introduced himself and clarified to those in attendance that these meetings are for the board to conduct business. Basically, these are business meetings which the public is invited to observe and make comment.

When the forum was opened for public to make comment regarding items not on the agenda, naturally, the first item to come up was asking about a traffic light at the community entrances. It was explained that this is not a WVID ability or responsibility. The responsibility for installation lies with the developers (Lennar and Pulte), and they are not holding back either. They need the FDOT to give them the 'go ahead' in order to begin the work. The FDOT has not approved the installation of the traffic light as the previously conducted warrant study did not meet criteria to allow for a traffic light. Warrants need to be in place before FDOT will approve. Unfortunately, a severe enough accident will trigger automatic warrants, but until that time, it doesn't meet their criteria.

With that said, to push the issue forward trying in trying to avoid a tragedy, it is recommended that all residents contact the sector FDOT office and/or our local State Representative's office. Contact them once, or even daily if you have time, and share the information to get your neighbors to do the same!

FDOT website says that they respond to public requests in this area..."The District Traffic Operations Offices respond to written letters from the public, civic organizations, businesses, etc. requesting the need for a traffic signal to be installed or modified" (Website Link). Maybe we should flood them with letters or a petition? Our DOT district contact Information:
1.     District 1 Secretary, Billy Hattaway, 801 N. Broadway Ave. , Bartow, FL 33830-3809, Phone: (863) 519-2300

PETITION link Petition

I have shared this information here, Facebook, Nextdoor, and asked the two community associations to forward to residents as well. Let's together push to get this done. There is nothing more that can be done by our district or the developers until FDOT says ok.

Back to the meeting notes...

A question was also asked about the expansion of River Road. The district funded West Villages Parkway in order to alleviate some of the congestion. (from another meeting...The County needs funding to move forward, and their latest grant request was denied. We are waiting on the County for that.)

The minutes of the last meeting were approved with a noted typo to be changed, then they delved into the regular business items on the agenda. The first item was an agreement for lease between the WVID and Main Street Ranch Lands. The offices moved from a trailer on the property to Thomas Ranch Welcome Center which does not provide the same storage space. So, the new office and keeping a storage space required a new lease agreement amounting to $14000 per year.

The district then brought up consideration of application for a new unit of development. This is to be 900 new homes in the Northeast section of the district, along West Villages Parkway North of US41. The development partners are petitioning to issue bonds for development at this time. This will require more frequent meetings for a while to organize the finance aspect. The permits have already been obtained and clearing has begun for this project.

The board accepted two appraisals each for two parcels of land to be acquired by the district. The first is a 60 acre tract that is to be later donated as a site for a school. The appraisals came back at $4.5 million by Bass & Associates and $5.4 million from Integra Realty. The second parcel is the SCF access road amounting to about 5 acres. The appraisals were $273k by Bass and $710k by Integra. Some residents at the meeting questioned the rationale for and necessity of purchasing the privately owned tract of the SCF access road. The district engineer said that it is uncommon for a district public access road to remain privately owned.

The sod replacement project is almost wrapped up now. A couple of cars ran off the road which caused additional repairs to be required. The Valley Crest bill is still outstanding.

Request was made to authorize a topo study in order to continue sidewalks along 41 on both sides.

The emergency pump repair for irrigation is complete and went smoothly. It was explained that the district runs short on irrigation water every dry season. A new pump was put in that is sunk lower to increase utilization ability from the irrigation lake behind the welcome sign.

Crepe myrtles are being cut back (for the first time ever), and you could hear collective approval and relief from many of those in attendance. They are working with Valley Crest on winter trimming. And, the pedestrian node on WV Pkwy should be complete by the next meeting.

The next scheduled meeting is March 8th at 11am.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 Parade of Homes Is Underway!

2016 HBA Parade of homes has started. Builders throughout Sarasota and Manatee county feature their model homes and compete for awards. Download the official magazine at and check out what the local builders have to offer! 

Friday, February 12, 2016

The upbeat goes on ... ?in 2015 housing market by: GARY ROBERTS of the Charlotte Sun

The upbeat goes on ... ?in 2015 housing market
by: GARY ROBERTS, Staff Writer, Charlotte Sun Updated: Feb 10, 2016 - 10:46 PM

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA -- Year-end totals in the regional housing market show single-family homes posting another solid gain in both sales and price in 2015, while condos made a strong comeback.

Closed sales for single-?family homes in the Punta Gorda metropolitan statistical area, which covers all of Charlotte County, climbed 11.5 percent year-over-year, with 4,762 last year compared to 4,271 in 2014. Median sale prices also were up during the same period, from $146,000 to $168,950, marking a 15.7 percent boost, according to figures released Wednesday by Florida Realtors.

The same happy ending to the year was told in the North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota MSA, where home sales rose 6.3 percent, with 14,500 last year and 13,636 in 2014. Median sale prices did even better percentage-wise, ascending to $240,000 in 2015 from $210,000 the year before, a 14.3 percent spike, Florida Realtors reported.

But the biggest positive change came in the condo and townhouse market, which struggled in 2014 with fewer closed sales than the previous year. In 2015, both Charlotte and Sarasota counties registered a 7 percent rise in year-over-year sales.

In addition, median sale prices for condos confirmed a much-improved market. In Charlotte, prices were up 17 percent, from $119,700 in 2014 to $140,000 last year. This increase was much more robust than the 2.3 percent price hike that took place from 2013 to 2014.

In the North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota MSA, condo prices rose 7 percent last year, up to $179,900 in 2015 from $168,159 the previous year.

Meanwhile, single-?family closed sales went from 13,636 to 14,500 during the same time, growing 6.3 percent.

"Sales volume and the demand for homes is up," said Lindsay Harrington, broker associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Punta Gorda. ?"I think what’s driving the market somewhat are the horrible winters up North."

Evidence of a healthy housing market could be found everywhere in Charlotte County.

A 20-year-old Punta Gorda home, still showing damage from Hurricane Charley and needing work, quickly drew eight offers. The modest two-bedroom residence, on a canal, sold in just three weeks, reaping a cash sale at the full asking price of $200,000.

"It was slam-bam, over and done with," Harrington said.

An older home in Port Charlotte, currently for sale at $139,000, attracted so much activity that Harrington is now reassessing. A price boost is likely.

The rosy glow left by 2015’s setting sun shone on other aspects of the marketplace as well. Harrington said rental properties are very competitive, with a friend of his now getting more than $1,500 a month for a three-bedroom, pool home on a Punta Gorda canal. And the owner is getting the same rent in the summertime too, good news for year-round landlords.

Harrington believes both rentals and condos are benefiting in today’s climate because they share an overlapping market, since condos are easier to rent out than single family.

"There is a huge demand for condos near downtown," he said.

And downtown Punta Gorda is drawing more interest in single-family lots.

"The lot demand for that area has gone up. It’s hot," he said.

Statewide, closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 274,769 in 2015, up 12.4 percent compared to 2014, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations.

The statewide median sale price for single-?family homes in 2015 was $196,000, gaining 10.1 percent from the previous year.

Looking at Florida’s year-to-year comparison for sales of townhouse-condos, a total of 114,969 units sold statewide in 2015, up 6.1 percent from a year before.

The closed sales data reflected fewer short sales statewide in 2015 compared to the previous year. Short sales for condo-townhouse properties declined ?44.6 percent, while short sales for single-family homes dropped 34.1 percent.

The statewide median price for condo properties last year was $150,000, 7.1 percent above 2014.

Author Email:

If you are considering purchasing a home, I can assist you. My services and extensive resources are of no cost to you. I am even able to save home buyers money...additional cash incentives to which even the builders' sales reps do not have access.  I do not work for any of the wonderful builders/developers in the West Villages Improvement District, or any others for that matter. My services and information (including the resources provided on all of my websites) are wholly independent of these developers. No other independent professional is more knowledgeable about this community, and enlisting me to assist with your transaction also serves to fund these resources to keep them available for you and others on an ongoing basis.
Please, check out my Venice area website, and contact me for more information!
Look forward to hearing from you!

Ali H. Johnston, MHA, MBA in Real Estate
Realtor®, Lic. Broker #BK3284964
West Villages Realty LLC
Mobile: 941-539-5771

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Saturday Showcase Event at IslandWalk at the West Villages

IslandWalk at the West Villages Model Showcase Event
Tour 4 professionally decorated model homes while enjoying live music, refreshments and giveaways.
Event Date: Saturday, February 13th | Time: 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Event Location: IslandWalk Model Park
Address: 13639 Salinas St, Venice, FL 34293