Once sleepy Sumter County town now blossoming into booming city
By Kimberly Wiggins, Reporter -
WILDWOOD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -
Years ago, Wildwood could have been considered a sleepy small town. However, today it's blossoming into a booming city. However, not everyone believes the growth is a blessing.
Kathi Vincent opened Cotillion Southern Café off Main Street in Wildwood six years ago.
"We've just been super busy since day one," said Vincent.
She said volume doubled last year. Weeks ago, she opened "Kathi's Southern Sweetery" just two doors down from her first restaurant.
"We're so busy over there," said Vincent. "I'm just hoping to take some stress off the restaurant over there."
Mayor Ed Wolf said as the nearby retirement community The Villages grew, so did his small town.
"Our restaurants, our local businesses are benefiting directly from the growth over there," said Wolf.
Wolf said Wildwood's population nearly doubled in a decade. In 20 more years, it's expected to quadruple to 30,000 residents.
"We've positioned ourselves very appropriately for growth we saw coming our way," said Wolf.
They've hired staff, annexed 20,000 acres, and updated their comprehensive plans.
"It's put us in a position where we could pretty much design our future," said Wolf.
City leaders are even preparing for three large developments that could bring up to 15,000 new homes. Mayor Wolf said it all adds up to skyrocketing property values.
"I see some of these old farmers," said Wolf. "You may sit out for coffee at one of the local restaurants. He may look like he just walked off his back 40, but he's probably got, unbeknownst to a lot of people, he may have just sold his property for a million bucks."
Resident Owin Chance knows that sentiment well.
"I have been told by a real estate agent that is a friend of mine that this is considered prime property," said Chance. "But he didn't put an offer on the end of that "
Chance and his wife, Doralice, moved to their home off County Road 44A nearly forty years ago.
"Trees, grass, woods, nothing in between the two roads," said Chance. "Now look at it."
The Chances said that growth means more traffic, more noise and more dust.
"When I go outside walking, I have a mask," said Chance.
The Chances understand the city must take a chance and work toward a stronger economic future.
"This has given Wildwood a boost," said Doralice Chance. "We have restaurants we can go to."
They just wish it didn't change the lifestyle they love.
"Now, at least once a day, someone comes by with their fast food wrappers and throw them in my yard," said Owin Chance. "I have the opportunity of picking that up every morning."
"You hate to lose that lifestyle," said Mayor Wolf. "But growth is what it is."