Collier County & Local News for March 2021

Collier County & Local News March 2021

Board of County Commissioners

Mask mandates in Collier County and the City of Naples are set to expire in April. (NDN) Neither the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) nor the Naples City Council is scheduled to consider extensions, but leaders said they still would encourage safety practices related to fighting COVID-19 in the community.

Meanwhile, Collier County ended its months-long legal action against high-profile Naples grocer Alfie Oakes (NDN) after Gov. Ron DeSantis canceled all fines tied to COVID-19-related restrictions adopted by local governments.

The BCC held regular meetings on March 9 and 23, and a workshop on April 6. See agendas and video replays here.

Isackson Named County Manager

Collier County commissioners chose Mark Isackson as the next County Manager (NDN), succeeding Leo Ochs, who is retiring next month after 35 years with the county.

The County Manager is the county’s Chief Operating Officer, reporting directly to the BCC. He is responsible for all county operations except Legal and the Office of the Hearing Examiner. (Organization Chart)

Isackson received a master’s degree in public administration with a fiscal emphasis from Northern Illinois University in 1984. He held management roles in local governments in Illinois and Michigan before joining Collier County in 2004 as a management and budget analyst. Five years later, Ochs chose him to head the division as director of corporate financial and management services, the position he holds today.

COVID-19 Financial Relief Program

Collier County began accepting applications for financial assistance on March 29 from residents and business owners affected by COVID-19 through a new Collier County Community Assistance Program (CCAP).

The aid is made possible by last year’s $2 trillion federal CARES Act and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act signed into law on March 11. Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Byron Donalds, who represent Collier County, voted against the law.

Collier County expects to receive nearly $75 million from the Act’s Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (NDN), including $9 million for the City of Naples and $2 million for the City of Marco Island.

County Development Projects

Eastern Collier County (BCC District 5)

As we’ve written in the past, plans by Collier Enterprises to develop three villages in eastern Collier County are controversial. In January, the BCC approved Rivergrass, the first of the three, despite a lawsuit by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to stop it. A non-jury trial scheduled for March 23 (NDN) was postponed and a future date has not been set.

Longwater and Bellmar, the other two projects, are making their way through the County’s approval process. Planning Commission meetings in March had to be continued and decisions were delayed (NDN) due to a large number of public speakers, most opposed to the projects, that attended the meetings.

In addition to long-cited environmental concerns with these projects, questions were raised this month about whether the projects meet the county’s “fiscal neutrality” requirement that the projects not burden taxpayers. Specifically, assumptions used in calculating the developers’ impact fees are being challenged. Due to ‘offensive’ math that helps developers, are Collier taxpayers paying too much? (NDN)

Nevertheless, the Planning Commission recommended approval of Longwater Village (NDN) on a 5-1 vote, with chairman Edwin Fryer voting no. It could be voted on by the BCC as soon as this month.

Bayshore/Gateway Triangle area (BCC District 4)

The county has targeted the Bayshore/Gateway Triangle area for redevelopment for more than 20 years. Last November, the County sold a five-acre property on Davis Blvd. to local developers Jerry Starkey and Fred Pezeshkan (NDN). Now, with demolition permits filed, their Metropolitan Naples project is advancing. (NDN) It will feature a mix of housing, retail, and entertainment in up to three towers, each as tall as 15 to 16 stories — or up to 160 feet.

For some history of the redevelopment efforts and accomplishments in the area, see Creativity in Bloom: 2020 Annual Report of the Bayshore Gateway Triangle CRA, Bayshore Beautification MSTU, and Haldeman Creek MSTU and visit www.bayshorecra.com.

Golden Gate Golf Course property (BCC District 3)

Three plans which allot different amounts of acreage to a golf course and passive park are under consideration for the 167-acre golf course the County purchased in 2019 for $29 million. The property is at the intersection of Collier Boulevard and Golden Gate Parkway.

This month, the second of two stakeholders’ meetings regarding the future of the project were held. Keeping golf on the property has received nearly overwhelming approval from residents (NDN).

At its regular meeting on April 27, the BCC will consider an offer from Club Corp to build and operate a county-owned golf course and family entertainment and dining venue on the property. Collier County would contribute $7 million toward the $14+ million cost. Club Corp would fund the balance, operate the course under a long-term lease, and pay substantial concession fees to the County. (Commissioner Burt Saunders’ April 6 newsletter)

Infrastructure and services

In Collier County as in the rest of the country, infrastructure is starting to show its age. Fortunately, prudent financial management over the years has largely enabled the county to maintain its infrastructure repair while at the same time offering new services.

Some highlights that were reported this month:

This month there was one unfortunate infrastructure incident: an East Naples force main break spilled an unknown amount of wastewater. (NDN) A “force main” is a pressurized sewer pipe that conveys wastewater where gravity is not enough to move sewage or stormwater runoff through a sewer line.

Other BCC News

Once again, Commissioner Bill McDaniel failed to convince the majority of the Board to give up its summer break and work year-round. He and Commissioner Rick LoCastro voted for the motion; Commissioners Andy Solis, Penny Taylor, and Burt Saunders voted no. (3/9/21 BCC Meeting Recap)


Naples City Council

The Naples City Council met five times in March: regular meetings on March 3 and March 17, a joint City Council and Design Review Board workshop on March 15 and special meetings on March 25 and 29. See agendas and video replays here.

At the March 25 special meeting, Council heard concerns raised by residents about the redevelopment plans for Naples Beach Hotel’s golf course (NDN). The Athens Group, the developer of the project, also had an opportunity to speak. No vote or decision was taken at the meeting as there is nothing formal for the council to consider at this point. Plans are still in place for the developer to acquire the hotel property at the end of May and begin demolition in July.

At the March 29 special meeting, Council unanimously chose Winter Park-based Vose Law Firm LLP as the next city attorney (NDN). The firm succeeds Roetzel & Andress, which held the role for 20 years.


Marco Island City Council

The Marco Island City Council met five times in March: regular meetings on March 1 and 15, a special-called meeting on March 15, and workshops on March 4 and 31. See agendas and video replays here.

Of note:

District School Board of Collier County

Collier County residents are represented by five elected School Board members.
Meet the School Board

The School Board held a regularly scheduled meeting on March 9. See agenda here and video archive here.

The Board unanimously agreed to move the end of the first semester from December 17, 2021, to January 13, 2022. The change was requested by staff due to the pandemic’s impact on learning gains and other reasons.

Also at the meeting, Collier health officials talk COVID-19 in schools; some parents challenge mask mandate. (NDN)

In other news:

Other Local Elected Officials

From Collier Clerk Crystal Kinzel: Beware of Jury Duty Scam. Press Release, 03/16/21

From 20th Circuit State Attorney Amira Fox: Guest opinion: Protecting victims remains a Florida priority. The News-Press, 3/10/21

From Greater Naples Fire Rescue District: Nolan Sapp appointed fire Chief after commissioners abandoned selection process. Naples Daily News, 3/12/21

From Collier Mosquito Control District: District sprays to keep pests from becoming issue near the coast. Wink News, 3/30/21; treatment maps

Florida Legislature

Parts of Collier County are represented in the Florida House of Representatives by Reps. Bob Rommel (District 106), Lauren Melo (District 80), and David Borrero (District 105). All of Collier County is represented in the Florida Senate by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo.
Find Your State Representative

For this month’s news about the Florida Legislature, see my Florida Government News for March 2021.

Also this month:

U.S. House of Representatives

Parts of Collier County are represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Byron Donalds (District 19) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (District 25).
Find Your U.S. Representative

Key Votes in the U.S. House

Expanding Voting Rights, Reforming Campaign Finance
HR 1 – For the People Act of 2021
Diaz-Balart — No; Donalds — No
Passed 220/210 on 3/3/21

Preventing, Punishing Misconduct by Police
HR 1280 – George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
Diaz-Balart — No; Donalds — No
Passed 220/212 on 3/3/21

Protecting Labor’s Right to Organize
HR 842 – Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021
Diaz-Balart — No; Donalds — No
Passed 225/206 on 3/9/21

Giving Final Ok to Virus Relief
HR 1319 – American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
Diaz-Balart — No; Donalds — No
Passed 220/211 on 3/10/21

Expanding Checks on Gun Sales
HR 8 – Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021
Diaz-Balart — No; Donalds — No
Passed 227/203 on 3/11/21

Extending Gun Background Checks
HR 1446 – Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021
Diaz-Balart — No; Donalds — No
Passed 219/210 on 3/11/21

Removing ERA Deadline
HJ Res 17 – Removing the Deadline for the Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment
Diaz-Balart — No; Donalds — No
Passed 222/204 on 3/17/21

Renewing Violence Against Women Act
HR 1620 – Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2021
Diaz-Balart — Yes; Donalds — No
Passed 244/172 on 3/17/21

Protecting Dreamers, Other Immigrants
HR 6 – American Dream and Promise Act of 2021
Diaz-Balart — Yes; Donalds— No
Passed 228/197 on 3/18/21

Overhauling Farm-Worker Visas
HR 1603 – Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021
Diaz-Balart — Yes; Donalds— No
Passed 247/174 on 3/18/21

That’s it for this month’s news for Collier County voters. Have a good April!

Local news reported in this post is by:
Britany Carloni, Rachel Fradette, Greg Hardwig, Laura Layden, Phil Fernandez, Omar Rodriguez Ortiz (Naples Daily News/Marco Eagle); and Nicole Lauren, Taylor Smith (WINK News)

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