Top stories in this post: County Manager, Assistant County Manager to pursue new opportunities. City Council appoints independent Ethics Commission. County Commissioners approve changes to rural lands growth plan. Major development project updates (One Naples, Metropolitan Naples, the Paradise Coast Sports Complex, Rivergrass Village, Golden Gate Golf Course property).
Local Coronavirus Update
- Administrator of Florida Department of Health in Collier County to retire at end of year. Stephanie Vick is easing out of the top leadership role she’s held at the health department since 2014. Naples Daily News, 11/23/20
- Collier County wants you to ‘Cover up’. A new commercial encouraging everyone to wear masks is part of a broader effort to raise awareness about the benefits of masking up. WINK News, 11/11/20
- Federal judge dismisses parts of lawsuit challenging Collier County’s mask order. Alfie Oakes, the outspoken and controversial owner of Seed to Table, a popular North Naples grocery store and eatery, sued the county in August after code enforcement cited him three times for violating its mask order and assessed fines totaling $1,125. Naples Daily News, 11/13/20
- Putting up a fight: Naples grocer refiles lawsuit challenging Collier County’s mask order. The move follow a federal judge’s recent decision to dismiss 11 of the 14 claims he made in his first amended complaint. The order by U.S. District Court Judge Sheri Polster Chappell came a few weeks ago in response to the county’s motion to dismiss Oakes’ lawsuit outright. Naples Daily News, 12/1/20
City of Naples
- Naples cancels Christmas parade, New Year’s Eve fireworks due to coronavirus pandemic. The vote was unanimous due to concerns over the health of potential spectators, especially as winter and season approach and coronavirus cases continue to rise. Naples Daily News, 11/4/20
- Naples City Council to discuss citywide mask requirements again in December. The vote to place the topic on a special meeting agenda was 4-3, with councilors Mike McCabe, Ted Blankenship and Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison opposed. Naples Daily News, 11/14/20
- Naples city leaders push ‘All Heroes Wear Masks’ campaign rather than mandate. Naples Vice-Mayor Terry Hutchinson spent much of the morning handing out masks and posters to businesses on 5th Avenue South. WINK News, 11/20/20
- City of Naples to vote on a mask mandate. Within the City of Naples, residents and visitors are not required to wear a mask, but they are throughout the rest of Collier County. The City of Naples is scheduled to vote to approve a mask mandate at a public meeting on Dec. 3 at 8:30 a.m. NBC2, 11/27/20
Collier County Public Schools
- More than 800 Collier County students have quarantined this year. Of those sent home to quarantine, eight students, or about 0.98%, tested positive for the virus. Naples Daily News, 11/13/20
- Collier County Public Schools issues guidance for winter sports. Spectators must wear the proper face coverings and follow social distancing. For basketball and soccer, each student-athlete or cheerleader can invite two household members, and they must sit in designated seats. WINK News, 11/18/20
Business & Economy
- Brent Batten: Rising prices, uncertain revenues cast shadow on ambitious construction agenda. Clerk of Courts Crystal Kinzel projects a potential shortfall in sales tax collections of about $94 million on a project list that was initially estimated to cost $420 million. But no projects have been delayed by a lack of funding so far, and Deputy County Manager Nick Casalanguida thinks sales tax revenue will bounce back. Naples Daily News, 11/14/20; Collier County Clerk of Courts Newsletter
- Tourism bureaus in Southwest Florida pivot marketing strategies amid pandemic. The new message in Collier is “Only Paradise Will Do.” Naples Daily News, 11/13/20
Board of County Commissioners
Rural Lands Growth Plan (RLSA)
By a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Penny Taylor opposed, the Board of County Commissioners approved controversial changes regarding developing in the Rural Lands Stewardship Area, which spans 185,000 acres in Collier’s largely untouched interior.
- Collier commissioners approve proposed changes to rural growth plan. The proposed changes, which have been more than a decade in the making, cleared an important hurdle when county commissioners advanced the plan to a review by state officials. Naples Daily News, 11/11/20
- Guest opinion: RLSA: A long-term plan for growth built on consensus. By Blake Gable, CEO of Barron Collier Companies, via Naples Daily News, 9/15/20
- Guest opinion: A path forward for all of Collier County residents. By Van Williams, Chair of the Board of Directors, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, via Naples Daily News, 9/27/20
- Editorial: Rural lands plan represents reasonable compromise in eastern Collier County. By Brent Batten for the Editorial Board, Naples Daily News, 11/10/20
Staff actions not yet before the Commission
- Collier, Bonita Springs, Estero explore buying railroad corridor to create pathway, bus route. The 12 miles of track would become a link in the Gulf Coast Trail stretching from Tampa Bay to Naples. The Trust For Public Land is seeking an appraisal for the land to help officials determine if purchase would be feasible. Naples Daily News, 11/7/20
- Neighbors opposed to possible recycling plant in Collier County. The Planning Commission will discuss plans for a yard waste recycling center off Tamiami Trail East between 951 and San Marco Rd. WINK News, 11/17/20
- New Golden Gate Estates EMS station awaiting Planning Commission approval. A new Emergency Medical Services facility to be built on the southwest corner of Golden Gate Boulevard East and Desoto Boulevard would be paid for with funds from the 1% sales tax increase County voters approved in 2018. NBC2 News, 11/17/20
- Collier’s 10-year public transit plan details host of recommended improvements. New and realigned bus routes, expanded hours, increased frequency, electric shuttles and ride-share-type alternatives to buses are part of the plan. Naples Daily News, 11/19/20
- Collier Commission to consider proposal for new Golden Gate Estates bridge. A sidewalk on one side of the street, and more deputies to patrol traffic are part of a controversial project to be considered early next year. NBC2 News, 11/27/20
End of an era
- Collier County manager to retire in May, deputy county manager to leave by year’s end. Longtime County Manager Leo Ochs plans to retire by the end of May and Deputy County Manager Nick Casalanguida is leaving his post by year’s end, a move that will likely complicate the search for someone to replace Ochs. Naples Daily News, 12/1/20
- Donna Fiala, Collier’s longest-serving commissioner in modern history, steps down. Naples Daily News, 11/16/20
- East Naples Park Named for Commissioner Fiala. Coastal Breeze News, 11/14/20
County projects are funded with taxpayer dollars. Others are private projects that need the county to grant significant zoning or land use variances. All will affect our quality of life in Collier County.
Beach Renourishment — A project to raise and widen the beach from Doctors Pass to Lowdermilk Park is happening Mondays through Saturdays from sunrise to sunset and is expected to be completed in early December.
- Collier County beach renourishment project begins today. ABC-7 News, 11/5/20
Golden Gate Golf Course Property — Commissioners last year bought a 167-acre golf course at the intersection of Collier Boulevard and Golden Gate Parkway for $29 million. While a specific use for the property was not decided at the time of purchase, uses discussed include for affordable housing, a future veterans’ nursing home and a golf course and entertainment venue. Last month, the vendor who was to build such a venue backed out, and now:
- Collier commissioners to start from scratch with Golden Gate golf course project while also unanimously approving an agreement to build 350 affordable housing units on part of the property. Naples Daily News, 11/11/20
Paradise Coast Sports Complex — County land near Collier Boulevard and Interstate 75 is the site of a new sports and entertainment complex intended to be, not just a $100 million driver of economic tourism, but a place residents can use. There will be a total of 20 soccer, baseball and softball fields, a 6,000-person championship stadium, a bar and food truck area, and an outdoor workout facility focusing on functional fitness (think CrossFit), available for a monthly membership.
- Paradise Coast Sports Complex shows off new public fitness, dining areas. Naples Daily News, 11/20/20; ”Explore the Park” website
One Naples — Stock Development’s proposal to build a large condominium and retail complex on a prime piece of waterfront property in North Naples has faced well-organized community opposition for years. After a total of 20 hours of meetings, the Planning Commission could not agree on whether to recommend approval of the requested zoning changes. County commissioners could vote on the project by the end of the year.
- Collier County Planning Commission splits vote on controversial One Naples project. Naples Daily News, 11/8/20
Metropolitan Naples — The long-anticipated mixed-use, high-rise development to be built by local developers Jerry Starkey and Fred Pezeshkan features a mix of housing, retail and entertainment. The “triangle property” is seen as a key to stimulating redevelopment in the larger area along U.S. 41, east of Fifth Avenue South. The purchase price for the county land was $6.4 million.
- Developers close on land for ‘transformative’ tower project in East Naples.Naples Daily News, 11/19/20
Rivergrass Village — In January, commissioners approved the 1,000-acre village along Oil Well Road, east of Golden Gate Estates to be developed by Collier Enterprises. In March, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida sued the county over the approval, contending that the project is inconsistent with the county’s growth management plan. Now, Collier Enterprises, which joined the county’s side in the lawsuit, has filed a pair of motions asking the court to dismiss the case. The “virtual” hearings before Collier Circuit Judge Lauren Brodie are set for December.
- Rivergrass Village lawsuit scheduled for hearings that could impact case’s path. Naples Daily News, 11/22/20
City of Naples
- Brent Batten: Rockies-themed Twin Peaks has mountain to climb for approval in Naples. Plans for the Dallas-based chain’s restaurant and bar got a rude reception from the Naples Design Review Board, an advisory panel charged with protecting the city’s look. Naples Daily News, 11/5/20
- No changes for Naples construction operating hours, city council to revisit in 2021. In addition, council directed staff to address staffing levels for enforcement in the city building department, to develop a resident complaint communication strategy, and to collect data for regular reports on items such as noise complaints. Naples Daily News, 11/16/20
- Naples to increase solid waste rates for city residents starting in 2021. The increase, about 25% over the next two years, is largely due to an upcoming change in the processor of the city’s recycled material. Naples Daily News, 11/18/20
- Naples Ethics Commission getting to work after August referendum. Commission members are Laird Lile, appointed by Amira Fox, the state attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit; John Thomas Cardillo, appointed by Kathleen Smith, the public defender for the 20th Judicial Circuit; Dudley Goodlette, appointed by Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk; Susan Jones, appointed by the Naples City Council; and John Lehmann, appointed by Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor. Naples Daily News, 12/1/20
City of Marco Island
- Changes coming to Planning Board. Member Joseph Rola will be assuming a seat on city council, and several new appointments could be made when new councilors choose their appointments to this important body. Coastal Breeze News, 11/12/20
- Finalists chosen to fill council vacancy. Former councilor Victor Rios chose to resign after the closing of the filing period for the November election, so the seat will be filled by a vote of the council. Three finalists will be interviewed by each councilor separately, and brought forward at the December 7 meeting. Coastal Breeze News, 11/23/20
- Marco Island to hold Dec. 12 Town Hall meeting on Comprehensive Plan update project. There will be an active discussion on transportation, parks/recreation, and future land use to meet the needs of the community. City of Marco Island email, 11/23/20
- 2021 legislative priorities discussed. At a special City Council meeting, councilors had advice from their longtime lobbyist about the upcoming state legislative session. Coastal Breeze News, 11/25/20
Collier County Public Schools
- Collier schools teacher retention rate improved despite pandemic start. Naples Daily News, 11/6/20
- Collier schools looks at ‘long term’ following first quarter grades. Likely reflecting the challenges of the pandemic, nearly one in four students had at least one failing grade on their first report card of the year. Naples Daily News, 11/20/20
- Lawsuit: Collier school board, Parkside Elementary mishandled claims of sex abuse by ex-teacher. Naples Daily News, 11/26/20
Other Local Bodies
- Kudos & Kicks: Collier drug court scores big. Naples Daily News, 11/21/20
- Coalition of Immokalee Workers continues call for transparency after man shot, killed by Collier deputy. In September, a sheriff’s deputy shot a 37-year-old man outside a home in the Farm Workers Village in Immokalee. The Sheriff’s investigation is ongoing. Naples Daily News, 11/24/20
Local news reported in this post is by:
Jake Allen, Adam Fisher, Brent Batten, Brittany Carloni, Rachel Fradette, Liz Freeman, Laura Layden, Omar Rodriguez Ortiz and Patrick Riley (USA Today Network – Florida: Naples Daily News, News-Press, Marco Eagle); Steve Stefanides and Scott H. Shook (Coastal Breeze News); Erin O’Brien (ABC 7); Marissa Schultz (FOX News); Jennifer Kveglis and Christy Soto (NBC2 News); and Rachel Cox-Rosen and Gina Tomlinson (WINK News)
From Southwest Florida’s outgoing U.S. Congressman:
- Time to concede: The peaceful transition of power is an American tradition. By Rep. Francis Rooney, The Hill, 11/15/20
And from his successor:
- Byron Donalds, new Florida congressman, says Trump’s ‘swag’ netted him Black votes. Fox News, 11/16/20
That’s it for County and local government news for November!