Updated Jan. 21, 2023
In this post, I resume my monthly recaps of Collier County and local government news. I had paused that work in May to focus on the primary and general elections. As a reminder of where we left off, here’s Collier County & Local News for April 2022.
Below is a list of the topics I will review. Click on a link to be taken to that specific section.
Board of County Commissioners
The five members of the Collier County Board of County Commissioners are
Rick LoCastro (District 1; incoming Chairman), Chris Hall (District 2), Burt Saunders (District 3), Daniel Kowal (District 4), and Bill McDaniel (District 5).
BCC Approves FY 2022-23 Budget
On Sep. 22, Commissioners unanimously approved a $1.96 billion FY 2022-23 Collier County budget that exceeds the prior year’s budget by 11.73 percent. (Adopted Budget) The board approved by a vote of 4-1 an aggregate millage rate that is 13.45 percent greater than the “roll-back rate.” Commissioner Bill McDaniel voted no. (9/22/22 BCC Minutes)
“The County experienced a significant increase in ad valorem revenue this past year due to the unprecedented growth in the community. The budget allocates a major part of these increased revenues for public safety, transportation capital, increased stormwater operations and stormwater capital, as well county-wide capital programs,” Clerk of Courts Crystal Kinzel wrote in explaining the budget increase. “After lengthy discussions about the budget and whether the tax rate could be reduced, given the 16.85% increase in county-wide taxable value, the board left the rate unchanged. (News Release, 10/17/22)
New County Manager
Amy Patterson was unanimously selected as the new Collier County Manager in June, becoming the first woman to serve in the role in Collier County. Born and raised in Naples, Patterson began her career with the County in 2000. She had most recently served as Deputy County Manager since May 2021. (Collier County News Release, 6/16/22)
In May, then-County Manager Mark Isackson informed the County that he would retire immediately, having notified the BCC in January that he would retire Jul. 1. His sudden resignation came three days after the Collier Clerk of Court’s Office informed him it was looking into his use of paid leave. (Naples Daily News, 5/9/22)
Mental Health Receiving Center
The Collier County Planning Commission voted unanimously in November to recommend that the BCC not approve a requested rezone of a five-acre site. The site was intended for a joint project between the county and the David Lawrence Mental Health Center that would serve as a central intake facility for patients of the center and address a demand for treatment beds.
60-Day Rent Hike Increase Notice
A 60-day notice requirement for rent hikes over five percent was adopted in October by a vote of 3-2. Commissioners Saunders, Taylor, and Solis were in favor; LoCastro and McDaniel voted no. It had previously been discussed multiple times by the board this year before it passed. (Naples Daily News, 10/27/22)
But newly elected Commissioner Hall said at his first meeting that he wanted the ordinance repealed, calling it “a burden on landlords by the government.” Saunders opposed the effort to go backward, saying that when he backed it, he never saw the requirement as a solution to the affordable housing crisis. Rather, it was a message about fairness and decency. (Naples Daily News, 12/14/22)
Housing for the Homeless
St. Matthew’s House is seeking to rezone property in East Naples to build 28 apartments for program graduates and employees facing the community-wide lack of affordable housing. The Collier County Planning Commission will take up the rezoning to increase the density and make a recommendation to the Collier County Commission at a future date. (Naples Daily News, 12/16/22)
Post-Ian Rebuild: Beach Berm
Commissioners declared a “public emergency” in rushing through approval of a no-bid contract to expedite the construction of a sand berm to protect upland property left vulnerable by Hurricane Ian. County staff asked that the contract be added to the agenda on Dec. 13 not only to ensure the berm is in place before the next hurricane season, but that it is funded by federal dollars.
While it’s too soon to estimate how much the berm will cost to build, other areas in Florida and elsewhere have spent millions on such protective projects, following major disasters. (Naples Daily News, 12/21/22)
Transportation Project Updates
County transportation engineering projects currently in construction include Vanderbilt Beach Road Extension, Whippoorwill Lane Extension, Eleven Bridge Replacement Project, and Veterans Memorial Boulevard Improvements. Projects in design include Vanderbilt Beach Road Widening, Golden Gate Parkway (CR 886) at Santa Barbara Canal Bridge Replacement, Collier Boulevard Widening Phase III, Immokalee Complete Streets Project, and Logan Boulevard Roundabout.
For the latest on these projects, visit the County’s Growth Management Department website here.
Residential Development Projects
“In the last three years, five villages were approved for development in Eastern Collier County: Rivergrass, Skysail, Longwater, Bellmar, and Brightshore. According to the developers’ documents, those villages will result in approximately 110,000 new daily vehicle trips and a combined population of 26,000 residents, which is greater than the number of people currently living in the City of Naples.”
Opinion: Court of appeal sides with Conservancy,
by April Olson, Conservancy of Southwest Florida,
via Naples Daily News, 12/25/22
An appellate court this month found that a circuit court judge made a mistake in his handling of a legal challenge over the Rivergrass rural village in eastern Collier County. Due to “one legal error,” the Second District Court of Appeal reversed a summary judgment in favor of the developer, Collier Enterprises, sending it back to circuit court for “further proceedings.” The implications of the appellate court’s decision are a bit unclear, with both sides – Collier Enterprises and the plaintiff, Conservancy of Southwest Florida – reacting positively to it. (Naples Daily News, 12/9/22)
With two new members on its board, the BCC voted unanimously in favor of a rural village to be built by Barron Collier Enterprises. Brightshore Village would be located in eastern Collier County north of Immokalee Road on roughly 681 acres, a few miles east of the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
It will have as many as 2,000 homes, a village center with up to 120,000 square feet of commercial uses, and a 2.75-acre linear public park on its outer edges, and will also connect to two existing public trailheads. It will also have a minimum of 20,000 square feet of civic, governmental, and institutional uses, and 15 acres of amenities to serve its residents.
Barron Collier has agreed to provide 170 low- or moderately priced units, either within the village or offsite. (Naples Daily News, 12/14/22)
Lennar, a national builder, received unanimous Planning Commission approval in December to build up to 400 new apartments in eastern Collier County. The project, about 1.5 miles east of Immokalee Road near Palmetto Ridge High School, requires an amendment to an existing planned unit development, or PUD, known as Orange Blossom Ranch.
In connection with the project, Lennar voluntarily agreed to set aside 10% of the total units as affordable housing.
The plans have sparked neighborhood concerns, mostly about their impact on already congested roads.
County commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposed apartments on Jan. 24. (Naples Daily News, 12/5/22)
Isles of Capri High-Rise
In a win for hundreds of opponents, the Collier County Planning Commission voted 6-1 to recommend denial of a rezoning and a growth plan amendment to allow a controversial high-rise development on Isles of Capri. County commissioners will make the final decision. (Naples Daily News, 9/16/22)
Paradise Coast Sports Complex
In November, the BCC heard an update from the new management company overseeing the Paradise Coast Sports Complex. According to Commissioner Rick LoCastro, “This $120+ million complex in Golden Gate city … was never meant to be a ‘cash cow’ … however the minimal use we have seen in the past is not satisfactory. This more aggressive & experienced management team (who we recently brought in) is paying dividends.” (LoCastro Newsletter, 11/10/22)
Separately, Clerk Kinzel pointed out that existing debt on the Sports Complex amounts to $95.5 million and that future phases of the project have an estimated total cost of more than $25-$30 million, for which financing will be required. (Clerk’s December Report, 11/30/22)
County Bond Rating Upgrade to ‘AAA’
In April, Fitch Ratings upgraded Collier County’s Issuer Default Rating to ‘AAA’ and its outstanding rated special obligation bonds to ‘AA+’. The upgrade reflects Fitch’s expectations for the continuation of a strong tax base and population and economic activity growth in the county, as well as the county’s historically solid operating performance characterized by high independent revenue-raising ability, solid expenditure flexibility, and maintenance of sound reserve levels. (Fitch Ratings, 4/29/22)
Proclamation Condemning Anti-semitism
The BCC unanimously adopted a proclamation condemning antisemitism in all its forms at its Sep. 27 meeting. (The Paradise Progressive, 9/21/22)
The five members of the District School Board of Collier County are
Jerry Rutherford (District 1), Stephanie Lucarelli (District 2), Kelly Lichter (District 3, chairman), Erick Carter (District 4), and Timothy Moshier (District 5).
CCPS in Transition
Superintendent Patton Steps Down
A mutual transition agreement was signed on Dec. 13 between the school board and Superintendent Kamela Patton that allows Patton to step down immediately from the role she has held since 2011. She will be able to get her accrued vacation and sick leave pay on Jan. 11, in addition to severance pay worth 20 weeks of regular pay, according to the agreement. The board made it clear that the decision was mutual, and the vote to approve the agreement was unanimous. (Naples Daily News, 12/13/22)
Patton had announced in June that she would be leaving the district at the end of the current school year. (News Release, 6/13/22)
See Patton’s “Farewell Message of Gratitude” video here.
Ricciardelli Assumes Interim Post
Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli was unanimously chosen as interim superintendent, a decision Patton supported. (Naples Daily News, 12/13/22)
See Ricciardelli’s “Personal Message” video here.
Ricciardelli grew up in Naples from the age of 2 and has worked in education for just over 28 years. Most recently, she served as CCPS Deputy Superintendent where she was responsible for leading Financial Services, School Leadership, and District Operations, including Transportation, Nutrition Services, Safety and Security, Facilities and Maintenance, and other key areas of the school district. (CCPS News Release, 12/13/22)
Ricciardelli will make $1,000 a day, according to the interim agreement. As of 2021, Patton was making $308,154 a year. Patton’s agreement allows her to provide transitional assistance to Ricciardelli as needed. Patton will provide this assistance and will continue to receive her regular salary and benefits through Jan. 10. (Naples Daily News, 12/13/22)
School Board Attorney Post Created
At the request of Lichter, the board approved an additional allocation for a school board attorney, who would work together with the school district attorney as co-equals. Criteria being sought for the position were agreed to. Lichter was designated to work with staff during the screening process. (12/7/22 Minutes)
During her term on the school board from 2014-2018, Lichter was often at odds with the school district attorney and questioned his ability to simultaneously represent both board members and the district when their interests were at odds.
At an organizational meeting with the newly elected members on Nov. 22, the board elected Kelly Lichter as school board chair and Tim Moshier as vice chair for 2023. The board also agreed to keep its meeting start time at 4:30 p.m. for awards and presentations, but that the business portion of the meeting would begin at a time certain of 5:00 p.m. A schedule of meetings for the 2022-23 school year was then approved. (11/22/22 Minutes)
Attendance Boundary Modification
With the opening of the new Aubrey Rogers High School in August 2023, the school board has been considering proposals to adjust attendance boundaries at the high school level and a “spot” boundary modification at the middle school level.
Based on proposed new boundaries, the high schools that would be impacted are Aubrey Rogers, Barron Collier, Golden Gate (limited impact), Gulf Coast, and Palmetto Ridge.
The school board heard a revised presentation on the proposed boundaries at a special board meeting on Dec. 7. It then designated Lucarelli to work on the matter with district staff on its behalf, deferring a decision on boundaries to a special meeting to be held on Jan. 17. (12/7/22 Minutes)
On Dec. 13, the board unanimously approved the following changes to school board policy, as reported by former board member Jen Mitchell in her Collier School Board Resource Facebook group on Dec. 14:
- The Superintendent must have travel approved before departure and must report his/her expenses to the board monthly.
- Any board member, not just the chair, can add items to the agenda.
- Board members can bring policies forward for discussion at any time, not just September and February, as is done currently.
- The board can speak directly with staff rather than going through the Superintendent. A point person will be designated by the board to handle inquiries.
- Language was added to existing policy to clarify that despite the Title 9 language around program participation and gender identity, Collier will follow the Florida Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.
By a 4-1 vote, the board also approved the District’s Reproductive Health and Disease Education Instructional Materials. Such approval is required annually by state law.
“Mr. Rutherford was not prepared and asked that he be given time to read all supporting materials and watch any videos before making a decision,” wrote Mitchell. “Both Ms. Lichter and Mrs. Lucarelli explained that all of this was available to the board, and they didn’t feel that postponing it was the right thing to do. Ms. Lichter went a step further and told him he could vote “no” if he didn’t approve, but that they had consensus to proceed. They did proceed and voted 4-1 to approve the materials. Mr. Rutherford was the lone “no” vote.” (Jen Mitchell’s Collier School Board Resource, 12/14/22)
See the Reproductive Health and Disease Education Curriculum as presented to the board here.
Three books in Collier schools now need parental permission to check out: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. All three books contain sexual content. In the high schools, the dust jackets for the books will remain on the shelves while the books themselves will be with the media specialist. Parental permission would be obtained after the student asks the media specialist for the book. (Naples Daily News, 9/21/22)
Earlier in the year, advisories had been placed on 115 books in the Collier County School District, after parents and community members challenged the content. (Naples Daily News, 8/15/22)
Separately, at its Jul. 27 meeting, the school board decided to retain a set of mathematics textbooks that had caused controversy among some community members. (FOX4Now, 7/27/22)
Newly elected school board member Jerry Rutherford said last month that he wanted to bring corporal punishment back to district classrooms. (Naples Daily News, 11/11/22)
Did you know?
Florida allows corporal punishment in public schools
as long as the district allows it.
FS 1003.32 (K.1,2,3)
Since then, Rutherford has said he just wanted to “let it all go” (FOX4Now, 12/8/22), but the story has gone national. A psychiatric nurse practitioner in New Jersey posted a video to her widely followed TikTok page calling attention to Rutherford’s comments and asking her followers to participate in a “call to action” to have him removed from the board. As of Dec. 3, the video resulted in 2,620 sent emails and 63 social actions taken.
Board member Lucarelli, who has received the emails, said the board cannot remove another board member. The only one with the power to do that is Gov. DeSantis, according to Florida statutes. (Naples Daily News, 12/3/22)
City of Naples
The seven members of the City of Naples City Council are
Ted Blankenship, Ray Christman, Teresa Heitmann (mayor), Terry Hutchison,
Mike McCabe (vice mayor), Paul Perry, and Beth Petrunoff.
Council Approves FY 2022-23 Budget
On Sep. 21, Naples City Council unanimously approved a FY 2022-23 City of Naples budget, and approved by a vote of 4-3 an aggregate millage rate that is 14.64 percent greater than the “roll-back rate.” Council members Blankenship, Petrunoff, and Hutchison were in opposition. (9/21/22 Minutes)
Total revenues are budgeted at $187.7 million and expenditures are budgeted at $215.6 million, using $27.9 million of reserves/fund balances. Budgeted revenues and expenditures are 20 percent and 22 percent higher, respectively, than in the prior year’s budget. (Adopted Budget)
Clam Pass Park Beach access at 465 Seagate Drive and Vanderbilt Beach, including the parking garage at 100 Vanderbilt Beach Road, will open in time for the holidays. Numerous beach accesses have been closed for two months after Hurricane Ian devastated Southwest Florida on Sept. 28 and created dangers for beachgoers. (Naples Daily News, 12/22/22)
City council has chosen to rebuild the iconic Naples Pier, rather than repair it. This will keep the fishing pier in its current footprint, with improvements to its structural design. The cost of the rebuild is estimated at $6 million to $8 million, with most of the cost to be reimbursed by FEMA. (Naples Daily News, 12/8/22)
Residential Building Height Waiver
City council voted unanimously to approve a resolution that allows some residents to build or rebuild higher, based on new flood maps that have yet to be adopted. In some areas of the city, the new flood maps will raise required elevations for homes by a few feet. (Naples Daily News, 12/12/22)
Port Royal Club
City council voted to allow the Port Royal Club to operate out of tents and trailers as it recovers from Hurricane Ian. The exception comes with rules, including no live entertainment or other amplified sound. The club plans to use the tents and trailers for cooking, dining, serving, and cleanup, as well as setting up restrooms on-site. (Naples Daily News, 12/15/22)
FEMA 50% Rule
The City of Naples will enforce FEMA’s 50% rule for repairs during its review of structures located in a flood hazard area. The basic rule: If the cost of improvements or the cost to repair the damage exceeds 50% of the market value of the building, it must be brought up to current floodplain management standards. Click here for the City of Naples FEMA Flood Zone Map. (City of Naples, 12/8/22)
60-Day Rent Increase Notice
A 60-day notice requirement for rent hikes over five percent was adopted in August by a vote of 6-1, with Councilor Terry Hutchison voting no. Noting that the same ordinance had failed when it was considered by the Collier County Commission earlier in the year, the rest of the council said they wanted to lead by example. (Naples Daily News, 10/27/22)
Naples Design District Master Plan
A Master Plan for the Naples Design District, formerly described as the “41-10 Mixed-Use Area,” was approved in June. “The Naples Design District will join 5th Avenue South and 3rd Street South as a place to live, work and enjoy – for entertainment, dining, leisure, and shopping in what is evolving into Naples’ most exciting and inclusive community.” (City of Naples CRA News Release, 6/28/22)
Smoking, Vaping Banned
In November, City council voted to ban smoking cigarettes and vaping on city-owned beaches and parks. The ban was made possible by a 2022 Florida law that gave local municipalities the ability to restrict smoking in public beaches and parks, except for unfiltered cigars. (Gulfshore Business, 11/4/22)
Ethics Commission Finding
The Florida Ethics Commission has found probable cause that Mayor Teresa Heitmann misused her position “to steer city employees and city resources to investigate non-City related matters to benefit herself and another individual.” The commission, which filed the decision on Dec. 7, also found she failed to disclose a gift of legal services in excess of $100. The allegations came from a complaint filed with the commission on May 20, 2021, by Bob Dye, the city’s information technology director. (WGCU, 12/10/22)
Heitman told WGCU that she is looking forward to clearing her name. (WGCU, 12/12/22)
Golf Course Easement
Naples City Council in May approved a long-negotiated conservation easement designed to protect the former Naples Beach hotel’s golf course from development — in “perpetuity,” or forever. The vote was 5-2, with Heitmann and Petrunoff in opposition. (Naples Daily News, 5/3/22)
Airport Noise; Master Plan
Between 2020 and 2021, Naples Airport experienced a 40% increase in air traffic, causing air noise to increasingly be a nuisance for many throughout the community.
A Joint Workshop Meeting of City Council and the City of Naples Airport Authority was held on Sep. 12 to hear a presentation about a proposed 20-Year Airport Master Plan and an update on the authority’s “Part 150 Noise and Land Use Compatibility Study.” (Gulfshore Business, 9/13/22; Presentation Materials)
The authority’s goal is to have the draft of the study report available for public comment by early 2023, conduct public workshops on the document, and submit the final draft to the FAA in Spring 2023.
Did you know?
The Naples Airport Authority is an independent entity that was created by the Florida Legislature at the request of the City of Naples in 1969. It functions as a separate governmental entity and is charged with the operation, development, and improvement of the Naples Airport. (flynaples.com)
Stormwater Improvement Project
Despite a lawsuit and over the objections of a few dozen neighbors, city council voted unanimously in October to proceed with plans for a pump station at the end of Third Avenue North, with changes to the design and timeline for construction to start. (Naples Daily News, 10/21/22)
After unforeseen delays caused by Hurricane Ian, work is slated to begin on Jan. 3. (Naples Daily News, 12/23/22)
NCH Heart Institute
Naples Community Hospital will begin working on a site plan for its new heart institute after city council approved its request to amend a public service zoning ordinance in September. NCH has gone back and forth with the city for a year to get permission to build a new five-story heart institute, replacing the current Telford building south of Downtown Baker Hospital, along with a parking garage. (Gulfshore Business, 9/23/22)
A preliminary design review will be advertised for the Jan. 25, 2023, Design Review Board meeting. (DRB Minutes, 11/18/22)
Special Events Guidelines
The city of Naples will reconsider its special event approval process following criticism of the number of events held every year, concerns about the strain on city resources, and resident complaints raised this summer about LGBTQ+ -related events. City council voted unanimously for staff to look into alternatives after approving a moratorium on new special events on public property until the end of January 2023. (Naples Daily News, 9/9/22)
City of Marco Island
The seven members of the Marco Island City Council are
Rich Blonna, Erik Brechnitz, Greg Folley (chair), Jared Grifoni (vice-chair),
Becky Irwin, Darrin Palumbo, and Joe Rola.
Council Approves FY 2022-23 Budget
On Sep. 19, city council approved by votes of 6-1 a FY 2022-23 City of Marco Island budget and an aggregate millage rate that is .72 percent greater than the “roll-back rate.” Blonna voted no, favoring instead a “millage-neutral rate.” (9/19/22 Minutes; Coastal Breeze News, 9/8/22)
Revenues are budgeted at $71.6 million and expenditures are budgeted at $84.3 million, using $12.7 million of reserves/fund balances. The proposed expenditures are 14.2 percent more than last year’s total operating expenditures. (Adopted Budget)
Ian Rebuild: Permit Fees Waived
In October, city council members unanimously voted to waive permit fees temporarily for any repairs related to Hurricane Ian through Dec. 28, 2022, in residential and commercial districts. (FOX4Now, 10/26/22)
Short-Term Rental Ordinance
An ordinance to enforce regulations requiring registration by those who rent their homes for less than 30 days more than three times per year was passed by the council in a 4-3 vote. This, after stiff opposition from the island’s highly influential real estate industry both locally and statewide, that saw significant financial resources pour onto the island to defeat the proposed registration program. Council members Irwin, Grifoni, and Palumbo were in dissent. (Coastal Breeze News, 12/8/22)
A referendum calling to implement a single-family home transient rental registration program passed at the polls in August with 57% in favor. (Coastal Breeze News, 8/24/22)
Use of Tommie Barfield Ball Fields
Council voted unanimously to renew the inter-local agreement it initially signed in 2012 that allows the Collier County School District to have priority use of the baseball fields at Tommie Barfield Elementary School while the city is responsible for repairs and maintenance. The City currently spends around $30,000 on field maintenance. It instructed staff to negotiate the best extension to the contract based on time, price, and accessibility. (Marco Eagle, 5/5/22)
Council voted unanimously to amend a proposed ordinance to allow soft boat canopies to be used on the island and to approve that type of canopy on the island with an approved permit and survey. In 2000, Council adopted an ordinance that prohibited boathouses, boat covers, and similar structures. (Marco Eagle, 5/5/22)
That’s my recap of the top Collier County and local news from May – December 2022. Happy holidays, everyone!