Collier County Government News for October 2019

In October Collier County government news: ban on retail sale of cats and dogs fails; Conservation Collier Land Acquisition Program renewal to be discussed by County Commission in December; Rural Lands Stewardship program amendments adopted over environmentalists’ objections; Golden Gate golf course won’t re-open after all. For this and more news for Collier voters, read on…

Civic Engagement

The Pelican Bay Foundation tried to change the speed limit in Clam Bay to protect manatees. In September, they lost the fight. Foundation president Jim Hoppensteadt doesn’t know what to appeal because the judge didn’t give a reason for the ruling.

The Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association learned that the County Commission was going to take up a proposed zoning change without first seeking community input. Before the Board meeting, the group’s president informed commissioners that they opposed the changes and objected to not having been consulted. At the meeting, the Commission unanimously voted to defer the item so staff could engage the community in the discussion.

In September, a group of citizens asked Collier County to ban the retail sale of cats and dogs. Last month, following hours of public testimony, the ban failed by a 3-2 vote. Instead, commissioners directed their Animal Services Advisory Board to bring back an ordinance regulating the activity. Commissioner Penny Taylor, who had put forward the ban, cast the dissenting vote.

Growth & Development

East of 951/Collier Blvd

The first of three villages Collier Enterprises wants to develop on the eastern edge of Golden Gate Estates was presented to the Collier County Planning Commission. Rivergrass Village would allow up to 2,500 homes and 62,500 – 80,000 square feet of commercial space. It’s not likely to be smooth sailing.

The Planning Advisory Board will continue discussions about Rivergrass Village at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, in Board of County Commission Chambers. Details here.

Ten-year-old proposed amendments to the Rural Land Stewardship Area Overlay Program (RLSA) were unanimously adopted by County Commissioners over the objections of the area’s environmental protection groups. A representative of a consortium of landowners in the RLSA had urged the approval.

Collier’s long-planned Vanderbilt Beach Road extension is intended to take traffic pressure off Immokalee Road in North Naples. In October, commissioners unanimously approved revisions that will make the road safer but add to cost.

Golden Gate & East Naples

Naples-based Kova Golf Management and The First Tee of Naples/Collier made an unsolicited proposal to reopen the 54-year-old Golden Gate Country Club that the county purchased for $29.1 million, then closed on Aug. 1. But “Four of us have consistently said we don’t want to get bogged down in a golf course operation where we know we’re going to be spending a lot of money,” Commissioner Burt Saunders said.

Described by some as a “blight” and an “eyesore,” the defunct Courthouse Shadows Shopping Center on U.S. 41 across from the Collier County Government Center could see redevelopment in the form of a four-story apartment complex with 300 units.

North Naples

Collier County in 2016 began what was to be a two-year, 20-block project to replace the water pipes and utilities along Vanderbilt Drive from Vanderbilt Beach Road to 111th Avenue North and in 14 cul-de-sacs. Then came a major hurricane and unanticipated extra work. Now:

The Environment

The County Commission will soon consider whether to restart the county’s taxpayer-funded conservation land acquisition program, known as Conservation Collier. Commissioners will review language to take a referendum to voters at their December 10 meeting.

Representatives of Lee, Charlotte, and Collier counties, the 10 incorporated municipalities in the three counties, and the Captiva district are in talks about forming a Southwest Florida Regional Resiliency Compact to develop a coordinated response to the rising sea levels that threaten the region’s economy.

In 2000, Congress authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP). A failed housing scheme in the Picayune Strand State Forest in South Golden Gate Estates became part of the effort in 2004. Now the first project in a larger plan to restore part of the Everglades is in its final stages.

Health, Safety & Quality of Life

Collier Commissioners unanimously voted to conform the county’s no-smoking policy to the recently updated Florida Clean Air Act by including the ban on vaping in all county buildings. The ban stems from a constitutional amendment voters passed by 70% of voters last year.

Hoping to attract more affordable housing and continuing an effort that has dragged on for years, commissioners voted unanimously to create an affordable housing trust fund. In addition, they voted 3-2 to establish a nonprofit community land trust to buy properties for affordable housing and work with other organizations to build the homes. Commissioners Bill McDaniel and Donna Fiala voted no.

A strategic plan to better treat mental health and substance abuse in Collier County was discussed by commissioners at a workshop and could be adopted as soon as December. Plans yet to be finalized include where the facility will be built, how annual operating costs will be funded, and how housing and support services for residents with serious mental illness and/or substance dependence will be provided.

The Greater Naples Fire Rescue District is teaming up with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, Collier County Public Schools and four other area fire districts to reduce response times and decrease costs to property owners in emergencies.

City of Naples

As more restaurants look to expand their outdoor dining areas, City Council members have decided to oversee the approval of all outdoor dining petitions for the next six months while they consider possible revisions to the related ordinance. They will revisit the issue at their Nov. 18 workshop.

The iconic Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club will be torn down and rebuilt as a smaller resort and residential condos along Gulf Shore Boulevard. After a day-long hearing at city hall, the city’s Planning Board voted 6-1 for changes and deviations the developers sought, with two conditions.

The brand-new Baker Park opened Oct. 29, anchoring the southern end of the Gordon River Greenway. The City of Naples park is named for Jay and Patty Baker, who donated $2 million to the project. (Great video here!)

River Park is a Naples neighborhood developed in the ’60s as a segregated community for black residents. Longtime inhabitants have seen the area change drastically, and those changes are accelerating with Southwest Florida’s rapid growth.

Still, residents and local officials agree that River Park has received a number of quality of life improvements in recent years thanks to a renewed focus from city representatives.

City of Marco Island

The last remaining Marco Island police officer tied to its sex on duty scandal has resigned. He, three former police officers and the City were recently named as defendants in a prospective lawsuit.

Medical marijuana is coming to Marco Island.

Everglades City

Tiny Everglades City continues to struggle financially in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. To help the cash-strapped municipality, Collier County forgave its debt and the city is raising its water and sewer rates for the first time in decades.

Collier County Public Schools

One in four teens answered “yes” to the question, “Do you vape on a regular basis?” CCPS is part of a group trying to change that.

Knowing each student’s needs and situation is at the core of CCPS’ Social Emotional Learning (SEL) priorities for the 2019-20 school year.

Local news reported in this post is by Jake Allen, Greg Hardwig, Laura Layden, Devan Patel,Patrick Riley, Karl Schneider and Andrew Wigdor (Naples Daily News/News-Press).

Collier Clerk Crystal Kinzel

The Clerk’s office collected over $5,000 in past due fines during its first statutorily mandated driver license reinstatement event.

Rep. Francis Rooney

That’s it for October’s Collier County Government News. Have a great November!

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