A New Perspective 2-27-01: Estates Development

Golden Gate Gazette

February 27, 2001

Find a new plan for development in Golden Gate Estates and begin applying it as soon as possible or residents will suffer a dramatic loss in quality of life.
That was the basic message Collier County Planner Amy Taylor delivered, Feb. 22, during the monthly Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association (GGEACA) meeting at the Estates branch library.
Taylor and Estates resident Mike Davis, both serving on a 12-person Collier County future planning committee, were on hand to unveil some ideas that could be applied in the Estates, east of Collier Boulevard.
“If you don’t have a Master Plan revision it’s going to be a disaster,” Taylor told the 70 to 80 residents who jammed the library’s conference room and spilled out into the hallway.
Taylor said only about 20 percent of the rural Estates are currently developed and there are already about 25,000 residents. That could mean build-out of over 100,000 residents in he rural Estates within 15 years if present trends continue.
Loss of rural character, road congestion, wildfire problems and lack of convenience stores to meet community demand are problems that residents continually bring up to commissioners and planners. They could all be addressed through a re-planning effort, Taylor said.
Proposals for changing the development pattern include:
• de-intensifying development in some areas that are less than 10 percent built-out;
• setting aside parks and greenways in those less-developed areas;
• transferring development rights from the greenways to more built-out areas where some lots could be sub-divided into half-acre lots where “towns and hamlets” would be encouraged;
• establishing new rural-style roads;
• and designating limited places for convenience store development with strict design standards.
Residents at the GGEACA meeting were hesitant to buy the package.
“Are we really lacking for villages and hamlets?” Ty Agoston asked. “Why are you looking to establish these type of multi developments?”
Agoston said he feared they would become like slums, like his hometown in New York.
“None of us moved out here to hand sugar out our window to our neighbor,” GGEACA board member Doug Rankin said.
He said everyone would probably agree with maintaining the rural character, but not at the expense of intensifying development in some areas of the Estates.
Area realtor Robert DuCharme said he didn’t understand why the rural Estates had to have any commercial development since areas outside the Estates, including Orange Tree, Northern Belle Meade and Immokalee Road would probably offer it through pending development schemes.
Resident Nettie Phillips said the ideas sounded a lot like a government push to enforce sustainable communities, where only the rich can afford to live.
Others raised concerns that the effort could be connected to eminent domain to force people out in some areas.
Davis said he moved to the Estates in 1976 and was the first house on his mile-long road, now he’s the 41st. He urged residents to not just consider their personal wants and needs but think about the greater area’s needs.
Taylor and Davis said the only way residents were going to get what they wanted was to become involved with the revamping of the Golden Gate Master Plan, scheduled for study in a year.
“Without the citizen participation it isn’t going to be what it should,” Taylor told them.
Input surveys will be mailed to all residents in conjunction with the GGMP study next year, according to District 5 Collier County Commissioner Jim Coletta, who attended the meeting. There will also be a citizens’ committee selected to address the GGMP, he said.
Coletta warned that if certain areas aren’t designated for commercial use in the Estates, commercial entities will force rezones without good planning and the area could deteriorate.
After the meeting ended at about 9 p.m., residents stayed to discuss the ideas among themselves.
“I don’t like to be pushed on it,” 23-year Estates resident Vivian Scarsilloni said about the new ideas. “You commercialize now, you can’t naturalize later.”
But she said she recognized that younger and newer area residents with different needs were demanding commercial services. She said her main concern was that the rural character be maintained somehow.
“I want by granddaughter to be able to come to my house and experience wildlife. I still have foxes, armadillos and possums,” she said.