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.

A New Perspective 02-15-2001: Golden Gate Master Plan

Golden Gate Gazette

February 15, 2001

County staff said wait. Commission Chair Jim Carter said wait. A local development attorney and a development planner said wait.
But Golden Gate Commissioners Jim Coletta, District 5, and Tom Henning, District 3, said rural Golden Gate residents can’t wait any longer to update their master plan because of commercial growth pressures.
“We can’t tell people they’re going to have to wait forever,” he told the other commissioners at the Feb. 13 commission meeting. “The people out there are demanding certain services…. We’re going to need the help of the Commission to draw the line.”
Coletta was the chairman of a 1988 community effort that penned the first Golden Gate Area Master Plan (GGAMP), adopted by the county in 1991. At the time, the 150 square miles of platted Golden Gate Estates was nearly all zoned residential with certain agricultural allowances. One commercial center of seven acres??? was designated at the intersection of Randall Boulevard and Immokalee Road.
In order to address future growth, four neighborhood centers were included on the Golden Gate Area Future Land Use Map (FLUM) of the 1991 GGAMP, allowing residential property to be slated for limited commercial development when demand warranted. These nodes included 10 acres on the west side of the intersection of Pine Ridge Road and CR #951, and 20 acres at the intersections of Golden Gate and Wilson Boulevards, Golden Gate and Everglades Boulevards and Golden Gate Boulevard and Desoto Boulevards???.
However, in 1994, due to community pressure against commercial development in the rural Estates, the three latter neighborhood centers were removed from the FLUM??.
Recently, there have been several proposals to rezone residential Estates lots – not included in the FLUM — to allow for commercial development.
The planning commission and board of county commissioners have approved one of these and turned another down, urging restraint until the county-funded Dover-Kohl future of Collier County planning study is completed.
The Dover-Kohl project, to be unveiled at the Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association, Feb. 21, proposes concepts and strategies to improve future residential and commercial development in the county. Golden Gate Estates was an area looked as specific model.
Coletta told Feb. 13 commission meeting attendants he gets calls all the time from people who want some commercial development in the Estates. Without updating the master plan to address the commercial issue, he said he feared haphazard conversion of residential to commercial property in rural areas.
“It’s certainly a different Golden Gate than it was,” he said, arguing for the GGAMP to be moved up.
Heated debates over the commercialization of residential property have become common at Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association (GGEACA) meetings over the last couple years.
“We want Golden Gate Estates to be a nice place to live, not a speculator’s paradise,” Estates Civic Association member Pat Humphries told commissioners.
County manager Tom Oliff and comprehensive planning services director Stan Lipsinger cautioned commissioners that county staff have their hands full with other planning projects and could not tackle the GGAMP now without other plans suffering.
“If we’re short-staffed I think we owe it to the public to hire someone,” he said.
After hearing Coletta and Henning’s arguments, Commissioners voted unanimously to hire a consultant and work toward a May 2002 updated Golden Gate Master Plan.
If the GGAMP were updated now, it would still have to wait for the county to finish its rural fringe study before it could be completed, according to Oliff and Lipsinger.
The county is under a Florida Governor-imposed building moratorium on its rural agricultural lands until it can come up with better protections for water and wildlife in its comprehensive plan. The Final Order for submitting new development criteria as part of Collier County’s Comprehensive Plan is August 2002.
Since part of the rural fringe land is adjacent to platted Golden Gate – including northern Belle Meade and the Immokalee corridor — Lipsinger said he anticipates it will affect the GGAMP and maybe even redefine what is called the Golden Gate Area.