Villages threaten to change what you love about Southwest Florida
Dramatically increased traffic, taxpayer-subsidized development, crowded beaches, and loss of essential Florida Panther habitat are all impacts we will see if Collier County permits two more “villages” in eastern Collier County this week.
The public still has an opportunity to speak up against these poorly-planned developments that threaten your quality of life.
On Thursday, April 1st at 9:00 am, the Collier County Planning Commission will continue hearings for two new 1,000-acre villages proposed by Collier Enterprises, called Longwater and Bellmar.
If approved, important farmlands and essential habitat of the endangered Florida panther will be replaced with large, fiscally irresponsible developments that will create severe traffic congestion issues for Collier County. The planning commission has completed public comment for Longwater. However, everyone still has an opportunity to voice their concerns over Bellmar.
At the previous hearing for Longwater, comments made by the developer, and regrettably even County staff, purported to demonstrate Longwater was consistent with the RLSA requirements. However, we and our experts have taken a deep dive into the projects’ plans and we remain confident in our position that Longwater and Bellmar do not meet the requirements of Collier County’s Growth Management Plan.
The evidence is clear that Longwater and Bellmar are illegal. They are not designed according to the Rural Lands Stewardship Area’s (RLSA) rules and requirements.
The Conservancy is hopeful that you and your friends will attend the April 1st hearing, whether virtually or in person.
Instructions are found HERE.
In preparation of that hearing, the Conservancy is arming you with the facts.
Collier County is at a crossroads and its future hangs in the balance. Please help us to ensure that Longwater, Bellmar, and Rivergrass Villages are not the model for all other RLSA development. After all, they are just the beginning of a colossal development plan by twelve eastern Collier landowners to cover much of eastern Collier County with a patchwork of towns and villages. As members, supporters, volunteers, and concerned citizens, we urge you to Act Now before the quality of life that we enjoy so much in Collier County is nothing more than a distant memory.
Longwater and Bellmar Village Facts
According to the developer, 11,000 people would reside in Longwater and Bellmar, which is the combined peak seasonal population of the two villages. When Rivergrass’ population is added, the three villages would equate to 16,000 new residents. However, the developer is using old data to determine how many people will live in each home. Because of the old data, the developer is significantly underestimating the true population of the villages and, therefore, underestimating traffic and costs for services.
Collier Enterprises is not abiding by the RLSA’s goal which states that “incompatible uses” shall be directed away from habitat areas. Instead, the developer proposes to build all 2,000 acres of Longwater and Bellmar Villages directly within primary panther habitat, making zero attempt to avoid any habitat of an endangered species and our precious state animal.
Do not be fooled by those who argue that the endangered Florida panther does not use agricultural lands within primary panther habitat. This claim is simply untrue and it is unsupported by the best available science. The science clearly shows that agricultural lands within primary panther habitat, such as Longwater and Bellmar, provide the Florida panther with core life cycle needs for the purposes of prey support, hunting and stalking, and landscape connections to forested habitats and movement corridors.
Per the RLSA’s rules, villages are required to be “planned and designed to be fiscally neutral or positive to Collier County.” In other words, developers cannot rely on funds from taxpayers to cover costs for infrastructure and services necessary to support the villages. Contrary to this important rule, our experts have demonstrated that Longwater and Bellmar will create a $45.4 million deficit in costs to provide the villages with water and wastewater and a $92.2 million deficit for transportation improvements based on the percentage of improvements the developments’ traffic will consume, after impact fee revenues are paid by the developer.
Our traffic expert, Norm Marshall of Smart Mobility, Inc. made the following statements pertaining to anticipated traffic from the villages:
“Longwater and Bellmar should be denied because they [will] cause significant traffic impacts to deficient Immokalee Road” and
“The cumulative impacts of all three villages would be severe”.
Collier County staff do not deny that there are failing roadways without the projects and that the villages’ traffic will make those same roads worse. Logic follows that more traffic should not be added to failing roads; therefore, Longwater and Bellmar should be denied. Regardless of logic and the RLSA’s rules, staff is still recommending approval.
Collier County staff is failing to require the developer to pay for traffic improvements, such as new and widened roads, that are being planned because of population increases caused by the villages. Because the villages are the cause of the population increases, they are the reason that many of the roads are being widened and expanded. A business-as-usual approach to planning roads does not work for the RLSA. Villages are required to be held to a higher standard and cover all costs associated with the developments.
HOW VILLAGES MUST BE DESIGNED
Because of the RLSA’s vast distance from the County’s existing urban area where most of the infrastructure, road network and services are already provided, the RLSA has stricter rules for development. All RLSA development is required to be innovative, compact, self-sufficient, walkable and adhere to smart growth standards. Instead, Longwater and Bellmar are sprawling, auto-centric developments, and typical of most suburban developments within Southwest Florida. Longwater and Bellmar must be denied as they do not meet the RLSA’s design standards.