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Naples moves forward with contentious stormwater project after Ian

Naples will push ahead with a controversial stormwater project at a preferred beach end. Despite a lawsuit and objections from just a few dozen neighbors, City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to proceed with plans for a pump station at the tip of Third Avenue North, with changes to the design and timeline for construction. The revisions further reduce the project’s visual impact on the neighborhood and the town. Councilman Ray Christman made the motion to maneuver forward with the most recent design, with a fast second from Terry Hutchison. The vote followed a brief presentation by staff and a transient discussion by Council.

Despite tweaks, the controversial stormwater project at Naples beach end continues to be opposed by neighbors. More:Naples council approves revised plan for controversial stormwater improvements, despite opposition. Councilman Ted Blakenship stressed the necessity for the project, saying it’s in an area that sees street flooding “with just normal rains.” Mayor Teresa Heitmann emphasized the necessity to improve water quality.

The pump station planned at Third Avenue North is a component of a brand new $35 million management system that may eliminate many of the stormwater outfalls, or large pipes, lining Naples beaches. The system is designed to scale back street flooding, water pollution, and beach erosion. An analogous pump station is planned to the north. Treated stormwater will likely be pumped through underground piping into the Gulf of Mexico, miles from the shoreline. Drilling for the brand new pipes is about to start at the tip of November. Town continues to be understanding the timeline for the development of the pumps, however the one on Third Avenue North, considered probably the most critical, would start first.

Since May, the pump station at the favored beach end has seen many changes as city staffers and consultants have worked to deal with neighborhood concerns about its impact on beach views and property values. The most recent changes include relocating a control panel and platform to the south side of the road and reducing the footprint of the pump station in the middle of the road. “It is sort of a median strip,” said Bob Middleton, the town’s interim director of streets and stormwater, told City Council. Construction has been delayed a bit by Ian, with the barge for the early stages of the project in use for hurricane recovery in Lee County until the primary week of December. Under the revised schedule, the underground piping could be installed before Christmas, with the dug-up sand restored by January.

Despite more tweaks, the project still faces strong opposition, especially from its closest neighbors. Within the aftermath of Ian, several residents asked City Council to think about hitting the pause button. They argued that the town should postpone construction in order that they can deal with cleansing up and rebuilding their homes and lives, as a substitute of worrying in regards to the disruptions that such a big capital project will cause to their neighborhood, including street closures. “We just think more time is crucial here,” said Naples attorney Matthew McConnell, who represents 18 property owners on and around Third Avenue North. He proposed that Council put a six-month moratorium on any construction related to the brand new stormwater system, moving the beginning date to April, so his clients can “get back to normal as much as possible.” A couple of residents suggested the town should rethink the project entirely based on what it has seen and learned from Ian, to make sure it’s the appropriate approach to go and to assist reduce major flooding and damages from future hurricanes.

Town’s share of damages from Ian is estimated at $989 million, mostly on account of an unexpected, unprecedented storm surge that pushed tons of water and sand ashore. Phillip Hutchinson, a West Palm Beach attorney, told Council that his client to the south of the project still has objections and has filed a lawsuit “searching for an injunction to stop this from going forward.” He said the property owner only discovered in regards to the latest changes by monitoring public records and the Council agenda posted online. “Nobody has reached out to my client. No call. Nothing,” Hutchinson said.

The removal of the unsightly stormwater outfalls has been years within the making. The planning for it began in 2011 after the state Department of Environmental Protection notified the town that if it didn’t take any motion, the agency would now not approve permits for beach renourishment or restoration in Naples. At previous Council meetings, City Manager Jay Boodheshwar has emphasized the necessity to get to the “finish line” with a sophisticated but essential project crucial to stop the flow of untreated, polluted stormwater to the Gulf that contributes to toxic red tide and algae blooms. The blooms don’t just affect residents; they also can drive away tourists, hurting the local economy, as seen in years past.

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