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Approval Granted for Developer to Construct Apartments in Golden Gate Estates

After a marathon hearing, Collier County commissioners approved a controversial luxury apartment community proposed for Golden Gate Estates. The decisive vote got here after nearly seven hours of presentations, testimony, and discussions on Tuesday.

CIG Communities plans to construct a 208-unit apartment complex with 34% of the rentals put aside as reasonably priced, or attainable housing for essential employees, similar to nurses, teachers, law enforcement officials, and firefighters – and for veterans. It’s considered one of the very best percentages of below-market rate rentals a developer has offered for a mixed-income community within the county.

The project, generally known as Ascend Naples, will include 71 units of much-needed workforce housing. Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the event. Only Burt Saunders, who represents and lives in Golden Gate Estates, sided with the vocal opposition, seeing the apartments as incompatible with the encompassing neighborhood. “I just don’t think it’s in the suitable location,” he said.

The 2-story project shall be built on roughly 17.5 acres a few half-mile east of where Vanderbilt Beach Road intersects with Logan Boulevard. There shall be 14 to 16 buildings in all, at a maximum height of 45 feet, to the highest of the roof.

The developer, who already owns the land, needed each a growth plan amendment and a rezoning to construct the apartments, which otherwise aren’t allowed in Golden Gate Estates. The companion petitions required a supermajority vote of 4 out of 5 commissioners for approval.

While he liked the big-home design of the apartment community and the undeniable fact that it included workforce housing, Saunders felt the more restrictive estates zoning should only be altered if the circumstances were “perfect,” and he didn’t see it that way.

Opponents staged an early-morning protest against the event, then argued passionately against it for hours throughout the hearing. Greater than 1,800 signed a petition on change.org against it. Many of the challengers got here from the vast country club community of Island Walk, and a number of dozen neighbors on Cherry Wood Drive in Logan Woods, where seclusion, privacy, tranquility, and nature are a cherished lifestyle. In a text, Amy Kurtz, who lives on Cherry Wood Drive, described the hearing on Ascend as a “disgusting and humiliating experience” for the residents who opposed the event and presented facts that showed it could be out-of-character and harmful for the Estates. “People of Collier need latest decision-makers who support the need of the people,” she lamented.

Earlier: Neighbors plan protest of luxury apartments in Golden Gate Estates ahead of ultimate vote
And: Proposed apartment complex in Golden Gate Estates stirs neighborhood concerns

Developer argued it’s within the ‘right location’
While opponents argued the apartments didn’t belong of their more rural neighborhood, the developer’s team of execs asserted just the alternative, on account of the location’s proximity to the urban area, with more intense residential and industrial development nearby, including a cemetery.

“That is the suitable community, in the suitable location, despite the hecklers which might be within the audience,” said Wealthy Yovanovich, the developer’s local land use attorney. He identified the placement was within the “urban” a part of the estates, west of Collier Boulevard, and that the community’s access could be off Vanderbilt Beach Road, a six-lane road, not an area neighborhood street. In answer to critics, Yovanovich said the developer was not a “carpet bagger,” who has come to Collier County to “make a buck.” While CIG relies in Ohio, two of its principals own homes here.

Although the event faced strong, organized opposition from neighbors, it drew support from local housing advocates, business leaders, employers, young professionals, and others, who argued that the rent-restricted apartments were desperately needed and that the county should do whatever it could to handle the reasonably priced housing crisis, which is simply getting worse by the day. Even some Golden Gate Estates residents supported the project, seeing it as helpful and as progress in a growing county. Among the many supporters was the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce.

In an announcement after the vote, Donna Jannine, the chamber’s director of presidency relations, said her organization’s leadership is thrilled the project has been approved. “By collaborating with local government, businesses, and the community, we are able to make sure that those that make Naples a greater place to live have access to reasonably priced, protected, and cozy housing,” she said. “It’s our goal to advertise a vibrant and sustainable community that honors the sacrifices of those that dedicate their lives to our well-being.”

Essential employees often spend greater than 30% of their “hard-earned annual salaries” on housing, she said, in the event that they live in Collier County, jeopardizing their financial well-being and diminishing their quality of life.

The county commissioners voting for the event said they didn’t achieve this simply because it had reasonably priced housing, even though it factored into their decision.

Commissioner Bill McDaniel motioned to approve the event. He stressed that rejecting the apartments could be worse due to what could go of their place by right without community input or county approval, including a charter school, which might have a much greater impact on traffic and noise – two of the most important concerns raised by neighbors. “I’m voting on the known. Not the unknown,” McDaniel said. He emphasized that the land could be developed regardless of what, and it couldn’t be stopped. “Something is coming,” McDaniel said.

Commissioners saw likely alternative as worse
The estates zoning allowed essential services, similar to a college, library, childcare center, or museum, to be built on the property. When asked what CIG would do if commissions didn’t approve the apartments, Yovanovich acknowledged a charter school could be the more than likely alternative, noting the developer had already been approached by one fascinated by going there.

The Golden Gate Area Master Plan, a part of the county’s growth management plan, doesn’t allow apartments, so the developer needed to carve the property out of the plan and to create a brand new subdistrict to make the multifamily development possible.

Commissioner Chris Hall seconded McDaniel’s motion in favor of the event, agreeing that the neighborhood could get something much worse if the board didn’t approve the apartments. “If a great project doesn’t fit here, a worse project could,” he remarked. Hall suggested that opponents had exaggerated the potential impacts of the rental community, and he challenged their contention that the board’s approval would set a precedent and switch the estates into one other Miami. “This project isn’t a tower. It is not an eyesore,” he said.

CIG worked to handle neighborhood concerns through architectural design, increased setbacks, enhanced buffering and preserves, and the inclusion of a security wall and gate – and by allowing access only off Vanderbilt Beach Road. In the course of the hearing, Yovanovich said the developer had adjoining land under contract, which it could purchase and use to enhance stormwater management at the location if the county approved the apartments. The developer also agreed to place a fireplace hydrant on Cherry Wood Drive, as a last-minute concession, in hopes of easing opposition.

With the added landscaping, setbacks, and partitions across the rental community, Hall said he thought neighbors would still have the opportunity to enjoy their rural lifestyle, noting that he has far less buffering around his home within the urban area and might’t see his neighbors, while still catching sight of wildlife, from birds to bobcats, in his community, off U.S. 41.

Decision to support development didn’t come ‘evenly’
Hall stressed the necessity for more cost-effective housing within the county, evidenced by the long waiting lists for it at other communities similar to Allura in North Naples, where there are 150 people on standby.

He shared his decision of support didn’t come easy. “It is a hard thing to alter the expansion management plan,” he said. “I do not think that we’re going to hurt the Estates. It is not going to be favorable, but I do not think we’re going to hurt it.”

Chairman Rick LoCastro agreed something worse could come from rejecting the project, and he didn’t wish to take the chance. Also, he said he desired to be consistent in his support for workforce housing, and for a great project that may allow more people to live within the county and “enjoy a chunk of paradise,” even when the event is not perfect. “It’s a novel place,” he said of Golden Gate Estates. “So, I do not take anything evenly.”

Commissioner Dan Kowal pointed to the traffic he’s all too acquainted with on Radio Road in his district, generated by the Gulf Coast Charter Academy South, within the morning and afternoons, because there aren’t any buses to move its students. So, together with his support for the apartments, he said to the opponents: “I’m looking for you in a way. I’m.”

Unlike in lots of cases, he stressed that the sale of the property targeted for the apartments wasn’t contingent on the rezoning, and it had already modified hands, paving the best way for some form of development, prefer it or not. In his eyes, he said, the placement is probably the most reasonable place to place a mixed-income project because Golden Gate Estates is the one area that does not have one and everybody must pay their “justifiable share.” He emphasized the importance of hiring and keeping good employees in Collier County, including sheriff’s deputies, which is difficult when they can not afford it.

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