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The Ave Herald

Serving the community of Ave Maria, Florida


Developers Withdraw Controversial Proposal on Sidewalks, Trails

Representatives of Ave Maria Development have withdrawn, at least for now, a controversial proposal to change the number of sidewalks and trails in the town.

Many residents had objected to the change, which would have permitted developers to build sidewalks on only one side of the street. Representatives of the developer told a hearing of the Collier County Planning Commission Thursday morning that they recognize that the proposal was a major concern for residents, and they were removing it from the changes being sought to the Stewardship Receiving Area (SRA) document that is the master plan for Ave Maria development. Another proposed change to root barriers, a main purpose of which is to protect sidewalks from buckling as trees grow, was also tabled.

The withdrawal of the changes regarding pedestrian areas left four major proposed modifications to the SRA: 1) Shifting acreage designated for commercial development from locations near Camp Keais Rd. and at the Park of Commerce to add 155 acres near Arthrex on Oil Well Rd. for the development of a business park; 2) Adding about 600,000 square feet of light industrial/warehouse space to what is already permitted in town; 3) Changing the plan to allow so-called "zero lot line" development in which houses are much closer together.

In addition, developers were seeking "rescission" of a second document that specifies the nature of development in Ave Maria called a Development of Regional Impact (DRI). Most of the DRI overlaps the SRA and developers said that recent Florida legislation made that document unnecessary. The board agreed, voting to recommend to county commissioners that it be rescinded with the proviso that commitments in it to provide land for a high school, an area for emergency services and the construction of a plaque honoring the Seminole War be honored.

Ten people from Ave Maria addressed the board, most of them from Del Webb who spoke in opposition to expansion of commercial development along Oil Well Rd. near their neighborhood. "An industrial park does not belong in a residential area," said John McCann.

Commissioners did not appear inclined to oppose the greater concentration of commercial development, however, with Chairman Mark Strain noting that locating commercial development on a six-lane road near the entrance made sense and that all proposed uses were already permitted by the SRA. The board did ask developers to return in two weeks with specific plans for a buffer and setbacks between the commercial and residential areas. Mr. Strain said he had spoken to developers about how the Creekside development near Immokalee Rd. and US 41, a Barron Collier property, could be a model for that type of separation.

The commission also sought clarification on the developers' plans for the number of trees that would be planted along roadways. Currently trees have to be spaced an average of every 40 feet and developers proposed changing that to an average of 65 feet, an average that some commissioners, including Mr. Strain, suggested was too high.

Commissioners also want to develop a better understanding of how the addition of 600,000 square feet of light industrial space will impact commitments regarding fiscal impacts.

Several residents who spoke, including Jeff Rogers and Robb Klucik, expressed the hope that the commission would require more time for community input into future proposed changes. Early in the hearing, the developers' planning consultant, Wayne Arnold, said, "Going forward, Barron Collier is committed to having neighborhood informational meetings," and Mr. Strain said that he expected that the final document submitted to the commission would contain a specific pledge for Neighborhood Informational Meetings for which there was a public record, with county staff present, an audio recording made, and minutes kept. A few commissioners noted that because Ave Maria is part of the county's only SRA, it is the only residential area for which Neighborhood Informational Meetings are not legally required.

If the planning commission determines at its next meeting what it will recommend to the Board of County Commissioners, the recommendations will be considered at the county commissioners' Oct. 14 meeting.

 A previoius Ave Herald story with more detail on the proposed changes is here.



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