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Planning Commission Appproves Changes to Ave Maria Land Use

The Collier County Planning Commission unanimously approved a package of land-use changes in Ave Maria after developers agreed to modify their original proposal to address residents' issues with sidewalks and trails, buffering of a large commercial area and controlling traffic on Anthem Parkway that cuts through the Del Webb neighborhood.

The planning commission resumed its discussion Thursday of Ave Maria Development's proposed changes to the main document that governs development in the town, called the Stewardship Receiving Area (SRA), after directing developers to modify some provisions of a proposal first heard two weeks previously.

The proposed changes now will be considered by the Board of County Commissioners, who are scheduled to hear them at their Oct. 14 meeting.

A number of residents expressed reservations at both meetings that approving the proposals by Ave Maria Development risked changing the character of the town of Ave Maria. "I love Ave Maria," resident Robb Klucik told the commission, "But I'm concerned that I won't like it so much and I think that's what most people feel."

The most controversial proposal – to require sidewalks on only one side of the street and reduce the size and number of other pedestrian trails – was withdrawn by developers at the last meeting and this was reaffirmed Thursday morning. "Those changes are dead until they bring them back," commission Chairman Mark Strain said.

The change that drew the most attention at Thursday's meeting was the consolidation of much of the planned commercial acreage in Ave Maria to create 155-acre commercial development, including 600,000 square feet of light industrial/warehouse space, near the entrance to Ave Maria on Oil Well Rd.

Developers agreed to create a 60-foot buffer, with an eight-foot berm topped by additional plantings, to separate the commercial and residential areas. They also agreed to a commission stipulation that the 600,000 square feet of light industrial space, of which 260,000 are already in uses, would be set as a cap for the entire town and the height of any parking lot lighting would be limited to 25 feet.

Mr. Strain called the agreement for a berm a "huge benefit to the community" that was key to his approving the commercial development changes.

The commission also stipulated other conditions in approving the proposal:

- Anthem Parkway, which goes through the Dell Webb neighborhood, would be prohibited from becoming a thoroughfare connecting to Oil Well Rd. unless permitted by the residential developer, Pulte Homes;

- Tree spacing, which developers had proposed be increased to a maximum of 65 feet from the current requirement of 40-foot spacing, would be kept to 40 feet with some specific exceptions.

Separately, Mr. Strain directed the county planning staff to seek changes to the county Land Development Code that would require Neighborhood Information Meetings in the event of any future proposals by developers for substantial changes. Such meetings are required elsewhere in the county but are not required in an SRA unless there is such a change in the Land Development Code. "A meeting would have been to the benefit of the residents and the developers," Mr. Strain said, adding that many of the matters that had to be worked out at commission hearings could have been addressed earlier.

The chairman also expressed dissatisfaction with the Financial Impact Analysis (FIAM) provided by developers. The submission of the FIAM was required, although Mr. Strain said that it did not have a direct bearing on the matters before the commission Thursday. Nonetheless, he said, he did not want county commissioners to think that approval of the proposals implied any endorsement of the FIAM.

Calling the data submitted contradictory and inaccurate, Mr. Strain said, "The document is indefensible. I challenge anyone to read and understand it."

 

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