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Rural Lands West Development Delayed

The primary residential developer for the Rural Lands West development west of Ave Maria, Minto Communities, has pulled out of the project amid delays that have set back the large-scale project for at least two more years.

Rural Lands West had been jointly planned by Minto and Collier Enterprises as a 4,000-acre development with about 10,000 homes as well as significant commercial districts.

Some construction work had been expected to start this year, with the first homes available in 2018, but the developer's website now says it anticipates the first homes coming on the market in 2020.

Minto made the decision to disengage from the project because the time frames for the permitting process, particularly environmental permitting, became too uncertain, according to Minto Vice President William Bullock.

"With the time frame associated with the environmental permitting, it made the most sense that Collier Enterprises move the project forward themselves," Mr. Bullock said in an interview.

As the primary residential developer, Minto had been dealing with county planning authorities on an enormous amount of detail relating to the types of residences and residential layouts.

Mr. Bullock held open the possibility that Minto, which has a number of other large developments in southwest Florida including Twin Eagles, might "re-engage" with the process at a later date. The impact from Minto's decision on the project, beyond the timing, was not immediately clear.

Collier Enterprises also has had a recent change in leadership, replacing long-time President and CEO Tom Flood in February with Donald Huffner.

Work on the Rural Lands West, which was originally known as the Town of Big Cypress, had originally been expected to begin not long after development started on the town of Ave Maria but plans were delayed by the downturn in the real estate market.

Calls from the Ave Herald to Collier Enterprises were not returned. The company is separate from the Barron Collier Companies, which is responsible for Ave Maria, although both companies trace their heritage to Barron Gift Collier, for whom Collier County is named.

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