Eastern Collier County could see major development boom

Leaders in Collier County are looking into developing more towns like Ave Maria, in the eastern part of the county. A move that could bring thousands of families to the area.

But concerns are rising about pushing out panthers and other wildlife. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida says a plan to replace a lot of land like this with pavement is a bad idea.

The plan to develop the area called Rural Lands West in eastern Collier County – just east of Golden Gate Estates at Oil Well Road – has been nearly 20 years in the making.

But originally, the plan was to develop only 10 percent of it. Now, the Conservancy says it’s closer to 50 percent.

To put it into perspective, the plan started from developing an area a little over three times the size of Ave Maria, but now it’s looking like 11.

The Conservancy said that’s a problem for our wildlife and our wetlands.

Nicole Johnson from The Conservancy of Southwest Florida said, “Eastern collier county is really the epicenter of the growth explosion.”

The question is, for better or for worse?

Johnson added that, “The idea that these agricultural lands are simply placeholders for future development is a concept we really need to get away from.”

But the land developer, Collier Enterprises, says it’s part of their mission to protect the environment.

Their website says for every acre they develop they preserve three. They’re also working with habitat organizations to protect panthers.

Louis perez says this development is needed. Even if he has to pay taxes to pay for the roads that come with building, “I lived in collier during the recession when 75 percent of my blocks home were empty so to see it come to life and come back I really enjoy it.”

Collier County is in the review phase of this project. They’re holding several public workshops where you can go voice your opinion and suggestions. The next workshop is August 23.

Reporter:Hannah Vogel