Conservancy wants developer to hit pause on plan for 100K homes in eastern Collier County

Published: September 15, 2020 7:00 PM EDT
Updated: September 16, 2020 5:36 AM EDT

Plans to build 100,000 homes in part of eastern Collier County are being met with opposition.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is fighting to protect the area’s wetlands and wildlife habitat and want a say in new rules to manage the growth in this section of the county.

“Some of what’s happening in Collier County is happening very quickly,” said Jeff Jirschele, a resident of eastern Collier.

Thousands of homes are planned on 300 square miles of mainly undeveloped land in part of the 185,000 acres known as the Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RLSA).

“The conservancy is very concerned that the RLSA is not protective, especially when you’re looking at the endangered Florida panther,” Jirschele said.

“New science has come out since 2002, and there are unintended consequences of the program that were simply not known when it was adopted two decades ago,” said Nicole Johnson, the director of environmental policy for the conservancy.

There’s talk of pausing construction, an idea Commissioner Bill McDaniel doesn’t like. The project falls within his district.

“It needs to be an ongoing process,” McDaniel said.

The conservancy feels it might help taxpayers in the future. “We do believe it could be a good way for Collier County to really take a look at how development is being proposed,” Johnson said.

The Conversancy of Southwest Florida said that if the RSLA downsizes plans for its development footprint, it will reduce costs for new roads, maintenance, utilities and emergency services. A public hearing to discuss changes for this area of eastern Collier County’s growth is set for Thursday at 9 a.m.

“Progress is progress,” Jirschele said. “It could be done in a good way, it could be done in poor way. I’m in favor of thinking through it.”