Approved developments near Golden Gate Estates worry neighbors, environmentalists

New developments in Southwest Florida are receiving approval, but many neighbors in a local community are not happy about it, and environmental groups worry about the wildlife near planned communities.

Rae Ann Burton hasn’t had much time for yard work at her Golden Gate Estates home.

“Need to get out here and need to trim my bushes,” Burton said. “But I’ve been going to the meetings.”

At Collier County Board of County Commissioners meetings, some community members are fighting development of Longwater Village and Bellmar Village, which are both slated to be built in the eastern part of the county in the rural land stewardship area (RLSA).

Tuesday, the county signed off on both developments.

Each development is planned to be 1,000 acres. Along with a previously approved village, they will have just under 8,000 units between them.

“Both villages will provide homes for working families, including affordable housing, along with local goods and services,” Developer Collier Enterprises shared in a statement.

Burton is not convinced.

“We don’t want to be another Miami. We don’t want to be a suburb of them of these villages,” Burton said. “We came here to get away from the pollution away from the noise and away from the traffic.”

April Olson is the senior environment specialist with Conservancy of Southwest Florida. She called the decision a disappointment.

“The proposed villages do not meet the requirements of the law and will cost Collier County taxpayers millions of dollars,” Olson said.

But the Florida Wildlife Federation approves, saying the villages will be built on farmland not frequently used by wildlife such as the Florida panther, and FWF says Collier Enterprises is following the rules of the RLSA program by preserving land.

“Setting aside land, 12,300 acres of land that is environmentally sensitive,” said Meredith Budd, the regional policy director of FWF. “That is critical for our water resources and wildlife habitat and wildlife movement.”

Ground breaking for the villages are expected in 2022. Before the ground breaking, Collier Enterprises will work to get the federal, state and county permits needed to build.

Reporter:Rachel Cox-Rosen
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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