10,000-home town planned east of Estates

photo: "Everglades National Park Florida Panther" by National Park Service Photo by Rodney Cammauf - U.S. National Park Service, Everglades National Park. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Everglades_National_Park_Florida_Panther.jpg#/media/File:Everglades_National_Park_Florida_Panther.jpgnaplesnews.com by Laura Leyden | January 16, 2016

The Rural Lands West community would be in central Collier County just east of Golden Gate Estates at Oil Well Road. Minto Communities has taken the first big step in its plans to build a massive new community in central Collier County. The Canadian based builder Friday submitted a plan for a master-planned community to Collier County’s Growth Management Department. Minto plans to build on about 4,000 acres of agricultural land, while preserving 12,000 acres of undeveloped land for wildlife habitat and water flow.

Formerly known as the Town of Big Cypress, the Rural Lands West community would be just east of Golden Gate Estates at Oil Well Road. It would be permitted locally under Collier County’s Rural Lands Stewardship program but also would require reviews and approvals from state and federal agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers. It would be a joint project between Minto and Naples-based developer Collier Enterprises. “We have spent the better part of a year planning and working with consultants between Minto and Collier Enterprises to get the submittal in,” said Bill Bullock, a senior vice president for Minto.

The developers want approval to build up to 10,000 homes on land now owned by affiliates of Collier Enterprises. Plans include a variety of housing options, churches, parks, golf and a town center with offices, retail, entertainment and dining. Initial plans for the community, which would include at least one 18-hole golf course, were publicly disclosed in June.

“It’s no surprise to the market that it’s coming,” Bullock said. “But what’s important is that it really begins a formal process with the county and the surrounding neighborhood adjacent or around Rural Lands West to solicit their input and work with them to integrate any comments.”

The Rural Lands Stewardship program encourages the protection of natural resources, retention of agricultural uses, and diversification of the rural economy through an incentive based credit system for developers. The permit application, submitted to Collier County, establishes the design standards for the new community and demonstrates the project’s compliance with the stewardship program’s requirements, Bullock said.

“Residents of Rural Lands West will have everything they need located within the community,” Bullock said. Nearby residents also would benefit from the project’s commercial development, which would bring services, including restaurants and entertainment, closer to them, Bullock said. The mixed-use community would include about 2 million square feet of commercial development.

The project also would provide significant economic benefits to the county, including revenue from impact fees, a bigger tax base, and the creation of jobs and businesses, Bullock said. The preservation of more than 12,000 acres would help restore water flows in Camp Keais Strand, as well as protect habitat for panthers and other wildlife, all at no cost to taxpayers, he said. In compliance with Collier County rules, the developers would provide $5 million to support additional panther protection efforts in Southwest Florida. Nancy Payton, a field representative for the Florida Wildlife Federation in Southwest Florida, said she still was looking at the proposal and has a meeting next week with Collier Enterprises about the plan. “Do like the 12,000 preserve acres and $5 million for panther protection, including underpasses,” she said in an email.

The entire review and approval process is expected to take 12 to 18 months. The first homes would be completed in 2018, according to the plan. The first 4,000 homes would be built south of Oil Well Road and offered at prices yet to be determined, Bullock said.

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