Lost Land

Ecology Matters by Duke Vasey

Quoted from the Collier County web site: “Section 163.3191 (2)(b), Florida Statutes, requires Evaluation & Appraisal Reports to assess the extent of vacant and developable land within the relevant jurisdiction.” In Collier County, nonresidential development is restricted by the county's future land use designations. But, it's safe, at least under current conditions, to assume that most vacant and developable land will ultimately be developed either as commercial and residential property or be in agricultural use. Approximately 138,100 acres or 10 percent of Collier County is developed land.

Conversely, 334,347 acres or 24 percent of Collier County consists of vacant and developable land and those are the values used in the Collier Inter-Active Growth Model (CIGM) approved by the BCC in January, 2009, as a supplemental planning tool serving a 2010 population of 321,520 residents. The most recent University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research projection is 446,400 residents, an increase of 113,368 for the County at year 2025.

Where is the other two thirds of our “1,354,936” acres? The simple answer is that county planners actually accept federal ownership of a large part of Collier County as a given!

Seems hard to believe in an era where politicians are clamoring for economic development that they would use a planning model that was based on less than a third of its land area. How can we possibly have a productive economy if the county doesn’t control all of its assets? The federal government should not be in the land business. These lands need to be returned to the states.

Would our governor start a state-level movement to reclaim Florida lands? Is it time we insist that federal lands be returned to the state that are rightfully ours?

In a presentation, Collier County Community Planning Manager Michael Bosi said, “...the CIGM can be used to pace the timing and identify advantageous locations for expenditures and acquisitions of land for parks, water and sewer facilities, fire stations and so forth--giving Collier County the opportunity to use their resources for the maximum benefit of its citizens. The CIGM will function as a management tool to assist in the update of the Annual Update and Inventory Report and Capital Improvement Element of the Growth Management Plan.”

Why doesn’t the CIGM identify how and why county planners should tackle the harder problems? As it stands, the county demonstrates little interest in doing anything transformative. What concerns me is our inability to ecologically manage all of Collier County's land area.

As it stands now, no one in the county is very concerned with any of the federal land and quite content to run rough shod over The Estates in a frenzy to urbanize every build-able spot. Why not broaden our horizons and make a land grab? Maybe then we could get a Golden Gate Master Plan that recognizes it as rural area. Clearly tell new comers where to locate the highly congested spaces with single family houses, zero lot lines and large shopping complexes so that after they move in, their first morning call is not to have coffee with their commissioner to ask for a shopping center on the vacant corner lot to save travel time and offer convenient shopping.

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