LIVE BLOG: Collier County Commission meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009

— Before adjourning, commissioners discussed the breadth of information that will be disclosed at their Jan. 19 growth management plan transmittal hearing, and how to best accommodate residents who need to understand how their community is changing.

Holding his hands three feet apart, Community Development and Environmental Services Administrator Joe Schmitt said, "You're going to get a packet this big."

The materials will fill at least three books, Schmitt said.

Of the changes, six of the proposed 10 amendments are in Golden Gate Estates, five of those east of Collier Boulevard, Schmitt said.

Two of those amendments are for shopping centers in Golden Gate Estates: a 40-acre shopping center at Wilson and Golden Gate boulevards, and a 56.5-acre center inching back from the south side of Randall Boulevard and fanning out from Immokalee Road to Eighth Street NE.

"It's going to be an all-day event," Schmitt said. Commissioners will be amending the county's future land use map and plan.

There will not be a recycling center adjacent to Calusa Park Elementary School. On a 4 to 1 vote, commissioners defeated the project, eliciting great applause from parents and other community residents.

Bowing to community sentiment, commissioners look like they're about to send the proposed recycling center packing. Commissioner Jim Coletta said Solid Waste Management Director Dan Rodriguez did a good job of presenting the plan, but when there are this many people opposed to the project, he has to concede.

Residents of the Countryside subdivision oppose the recycling center. It will affect property values, and degrade the county's tax base. Build a park instead, said resident Wayne Sherman.

There are 15 speakers signed up to speak on the relocation of the Naples recycling center to a site near the Calusa Park Elementary School….The county would have to rezone about 5 acres of residential land. Some parents have objected to the project.

On a 3 to 2 vote, commissioners agreed to renegotiate its lease with the zoo. Halas and Coletta cast the dissenting votes.

The dialogue between county commissioners and zoo official David Tetzlaff got a little testy Tuesday afternoon.

"There has to be a benefit here for the citizens. We're trying to figure how much we're going to balance (our) budget for June," Halas said.

Commissioner Fred Coyle and Commission Chairwoman Donna Fiala said there is the issue of fairness.

Coyle said the county is not looking at the zoo as a cash cow. Fiala said the county shouldn't single out one non-profit with a $250,000 lease.

Tetzlaff said this, "We feel like we're being punihed for our success. We're not a family business...I'm not going to buy a yacht and house in Key West. We're the only zoo that has a free Saturday. Yes, we normally charge $19.95 but we give a discount to residents of Collier County."

Commissioner Frank Halas believes the City of Naples doesn't contribute enough to the zoo. Commissioner Jim Coletta wanted to hear about the zoo's profit and loss statements.

"The zoo is generating capital as it goes forward," Coletta said.

Naples Councilman John Sorey told Coletta that there is an operating surplus. It would be used to put the zoo on the city's sewer system. At the end of the year, the zoo will have approximately $100,000 in excess dollars, Sorey said.

3:05 p.m.

Commissioners are about to discuss the lease on Naples Zoo….

2:22 p.m.

The cost of one visitor guide for Collier County is under debate. Greater Naples of Commerce and TDC officials are willing to work together to put together a comprehensive guide.

Commissioner Frank Halas said he doesn't believe local taxpayers should bear the cost.

Some commissioners are concerned about a proposed additional position at the chamber that would cost the county $44,000.

The magazine should include, and get contributions, from all of the area chambers, said Chairwoman Donna Fiala. The amount is very small, argued Murray Hendel, who advocated for the new shared expenditure. More information will be brought back to commissioners.

2:05 p.m.

Digging for dollars. Collier's tourism, code enforcement and tax collection officials are going to work together to make sure all rental properties are paying the tourist development tax. Jack Wert said he's had discussions about this with Tax Collector Larry Ray. Sales tax will also be looked at more carefully...

12:55 p.m.

Before heading off to lunch, commissioners reallocated $1.5 million for promotion of tourism: some of the dollars will come from carry-forward balances, some of it borrowed from the county's beach renourishment pot of money. Twice, commissioners got rounds of applause from members of the business community.

Speaking for the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce as well as the Downtown Naples Association, Michelle Klinowski told commissioners that it is not just tourism that turns on TDC efforts. A downturn drains restaurants, she said. And if one considers the trickle-down effect, the printers that provide collateral materials to those restaurants are also slammed. And then there's the real estate market, she said .

There have been more than 10,000 foreclosures in the past year, she said. As many before her stated, most residents were first tourists.

Wert asked commissioners to divert $500,000 a year for the next two years from reserves so that the TDC can spend $1 million more on tourism promotion. Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce chief Mike Reagen threw his support behind Wert. Reallocation of the money is not a tourism issue; it's an economic issue, Reagen said.

"The economy is hemorrhaging," Reagen said.

Commissioners voted unanimously to continue giving TDC money to museums. Commissioners still have several other TDC-related issues to address in the next hour or so.

11:15 a.m.

If commissioners need to understand the importance of contributing to Collier County's museums, they should come out to the Old Florida Festival on Nov. 6, said Homer Helter, who helps coordinate historic re-enactments.

11 a.m.

Lodge McKee, president, Southwest Heritage, Inc., asked the county to continue funding county museums. His non-profit group was created to save and preserve Naples Depot in the 1970s. The group about to open a new museum.

"We're contributing land and the building at $1 a year so that county won't have to spend any money," McKee said. "It will be the front door for the county's museum's system."

10:48 a.m.

Looking at the Collier County tourist development tax to find more marketing dollars, Tourist Development Council subcommittee chairman Murray Hendel said the county needs to raise $1 million more pretty fast.

"The bottom line: We need to spend more money on advertising," Hendel said.

Collier County has traditionally advertised to draw visitors in the off-season. Under this plan, the county would market year-round, a plan Hendel called revolutionary.

Collier County's tourist development tax is 4 percent. Most other counties charge 5 percent, said TDC Director Jack Wert. Commissioners are preparing to hear 33 speakers...

10:26 a.m.

East Naples residents Dale Johnson, Suzanne Chapin, Thomas Frank DePouw, Renato Fernandez and Paige Simpson were unanimously appointed to serve on the new Radio Road East of Santa Barbara Boulevard to Davis Boulevard Advisory Committee.

The group will administer a new tax to enhance county landscaping efforts, representing some 3,212 owners in 11 Radio Road area property associations. The first organizational meeting will be held on April 6. Associations to be taxed a minimum of 25 cents per $1,000 worth of property are Sapphire Lakes, the Shores, Furse Lakes Club, Granada Lakes Villas, Ibis Club, Madison Park, Blue Heron, Sherwood Park, Berkshire Lakes-Berkshire Pine, Sabal Lakes and Plantation.

County officials estimate that district’s tax base is $546.2 million. At 25 cents per $1,000 worth of property, that would raise about $137,698 for the county in 2010.

9:58 a.m.

During public petitions, resident Maggie McGall asked the Collier County Commission to create a dog beach. Commissioner Tom Henning said he's a dog lover, but creation of such a beach would require more enforcement than the county could afford.

9 a.m.

Today’s meeting of the Collier County Commission starts at 9 a.m. Some lively debates are expected at today’s Collier County Commission meeting.

Commissioner Frank Halas expects discussion over a number of other issues, all of which involve money.

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