Permitting a sports park near existing neighborhoods is often a challenge. In Collier County, with a great number of wealthy and retired citizens who have the knowledge and wherewithal to mount a significant legal and political challenge to any uses they may consider undesirable, the task could be insurmountable. For the few uses that generate what some people might call unreasonable noise, careful planning on the part of any facility is crucial. Even more important is that the facility management is proactive in their efforts to protect existing facilities from encroaching residential development.
Thankfully, the folks who manage the swamp buggy grounds and Florida Sports Park have the sense to monitor surrounding land uses and become involved should any of the proposed zoning changes on nearby properties include uses that may find the noise of roaring engines disruptive.
Twenty-five years ago, the swamp buggy grounds were located off Radio Road, not too far east of Airport Road. That location started to feel the encroachment of not only industrial and commercial uses, but numerous residential developments as well. It was decided that the swamp buggy races should be moved to a more remote area, which their zoning request at the time described as “…within a reasonable distance of residential development without conflicting with those residential uses.”
So much has changed in 25 years.
One of the ironies that accompany the growth of cities and suburbs is the attitude of the folks who move into an area and then believe that once they are there, the area must adapt to their idea of how things should be. Airports are constantly caught in this trap. Initially, they may be located as far away as practical from existing development, yet in a very short time, because airports are a great attractor for business, employees and eventually, homes, residents begin to complain about airport noise. Political pressures ensue and sure enough, the airports are forced to mitigate their originally allowed land use, usually at a huge expense.
The very same interference can happen to any use that was once distant from development, but now finds itself with neighbors that were never contemplated. Twenty-five years ago, the area off of Collier Boulevard or CR 951, where the swamp buggy grounds are currently located, was very rural. Today, not only are there many residential communities in the area and more planned, there is even a new hospital less than a half-mile south.
Last week, a zoning request was proposed on land adjacent to the Sports Park and swamp buggy grounds. The uses in this request originally included residences with a variety of commercial uses, but later was modified to include retirement facilities and commercial uses. The management folks at the Sports Park were forward-thinking enough to realize that the future residents or users of this newly-zoned area may object to the noise from the park. They requested some noise abatement assistance be built into the zoning request in case the retirement uses were used and actually built.
That kind of foresight will go a long way to minimize problems with future neighbors. The developer of the rezoning request agreed to provide notification to all future buyers of the activities at the Sports Park, as well as recording a legal notification concerning the Sports Park that will be picked up by anyone in a land title search. In addition, any form of residential use will be built to the same sound standards that are required around our airports.
The Sports Park will incur no cost for this to be done, the developer of the adjoining property will have a product reasonably protected from future complaints, and future owners will be notified of any activities on adjoining land that they need to consider before they purchase.
In a growth-sensitive area such as ours, this kind of coverage for the future may not entirely stop complaints, but it may go a long ways to minimize them.