North Naples Fire ponders sale of lands to raise funds

— In an effort to deal with the budget crunch caused by the county’s plummeting property values, the North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District Fire Commissioner Margret Hanson proposed selling off parcels of unused land the district owns during Thursday’s meeting.

But it’s not that simple.

The lands up for discussion include several parcels originally intended for use as future fire stations. In the past, the district struggled to buy the land they required. As a result, the district has proactively planned and purchased land, ensuring that when a new station needs to be built they have the land to do it.

Yet for one reason or another, several of these parcels have proven unusable over the years and have remained vacant.

One example is a plot the district owns on Center Street between Wiggins Pass and Germain Toyota which was originally purchased with plans to build a station in the area. However, the district would eventually annex the Bonita Shores area into their district, absorbing the station currently there, and negating the need for the planned Center Street station.

Over the years, they’ve evaluated selling the land, even opening up conversations with Germain Motor Company at one point. But, it’s never panned out due to an unplanned tenant on the plot: a bald eagle who’s taken up residence and built a nest. Now the land has very strict environmental regulations, making it unappealing to anyone who might look to develop the space.

Even if the land were marketable, not everyone was in agreement that selling now is a good idea.

“From my perspective, I would say it’s not the best time to sell in this depressed market,” said Commissioner John McGowan, adding, “I suggest we hold off and review this in a year.”

Hanson disagreed.

“The lot is just sitting there. It’s not doing us any good. We need the money now,” she said.

Another area of land the department is hoping to unload sits adjacent to station 43 off Vanderbilt Drive and south of Bonita Beach Road. The piece of land was purchased with the original plot the station sits on when the stations was designed as a drive through style station. However, through the construction process, the station evolved to a back-in style station, and this bit of land was left unused.

And selling this plot too is not without its challenges.

“The selling point that it’s next to the fire station isn’t really a selling point,” Becky Bronsdon, assistant chief of administrative services at North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District, pointed out dryly.

The size of the lot is also problematic. Since the lot is less than an acre, it’s not quite large enough for a house, which means they’re hoping one of the station’s neighbors might step forward with an offer, in hopes of increasing their own lot size.

Commissioners concluded that trying to sell the parcels is so difficult, that it’s not worth either the time or the money required to actively market the land as for sale.

However if a buyer were to come forward, they said they’d most certainly entertain an offer.

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