The item was on the Collier County Planning Commission’s consent agenda. Usually, that means it is a done deal, to be approved in a vote along with other non-controversial measures, often with no discussion at all.
In the case of the Golden Gate Estates shopping center, there was a lot of discussion. The 40-acre commercial center proposed for the northwest corner of Wilson and Golden Gate boulevards got one more going-over by the Planning Commission before being sent on to the Collier County Commission for final approval.
The commissioners and county staff added stipulations about the location of dumpsters, the difference between gas stations and service stations, and hours of operation and live music.
“We felt it was important to have those hours in the comprehensive plan. It gives residents assurance the hours won’t change” once the center is approved and operating, said county planner Michelle Mosca.
Representing developer Crown Management, attorney Richard Yovanovich said they understand the importance of being neighborly.
“If we’re not behaving, as a shopping center, we won’t be successful,” he said. There was a question as to whether stipulating the hours needed to go into the comprehensive plan amendment as well as the PUD, or planned unit development, submittal.
“We’ve got the same public review process for both. Why put an applicant through two processes?” asked Planning Commission Chairman Mark Strain.
Hours of operation, said Yovanovich, have always been part of the PUD, not the comprehensive plan.
“I’m not trying to create hurdles. I’m trying to protect the neighborhood,” said Mosca.
“I agree with Michelle,” said Commissioner Diane Ebert. “When you close it off at midnight, that’s time to quit.”
A key stipulation of the project, said Yovanovich after the meeting, is the requirement on the developers to anchor the shopping center with a grocery store or supermarket.
“The grocery store that is a minimum of 27,000 square feet in size must be the first use to receive a certificate of occupancy. If we don’t get a grocery store, we have no project.” As of August 10, that anchor tenant had not been nailed down, he said.
The Estates shopping center will include a mix of retail, office and service space. Originally proposed to contain 190,000 square feet of total commercial space, the proposal in the PUD was whittled down to 170,000, said county planner Kay Deselem. Since the comprehensive plan still reflects the original 190,000 square feet, the developers could request in the future to put the additional 20,000 square feet back, but would have to go through another review process.
Yovanovich said the community has spoken and there is strong support in Golden Gate Estates for the shopping center.
“We went out and constructed a straw ballot in the November election, and 76 percent of the voters supported the center,” he said.
After the discussion, the Planning Commission voted 9-0 to approve the project, and sent it on to the Collier commissioners for their review. The planned center goes to the County Commission on Sept. 13.