One of Southwest Florida’s heavyweight developers is seeking an extension on its plans to build a massive residential and golf course community at the eastern end of Bonita Beach Road.
The Ronto Group filed for the extension with the city of Bonita Springs for two projects well east of Interstate 75 that are permitted for nearly 2,000 housing units as well as a golf course and retirement community.
The Bonita City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to continue the public hearing over the extension to a second meeting. No one from the public expressed concerns over the extension, and no council members addressed the project during the meeting.
“Everything’s there (ready to finish development),” Ronto Group Executive Vice President Anthony Solomon said after the meeting. “There just aren’t any new homes there now.”
Ronto, along with SHR Bonita, which owns a small portion of the land slated for the retirement community, is seeking to extend its build-out date from 2025 to 2035. The companies expect to build hundreds of homes within the next year.
“We don’t ever see it running out to 2035,” Solomon said. “But in an abundance of caution, we’re going that far out because we don’t want to have to keep coming back to City Council.”
Attorney John Farquhar of Naples is representing Ronto and SHR Bonita. He said the extension is simply an adjustment to a housing market that went from boom to bust just a few years ago.
“Obviously, it’s taken longer to develop than we initially thought,” Farquhar said. “We’ve done a lot of work already. We expanded Bonita Beach Road from two lanes to four and extended it east.”
Farquhar said the developers have already invested more than $15 million on those road projects in a move that Solomon suggested was evidence of Ronto’s plans to complete the golf course project.
“We’ve done our part,” Solomon said. “We just need more time.”
City officials didn’t express any concerns about the extension.
After the meeting, Mayor Ben Nelson said the extension request could be a sign that the housing market is recovering in Bonita.
“It’s a good sign that someone is moving forward with a development,” Nelson said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I think people see value in the community in Bonita. And I think there’s a real appreciation for economic development.
“People realize now that their paychecks and pocket books are tied to their community.”
The next Bonita City Council meeting is July 20 at 9 a.m. at City Hall on Bonita Beach Road.