NAPLES — U.S. 41 is staying put.
That’s the message Naples City Council, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, sent Wednesday during a discussion about possibly redesignating U.S. 41 as a local road to gain more local control of the road.
“We are not trying to move U.S. 41,” said City Councilman Sam Saad. “We’re talking about control over the road between the city and the state.”
City Council in May directed staff to begin talks with the Florida Department of Transportation to explore rerouting a 2.3-mile segment of U.S. 41, turning east at Golden Gate Parkway, then south at Goodlette-Frank Road until it connected with present-day U.S. 41 East.
The proposal would have created a different road designation for what now is U.S. 41 between Coastland Center mall and Fifth Avenue South, with a goal of removing congestion in the area of Four Corners, where U.S. 41 makes a sharp turn in downtown Naples.
City Council in May also directed staff to work with FDOT to establish a “concurrency policy that provides for more city involvement with design decisions, no redesignation and continued FDOT ownership,” Assistant City Manager Roger Reinke said in an Oct. 25 memo to council members.
City Council on Wednesday signaled that was the appropriate move to try to gain local control.
Reinke said the city may have more luck gaining control through the transportation department’s design for livable communities procedures. Those procedures allow local governments to work with FDOT to come up with appropriate designs for roadways in areas compatible with a mixed use community, like downtown Naples.
Reinke said city officials could use the livable communities procedures to enhance safety and make the area more pedestrian friendly.
City Council members said they still want to gain control of the roadway to make it more compatible with the needs of the community.
“The zoning we have there, the land use we’re talking about in that district, is mixed-use residential,” said Councilwoman Dee Sulick. “You can’t expect a developer to come in and put in residential if they can’t safely cross the street.”
Sulick, who serves as the agency’s chairwoman, said the city needs to work with agencies to see how to “get an area of more than 100 acres” to work better.
While council members said they were ready to move away from the redesignation issue, they did express concern that community members weren’t looped in on discussions.
“From a (public relations) perspective, this hasn’t gone very well,” said Councilman Gary Price. “My way of doing things is let’s put everyone in the room and see what we like and what we don’t.”
Price said any discussions in the future “has to at least incorporate ... other voices.”
Naples officials will meet with FDOT officials on Nov. 28 to discuss the city’s options.