MARCO ISLAND — Collier County staff appeared elated about improvements in the economy.
“We’re zooming out of the recession locally,” Collier County Manager Leo Ochs, Jr., told residents attending Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala’s Town Hall meeting on Thursday.
The meeting was held at the Marco Island Historical Museum Rose History Auditorium.
“Taxable values are up for the second year in a row. It’s a good trend,” he continued.
The focus now is on economic development, Ochs said. He let residents know he wants the county to ‘own the upturn.’
Much of the development residential, commercial and the infrastructure to support both will occur in East Naples.
Jamie French, county director of operations and regulatory management, told residents new construction was up 33 percent in unincorporated Collier County.
Mark Strain, the county’s hearing examiner, recited a long list of new developments receiving permits from the county.
For residential units, Hacienda Lakes at the intersection of Collier Boulevard (S.R. 951) and Rattlesnake Hammock Road will add 1,760 residences. The Isles of Collier Preserve and Treviso Bay on East Tamiami Trail will add 1,999 and 1,450 residences respectively.
Winding Cypress just south of Verona Walk on Collier Boulevard is expected to reach 1,255 homes, and Fiddler’s Creek will add another 4,000 units.
In all, Strain confirmed, 12,500 residential units planned in East Naples are shovel ready, He anticipated building would bring 30,000 new residents to the area. In addition to homes, several senior centers are proposed for East Naples.
Commercial development will include a shopping center east of the Walmart on Collier Boulevard, closest to Marco Island. PetSmart, Michaels arts and craft store, and Marshalls family clothing store are proposed for the center.
Other newcomers to East Naples will be Panera Bread Bakery Company, Chili’s Grill & Bar and an Outback Steakhouse.
Town Hall attendees applauded Jay Ahmad, county director of transportation engineering, for his plan to request raising speeds on some parts of Collier Boulevard from 45 to 50 mph. The issue should come before Collier County Commissioners at their next meeting.
But he prompted groans when he acknowledged a new traffic light will be placed at the intersection of Collier Boulevard and Fiddler’s Creek.
Other traffic concerns will be continued work at the corner of U.S. 41 and Collier Boulevard and planned construction of an intersection “fly over,” or elevated roadway, at the intersection in about 10 years.
Now that the connectors at Collier Boulevard and I-75 are complete, plans are to redesign them with cloverleaf highway exchanges, Strain told the audience.
With all the growth, several residents asked if the county was setting aside enough land for preservation.
Fiala responded that 81 percent of the county is already preserved, but residents pressed for more information on areas closer to Marco Island.
Fiala explained that the east side of Hacienda Lakes is being preserved, and the western ends of The Isles of Collier Preserve and Treviso Bay are mandated for preservation.
Marco resident Jay Santiago worried about the effects oil drilling in Golden Gate Estates will have on air and water quality. DEP approved plans to drill an exploratory oil well last year.
After the meeting Santiago said he was afraid of contamination from accidents or that drilling would lead to fracking, the use of sand, water, and chemicals to blast open shale rock and release trapped gases.
“I’m against drilling,” he said. “We spent $88 million to improve the Everglades and now this. I pity the people who must look at it.”
Other changes that will affect the island include removing the full-sized public transport buses from the island and replacing them was smaller versions. The county also plans to build an observation tower at Tigertail Beach.