Collier commissioners delay decision on offers for 47-acre Golden Gate Estates property. Hoey Team eXp Realty

Dated: 05/09/2019

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Seeking more input from residents, the Collier County Commission on Tuesday delayed a decision on what to do with a parcel of county land in Golden Gate Estates.

After the county put the undeveloped 47 acres along Immokalee Road, across from the Publix on Randall Boulevard, up for sale in February, county officials received at least four offers from various organizations, with an animal sanctuary, investors and developers vying to buy the land.

County staff on Tuesday recommended commissioners accept the offer of the highest bidder, Metro Commercial Development Group LLC. The company proposes to create "a quality, vibrant mixed-use development to serve the needs of the rapidly growing eastern Collier County population," according to a March letter sent to the county.

However, commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-1 to further weigh the offers at their second meeting in May. 

Commissioner Bill McDaniel, whose district includes the property, made the motion to continue the discussion, saying he plans to hold three more public meetings, including a town hall on April 30, to get more public input.

McDaniel said he will invite the people and organizations that have made offers so far to make presentations.

“At which point then we can come back, have an enormous amount more of public input from the residents that are impacted by these decisions and allow for that to be a portion of our decision making,” he said.

Commissioner Andy Solis cast the lone dissenting vote. He said after the discussion that it was time for county leaders to make a decision on the issue, which the county has been struggling with for “at least a year.”

“Unless we’re going to reopen this process, which I wouldn’t be in favor of, I didn’t hear anything today that would change my opinion on whether or not we should accept the staff’s recommendation,” he said. “So why are we continuing the process?”

If those who made offers are going to publicly speak about their proposals for the property, those presentations should happen at county commission meetings and not at town halls, Solis said.

The effects of what will happen to the property, including possibly increased traffic on Immokalee Road, will be felt beyond Golden Gate Estates, he said.

“The effect of making this decision is more than just a Golden Gate Estates issue,” Solis said. “It will affect traffic in and out of the urban area. It will affect where folks go for services or where services come from. That affects the whole county.”

The property came to the county in the 1980s as part of an agreement with development company Gulf American Corp. after that company failed to live up to its obligations.

The county's in-house real estate appraiser has valued the property at $3.52 million, and an outside independent appraisal put the value at $3.63 million.

Metro Commercial offered $3.5 million for the property. Other offers included:

  • A land swap proposed by Crown Management Services, LLC that would send 30 acres near the intersection of Golden Gate and Wilson boulevards to Collier in exchange for the 47 acres. Robert Crown, vice president of the group, proposes to develop the property as the commercial hub for the surrounding communities. He also offered $750,000 for a park or other uses by the county.
     
  • A group of investors wants to buy the land for $1.05 million. One of the investors told the Daily News the group envisions “developing the land with a focus on meeting some of the needs of the community for convenient entertainment sources such as a movie theater, gym, and restaurants." The group might donate part of the land back to the county to be used as it sees fit, he said.
     
  • The Shy Wolf Sanctuary verbally increased its offer from $1 million for the entire parcel to $1.5 million for half the property, with the rest going back to the community as a park and green area. The nonprofit sanctuary is proposing to build enclosures for its animals, hurricane-rated shelters for pets during a storm, an educational and research facility and a veterinary clinic.

Deanna Deppen, executive director for the sanctuary, told commissioners Tuesday that the sanctuary wants to stay in Collier, but has outgrown its current space.

Right now, the sanctuary can't rescue more animals in need, can't offer internships or extended work programs to learn about the animals and can't be open to the public, she said.

"We can't build bigger and better habitats for the animals currently residing there," she said. "We can't protect our animals or others during a hurricane or fire."

Article From Naples Daily News

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