North Naples will get a luxury apartment complex with affordable housing
Collier County Commissioners have taken a small step toward solving a big problem.
On Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a new luxury apartment complex in northern Naples that will include 70 units for low-income essential workers, such as teachers, firefighters and nurses.
Commissioner Bill McDaniel offered to approve the project, with a second from Commissioner Andy Solis.
The complex – named Blue Coral – will be built on the south side of Immokalee Road, west of Juliet Boulevard, near Interstate 75.
While the number of affordable units in the complex may seem like a “small drop in the ocean,” given the much greater need for affordable housing in the county, Solis felt it was a not in the right direction.
“It’s a step,” he said. “And, I think it’s a big step.”
Other commissioners agreed, seeing it as a rare opportunity to provide housing to a population largely ignored by other developers.
A family of four earning $ 67,450 per year may be eligible to rent one of the limited income apartments.
Commissioner Burt Saunders described the project as “in the public interest” and good for the county as it will provide low-cost housing in a convenient location where residents can walk to grocery stores, restaurants, food stores. retail and even a county park.
Reviewing the project, Commissioner Rick LoCastro said he determined it provided a “good balance” between residential and commercial developments that will surround it, including a new car dealership planned for the adjacent property.
Commission President Penny Taylor said she hoped to see more projects like this on infill – or vacant sites sandwiched between developments in the urban area.
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The neighborhood around the planned apartments, she said, is already bustling, with a busy Walmart Supercenter located closer to the freeway.
“It’s extremely busy,” Taylor said of the store. “He gives you everything. He gives you food. He gives you clothes and gives you fun things – and he even gives you appliances.”
Rents for affordable apartments will start at $ 1,100 per month. The apartments will be no different from the others, with the same luxurious resort-style amenities.
While not all low-income apartments are claimed by essential workers, they will be made available to other low-income people, who may meet the same qualifications.
The Collier County Planning Commission and county staff members recommended the project after the developers agreed to make several changes.
The changes included reducing the number of apartments from 280 to 234, adding more landscaping as a buffer for its nearest neighbors, and reducing the maximum building height from 60 feet to 50 feet.
The inhabitants of the district have spoken for and against the project
At Tuesday’s hearing, area residents spoke out for both the project and against it.
Opponent Nancy Lewis spoke on behalf of more than 250 residents who signed a petition urging county commissioners to reject the project.
Lewis argued that the complex would be incompatible and incompatible with the neighborhood because of its density and intensity – and a danger to public safety due to the additional traffic it would generate, particularly on Immokalee Road, which is already cluttered.
“We fully understand that every owner has the right to develop their property,” she said. “However, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that forces this commission to deviate from the growth management plan.”
For the project to move forward, the commissioners also had to agree to a change in the county’s growth plan.
The 9.35 acre property was zoned agricultural. The developers have requested approval for a planned residential unit development, for more flexibility.
Barbara Kanter, a resident of Pelican Bay in northern Naples, advocated for the project, sharing a story about how her family’s move from apartment building to workers’ accommodation changed their lives forever for the better – after immigrating to New York in the 1960s.
The apartment complex, she said, would provide others with the same kind of opportunity as her family, including local high school graduates, when they are going on their own and in need of affordable housing.
As for opponents’ concerns about trafficking, Kanter sees the situation differently.
More affordable housing in Collier County, she said, will allow more people to live where they work, putting less strain on local roads and highways in general, eliminating long commutes.
“I don’t see it as driving traffic,” Kanter said. “I see this as a decrease in traffic.”
Michael Dalby, chief executive officer of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter to county commissioners supporting the project.
“The Greater Naples Chamber has long supported efforts to increase the stock of affordable housing for our workforce,” he said. “This project is part of this mission.”
Before voting on the project, county commissioners raised several concerns, including the apartment complex’s impact on traffic on Immokalee Road – and the connection to surrounding properties.
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A new dealership for Germain Lexus is planned on nine acres east of the apartments.
The apartment complex and the concessionaire will share a single access road from Immokalee Road.
The developers of Blue Coral have also been in talks with the owners of the concession about building a road connection between the two properties that would allow its residents to access Useppa Way, so that they can travel more easily to Walmart – and to the traffic lights at Juliet Boulevard and Immokalee Route, allowing them to go east or west.
Apartment developers also offered a connection with Bermuda Palms Condominiums, but encountered opposition from residents, who voiced concerns about the disruption this could cause in their now calm and peaceful community.
Commissioner LoCastro urged developers to continue their negotiations, saying they should see this as a “duty”.
Likewise, Commissioner McDaniel said it will be imperative to create more connections to keep as much traffic as possible off the Immokalee route.
Going forward, he said, the county should start looking for ways to improve the incentive for interconnectivity between developments, to reduce stress on major roads.
“It wasn’t really a priority for a long, long time in our community,” McDaniel said. “We see circumstances like this all over our community.”