On January 27th, East Naples Civic Associated (ENCA) hosted a forum for candidates for Collier County District 1 held at the South Regional Library in Naples. Commissioner Donna Fiala has been in public service in Collier County’s District 1 for 20 years and has decided not to seek re-election. This paved the way for six candidates vying for her seat on the Board of Collier County Commissioners. Brent Batten, the editor at NDN, was the moderator.
Candidate Mark Batchelor highlighted his business experience with Xerox as a “Roll up your sleeves, work with my team, solve and fix the problem kind of manager” for County Commissioner.
“Cliff Cares” is not just a campaign logo for Cliff Donenfeld. Per Cliff, “I care about the country, county and all of you and my job as a candidate is to listen, enlighten, and This District is NOT for Sale.”
William Douglass highlighted his 30 years with the Greater Naples Fire District as a retired Lieutenant with deep roots in the community. “As your next Commissioner, I want to bring common-sense, solution, and continue the quality of life that we all enjoy.”
John D. Jenkins said his campaign is about Clean Water, Children, Community and Collier County.
Rick LoCastro, shared his 24 years of service in the Air Force and his executive business experience with Physicians Regional and Avow Hospice in Naples. For LoCastro, public service is a way of giving back to the community and for him experience matters as a Commissioner.
Jacob Winge’s family came to Naples over 90 years ago from a small fishing village in Sarasota. According to Winge, “Naples has changed a lot but one thing that has not changed is its people. People getting involved with issues in the neighborhoods, region and county. Winge got started by attending a Board of Collier County Commission as a youth and he has never stopped being involved.
Question No. 1:
What do you think the term Affordable Housing Means? Is District 1 disproportionately burdened with Affordable Housing and how can you correct it?
According to Winge, Affordable Housing has a statutory legal definition that is governed by income bracket and it is overshadowed by housing affordability which is a real concern in our workforces such as teachers and firefighters. All agreed that District 1 has a disproportionate amount of Affordable Housing. All agreed to find creative solutions by offering different housing options. Jenkins & Douglass expressed the need to spread Affordable Housing to other Districts. Donenfeld added that it has been a feel-good issue for many years and will continue to be. According to LoCastro, we need to be more creative in our approach to affordable housing, but we don’t want them dumped in District 1.
Question No. 2:
Should the County collect impact fees or other charges for an Affordable Housing Trust Fund and are Impact Fees charged by Collier County too high, too low or about right?
Douglass, Donenfeld, LoCastro, Winge all agreed that growth should pay for growth. LoCastro, a project should at least be 51% good for the County and 49% good for the developer. For Jenkins, it is progress with intelligence. Donenfeld and Winge cautioned not to “paint in broad strokes” as both did not want the individual owners to be hit the same way as developers Batchelor questioned why Collier County has the highest impact fees in the State of Florida and if elected, he would advocate for impact fees that match other counties in the state.
Question No. 3:
Should the County continue its policy of adding decorative landscaping on medians on major roads? Has District 1 been fairly represented on this so far?
Douglass supports the beautification of medians but recognizes the need to be within budget. Donenfeld felt that East Naples and Marco Island got short-changed. Batchelor feels that we should be trendsetters and set up “xeriscape” landscape using no irrigation with Florida friendly plants, while Winge reasoned there is room for innovative practices and still find ways to cut cost. LoCastro said Collier County needs to manage taxpayer’s dollars properly and still maintain the medians. Jenkins advocated more environmentally responsible practices.
Question No. 4:
Should the County institute a stormwater utility fee based on the size of drainage of the land to help fund water management programs such as swale maintenance?
Jenkins, Donenfeld, Batchelor, LoCastro, Winge and Douglass are NOT in favor. Donelfeld replied, “We have plenty of money.” Batchelor said, “It’s a bad idea coming up with these taxes and new ways to spend it.” Winge is opposed and sees this as evidence of a failure to plan for future growth. Jenkins shared stats from the ENCA website which states that it would cost $194 per citizen per year netting the County $21M.
Question No. 5:
Based on what you know now, would you vote favorably for the Rivergrass Village Development proposed by Collier Enterprise?
Donenfeld favored the County’s Planning Commission proposal that rejected this project in November 2019. Batchelor would like to keep an open mind and yet added that “if done correctly, properly, environmentally, I think we can build almost any building project anywhere in Collier County.”
Winge felt that it was a positive sign that the developer made some concessions on the environmental issues. He favors a balance between environmental, agricultural and property owners. LoCastro would like to make sure County has the right infrastructure and support for these residences being built. Jenkins is opposed for environmental reasons while Douglass was in agreement with most of his fellow candidates on this issue.
Question No. 6:
Issue of too many self-storage facilities; too many gas stations – what if anything should the County do to encourage restaurants, retailers and other businesses to East Trail, District 1?
Batchelor replied that there is money in East Naples, yet East Trail has a junky look and needed to be upgraded and that the Commissioners should be marketing East Trail as a great place to do business. Donenfeld urged everybody to have a “reality check” and warned his colleagues that retail business is tough and as a free market republican “we can’t stop certain businesses.” Douglass is in favor of Commissioner Fiala’s stance on storage facilities. Jenkins, however, is not in favor of the concentration of auto parts and self-storage. LoCastro spoke about balance and having storage facilities in an industrial section and NOT on Main Street, while Winge replied that there’s a need for innovative solutions to push developers to do the right thing.