It’s amazing to see how quickly the Hobby Lobby is going up since it started coming out of the ground. It took a long time to get started, but now they are moving quickly. I wonder how that will work, now that there will be two shops with crafts and creative items to use for decorating and flower arrangements and holidays, etc. I believe the big difference is that Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays, but Michael’s is open 7 days a week, and Michael’s is quite a bit smaller. I think there’s plenty of business to go around though. Many commercial realtors in the northern end of our county have no idea of the potential and sell the area short, but they judge the area by what they see driving down U.S. 41 East, and do not look any further to all of the surrounding communities that the 951/41 corridor will serve. Just take a look at the magnificent Marco Island, Isles of Capri, Fiddler’s Creek (estimated at buildout to hold 9,000 homes), Eagle Creek, Lely Resort (over 6,500 homes), Naples Lakes Country Club, Verona Walk, Forest Glen Country Club, Isles of Collier Preserve, Treviso Bay, Reflection Lakes, Naples Reserve, and that is just naming a few communities, and doesn’t even reflect the folks coming from Golden Gate and the Estates, the City of Naples – which is much closer than driving up to the other end of town, and all of the East Naples communities not yet mentioned like Lakewood, King’s Lake, Queen’s Park, Royal Wood, and on and on! I could never understand why those commercial realtors located in the northern end of the county had no idea what was going on at this end! Marco Island realtors realized the benefit and worked on it! Yes, and we truly need more sit-down restaurants, so hopefully some more quality restaurants will find this area. If they even took a look at the success of the Outback, Carrabba’s, Eurasia, 21 Spices, etc., they would realize the area is hungry for new and great restaurants! (Just a little play on words there.)
• We are in the planning stages for our seasonal tours again this year. These tours, mostly of county facilities, have been conducted for about 12 years, and people still fill them up. This year, for the third time, we will acquaint you with the jail facility, looking at it from the right side of the bars. We are still working on a few more tours but so far we have three planned and in place. I think this year we will mention it in this column at the same time we invite previous tour members. We’ve had a few people who had quickly secured reservations in the past – some for three, four or even five people, and then the morning of the tour they cancel all five and those become five empty seats that some of our wait list wanted so badly. We will be a little more careful this year.
• You have probably read some of the back and forth about all of the low income housing clustered in one particular area…East Naples, yet the critics lash out at the letter writers but never offer THEIR community as another place to house these people. It’s really tough on the schools and children in these low income homes because their schools remain Title I schools. Their dedicated teachers do not receive merit pay that A schools in other areas receive, so there is usually a huge teacher turn-over each year. It’s also very difficult to start each year with 1/3 of your school population unable to speak any English. Of course it slows the rest of the classes until the youngsters can understand what is being said. The principals and teachers are incredible! They work so hard to bring their schools up to a better standard, but then again more new homes are built and they go right back to square one. One of them is Parkside Elementary School, located deep inside Naples Manor, who told me that up until two years ago they had a 71% turnover rate in teachers because it was so difficult to teach under these conditions, yet the concentration continues and those defending this saturation don’t even seem to care. I can bet you THEIR children or grandchildren live in other school areas. These little tykes are our FUTURE! How can they succeed when they are all clumped together in one area, unable to even learn what it is like to be an American? Would you want that for your family members? Why aren’t people crying out to say enough is enough! We do not want to create another Detroit or Chicago or Cleveland, but if we continue to concentrate all the lower income people in one area, those of you who support that effort will create exactly that! There should be an outcry to stop this harmful procedure! And you say, well, we have just formulated a new affordable housing advisory board to solve the problem! Who is the head of that board? The people who are concentrating these houses in one area in the first place. And while I’m at it…why are two very low income housing villages about to build holding their controversial Neighborhood Information Meetings in August while all of the surrounding neighborhoods are out of town? And why does the major newspaper in the area condone this concentration of very low income housing and lash out at those of us who want to give these children a better chance at life rather than packing them all into one area? AND – do any of THEIR employees live in any of those low income areas? Do they even QUALIFY for low income? Where do their children go to school? Those who live in nice plush areas should never throw stones at those of us who are supporting the population of low income – they should offer to take some of the burden on themselves! There are many dynamic areas with moderate income housing in East Naples that young professionals can buy or rent, but these young people are told by the realtors that, “they don’t want their children in ‘those’ schools!” Here are homes in the $200 to $250K range that young professionals can buy, in areas with older homes with nice backyards, big trees, close to parks and the beach, finally close to some shopping, but they are afraid to put their kids in our schools. Ask the realtors if that statement isn’t spot on! I’ll name a few: Lakewood, Queen’s Park, some of the earlier Lely developments such as Lely Golf Estates and Country Club Estates, Reflection Lakes, Sierra Meadows, The Aster, Napoli, and that is just the beginning of the list. These really nice homes are reasonably priced, which is what people are really crying for, but they are in East Naples! Let’s work together as a community to distribute the lower income housing amongst the entire county! Why should one community shoulder the responsibility for all the others? Did you know that some major developers are beginning to plan new cities further east in Collier County and their plans do not contain ANY affordable low income housing! Where are their work force people going to live? I’ll give you a guess!