Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Vote is In

Commissioners picked up where they left off from their May 25 meeting regarding the development of Longwater Village and Bellmar Village. Collier Enterprises did a wrap-up on their presentation then listened to the Commissioners questions and concerns.

Commissioner Saunders had questions regarding promises to the area should the Town of Big Cypress not get approved, specifically workforce housing (previously referred to as affordable housing). Under the current plan, 10-percent of the units in Longwater and Bellmar are for workforce housing. Saunders asked if these numbers can be increased should the Town not get approval. Collier Enterprises agreed to increase that to 15-percent and make it binding. The issue of workforce housing was brought up later in the meeting when Commissioner Taylor commented that clarification on what constitutes “affordable” could change with market demands. Staff is clarifying that to the housing will be at or below gap levels. That allows flexibility to the market without the market driving up the price. 

Another area of concern for Saunders were the environmental concessions that are tied into development of the town. Collier Enterprises agreed to follow through with the three panther wildlife, bear proof cans and dark sky lighting regardless of the development of the Town.

Another major question dealt with roads, specifically Big Cypress Parkway. Commissioner Saunders asked the county attorney whether the county had any legal obligation to build a road since by building it, the county would be required to maintain it. The county does not have any obligation to build a road. The state requires the county to provide water and sewer but not roads. Commissioner Taylor asked for further clarification as she anticipates there will be complaints from constituents when the roads become too busy and don’t meet their needs. Again, while the county is under no obligation to build a road it is policy and can be changed with future commissioners. Commissioner McDaniel thinks the multiple roads available within the communities will suffice and a larger road won’t be necessary.

There was sensitivity on everyone’s part when it came to the development of this far eastern portion of the county. Commissioner Solis points out that the intent of the RLSA program was to avoid a sprawling development that would have a negative effect on the environment. Collier Enterprises checked all the boxes as it relates to meeting those requirements. Commissioner Saunders, who voted against the Rivergrass Village, believes there were improvements made to the overall plan of developing the area. He believes these villages will take pressure off other areas that are being developed, specifically Golden Gate.

In the end, both Longwater and Bellmar were approved by the Commissioners, with the lone no vote coming from Commissioner Taylor. She doesn’t believe the development of these villages will “increase economic opportunity” and will just put more demands on the county transportation system, which will be at the taxpayer’s cost.


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