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Collier Commissioners approve development spanning more than 12,000 acres

Posted at 7:11 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 01:39:14-04

Collier County Commissioners have voted to approve the Longwater and Bellmar Villages.

These villages, along with the previously approved Rivergrass Village, will become the Town of Big Cypress.

It is estimated that approximately 11,000 people will eventually live in this town.

Thousands of new homes could be coming to eastern Collier County, but as Commissioners get ready to approve the plan, we talked with one homeowner who is trying to stop it.

Right now, the area is just farm land, but the plan is to turn it into four new developments called Longwater Village, Bellmar Village, Rivergrass Village, and the Town of Big Cypress.

"A lot of the people moved out here to get away from the city, and now they’re trying to move the city into us," said Rae Ann Burton, who lives nearby the planned development.

Burton said she’s concerned, because the planned development spans more than 12,000 acres, and with those new homes comes new traffic.

"To go anywhere, they’ve got to go through our backyard to get to Oil Well and to get to Immokalee,” said Burton.

Burton was out protesting the development over the weekend. In addition to the added people, she’s worried about the impact on panthers, which live in a preserve right next to the planned development.

"Panthers are getting pushed into the suburbs. Look what happened in Naples in the past days. A bear," said Burton.

Burton isn’t alone.

In a report published by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, it said the panthers would "lose over 1,000 acres essential to species survival."

But the developer, Collier Enterprises, sees it differently.

On the project website, it says the development will donate millions to the Florida Panther Protection Program, and generate more than $59 million in tax revenue. It also sent out a mailer, telling people it would bring more than 6,000 jobs to the area.

But for Burton, those pros don’t outweigh the cons.

"They have a right to develop their land, that’s true, but not at the expense of mine being destroyed," said Burton.

The Commissioners will meet at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning at the County Administration building. Burton and several others plan to be there, carrying signs in protest.