NAPLES, Fla. — Developers have big changes in mind for a major resort in Naples - but people living nearby are divided over how it will impact their neighborhood.
The developer, the Athens Group, plans to tear down the current Naples Beach Hotel building and rebuild a smaller hotel, and add residential condos throughout the 120-plus acre property.
"Naples has the opportunity to have a five-star world-class resort that people would benefit from and could use," said Hunter Hansen, a retired hotelier who lives near the beach hotel.
The initial plans for the new development met with opposition from some nearby residents, like Joe Basili, who lives in the Surfside Club Condominiums. At seven stories - more than eleven feet higher than city code allows - Basili says some of the new construction would be too high to maintain Naples' small-town charm.
"I'm concerned that it's a colossal building next door to Surfside," Basili said. "Not just in terms of height, but the building size itself."
The Athens Group also appealed to the city for a variance on the setback of the buildings, so they could be closer to the street than city code currently permits.
At Wednesday's meeting of the Naples Planning Board, the developer presented a compromise that would preserve the resort's golf course as green space in perpetuity.
"The fact that Naples is going to have 104 acres in the center of town green forever...not many towns have that opportunity," said resident John Remington.
But not everyone was convinced that the proposal's language means that the green space would stay so green, leaving open the possibility of clubhouses and added parking areas.
"There's no limit in this document as to the size of the clubhouses, or the number of clubhouses," said Ned Fryer, representing a coalition of home owners associations.
The Planning Board unanimously approved the redevelopment project for the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club. The project still has to go before the Naples City Council for final approval.