Joseph Cranney , firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-213-6035 Published 5:56 p.m. ET April 5, 2017 | Updated 11 hours ago
The Naples City Council on Wednesday rejected a proposal to allow workforce housing within the main corridor of the city’s redevelopment district.
The proposal to amend zoning regulations to allow the housing in the redevelopment area between U.S. 41 and Goodlette-Frank Road failed after a large group of residents spoke during Wednesday’s regular meeting and asked the council to reject the changes.
The residents said the workforce housing, and other proposals for a major revisioning of the area, would give too many rights to real estate developers hoping to build out their lots.
“If you want to help developers, I think this is a great plan,” said William Frantz, who is also a member of the city’s advisory board for its Community Redevelopment Agency. “It’s not just about developing Naples to its fullest extent to increase the tax base. It’s about making Naples a lovely place to live.”
The city had agreed to pay Calvin, Giordano & Associates Inc. nearly $50,000 to study regulations within the CRA. The Fort Lauderdale-based consulting firm came back with 16 recommended changes, including changes to land use, building design and parking requirements.
The council, acting as the CRA board, rejected several of those changes during Wednesday’s regular meeting, although a majority did agree to slightly expand the CRA boundaries to include two properties south of Fifth Avenue South.
The council, without a roll call vote, gave consensus to throw out other suggested changes, including the proposal to establish zoning for workforce housing for individuals or families with a moderate income.
Councilman Doug Finlay said workforce housing wouldn’t be financially viable for developers.
“It’s a great goal — but realistically, we’re not going to be able to accomplish it,” he said.
The plans would have allowed developers to exceed the area’s building density cap if their projects included workforce housing. The maximum allowed density would have been 50 units per acre, an increase from the residential cap of 30 units per acre.
Related story: Naples leaders consider plans for workforce housing
The housing would have targeted workers with a moderate income, said Richard Connone from Calvin, Giordano & Associates. Based on federal income guidelines, a four-person household in Collier County is defined as having a moderate income if they earn at least $52,550.
The advisory board for the Community Redevelopment Agency last fall urged the council to consider workforce housing, in part to inject affordability into an area that has seen a post-recession boom in land values.
John Vorbach, a member of the city’s design review board, said he supported a new plan for the area. The current zoning, Vorbach said, is “not working.”
“This sort of a plan — or a plan something like this — is necessary,” he said. “Something needs to change, or this area is never going to be developed.”
But the council also heard from several residents Wednesday who said they were concerned about the proposed density bonuses.
John Lehmann, president of the Old Naples Association, said he was opposed to the workforce housing proposal for increased density and building height bonuses of up to two floors.
“The Old Naples Association strongly opposes the approval of this ill-considered and unbalanced proposal,” Lehmann said. “This is a redline issue for us and the residents, voters and taxpayers we represent.”