Joseph Cranney , email@example.com; 239-213-6035
Naples leaders rejected a proposal Wednesday to increase land development rights in the redevelopment district, instead endorsing a vision from residents to limit the area’s building density and protect local businesses.
Facing a packed chamber with many who spoke against overdevelopment, a majority of the council recommended reducing a real estate developer’s ability to exceed the building density cap for projects in the district between U.S. 41 and Goodlette-Frank Road.
The city’s rules for the area allow developers to exceed the cap of 12 units per acre, by up to 30 units per acre, by paying fees or providing open space.
A majority of the council agreed with Councilman Reg Buxton’s request to consider eliminating those rules at a future meeting, keeping a hard cap of 12 units per acre.
“I certainly would have an appetite for that,” Buxton said to large applause from the dozens in the room.
Councilman Sam Saad was opposed to the idea. He said less building density would cause developers to charge more for condos in their residential projects.
“You’re just going to get more expensive units, so it’s less affordable,” he said. “If we just throw out 30 units per acre, we’re going to have a problem.”
John Lehmann, president of the Old Naples Association, summed up the concerns of the residents.
He said increases in building density would threaten to transform the redevelopment district into the more urban streetscape of Fifth Avenue South, designed from the vision of a Miami architect, Andres Duany.
Duany "admires traffic and congestion and calls it a sign of success and tells people who complain to get used to it," Lehmann said. “Perhaps the merchants and property owners of Fifth desire this to be so, but please don’t let this contagion spread outside of that area."
The council, through its dual role as the board overseeing the Community Redevelopment Agency, has long recognized a need for redevelopment in the CRA’s district.
But the council rejected most of the major changes proposed by Calvin, Giordano & Associates Inc., the Fort Lauderdale-based consulting firm that the city paid nearly $50,000 to study CRA regulations over the past several months.
Last month the council rejected the firm’s proposal to allow workforce housingin the CRA district, again after a large group of residents protested. The residents worried that developers would abuse workforce housing density bonuses and build projects filled with small short-term rental units.
The council on Wednesday also rejected a proposal to give developers the right to build residential projects on 10th Street South, where several small local businesses operate. Residential projects in that area can't be built unless developers get final approval from the council.
Quenby Tyler, who runs Audrey’s Attic on 10th Street, asked the council to prevent developers from putting up large residential projects that could encroach on the local businesses.
“The area is not at blight,” she said. “It’s not deteriorating. It’s ascending if anything. Let’s not put that at risk.”