Developers closer to getting approval on group of new villages in prime panther and brush fire territory

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
east collier villages renderings
Credit: WINK News

Thousands of new homes could soon be going up in eastern Collier County.

The county is discussing approving a group of new villages in prime panther and brush fire territory. There are pros and cons to the project.

The 14th Ave Fire in Golden Gate Estates left some homes damaged and unlivable. And, thousands of more people could move to fire-prone eastern Collier.

That is if three new villages are approved by county leaders.

Melinda Avni is a mitigation specialist with Florida Forest Service‘s Caloosahatchee District. “So it’s a beautiful peaceful place to be people very much desire it but it’s also going to increase fire risk,” Avni said.

Avni thinks the new developments could be a concern if built right near undeveloped land.

“So when an entire neighborhood is out in the woods, we do have that concern that embers from the fire may start to spark fires in their yards or up against their homes,” said Avni.

But, Meredith Budd with the Florida Wildlife Association thinks this could lower the risk of wildfires, not increase it.

“The villages being developed through the Rural Land Stewardship Area actually help to limit catastrophic wildfire, not increase them,” Budd said.

Collier County Commissioner Bill McDaniel represents this district and says the villages, Bellmar, Longwater and Rivergrass will be more like urban centers than the rural paradise that is The Estates.

“Restrictions on undergrowth and how you have to keep your property and such are not nearly as stringent as those that would be in any of these rural villages,” Commissioner McDaniel said.

Matt Schwartz is with The South Florida Wildlands Association and he is more concerned about what will happen to Florida’s Panthers.

“So we are not allowing the Panthers to have living space. They just don’t have enough room to begin with. Even right now they’re crowded in,” said Schwartz. “So, we are taking away the little they have to. And really trapping them.”

The three villages are 1,000 acres each, and between them, would include almost 8,000 residential units.

Rivergrass has already been approved. The two other villages, Longwater and Bellmar are still being discussed by county leaders.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.