The Collier County Planning Commission approved plans April 6 for a new apartment complex project named The Haven at North Naples on the southwest quadrant of Airport-Pulling Road and Orange Blossom Drive. The property, which wraps around the Naples Italian American Foundation and is across from the Collier County Public Library Headquarters branch, will have one four-story, 60-foot-tall building.
The South Carolina-based Johnson Development Associates will be sharing 14 of 27 acres on the same parcel as the 13-acre Carlisle of Naples rental retirement community as part of the Airport-Carlisle mixed-use subdistrict. Although The Haven at North Naples will be sharing property with The Carlisle, they are not affiliated with each other besides the new apartment complex agreeing to give slightly more than 100 parking spaces to support Carlisle employees.
Out of the 336 units, 76 will be income-restricted with 38 units at 100% of the county’s average median income of $98,600 for a family of four and 38 units at the 80% average median income. The standard affordable housing density bonus for the county is 16 units per acre, but the developers are asking for 23 as part of a growth management plan amendment.
Rich Yovanovich, land use attorney for the developer, said that it’s vital for more affordable housing projects to be brought forward for consideration in Collier County.
“We believe what we say when we’re at the podium and I do believe I’ve been here a lot longer than probably most people in this room, and it has gotten harder and harder for people to find affordable, safe, decent housing in Collier County,” Yovanovich said. “We have to decide what we want to do, because if we don’t provide it, they’ll live somewhere else. And once they can find a job somewhere else, they’re just going to stay where they are, and not come here.”
County Planning and Zoning Manager Mike Bosi said that this intersection has been viewed more as commercial than residential, making it fit for a higher density project. Just south of the proposed project is Bear Creek apartments which were approved more than 20 years ago at 14 units per acre. South of that is Oasis Naples which is approved for 12 units per acre.
“This area has clearly been designated and perceived by the county and past actions of this county as a higher intensity area allocated for affordable housing, and [south] of that you have industrial use and then you have an activity center,” Bosi said.
Bosi said that since this area provides so much activity for the community, a new residential project is a good idea.
“This is an opportunity to provide for affordable housing within an area that is south of an activity center, north of an activity center that’s clearly within the urbanized area,” Bosi said. “We feel that the density being proposed with the public benefit of just over 22 units an acre where 22% of the units proposed being dedicated to income restrictions has true community benefit.”
Bosi also said that what makes this project more attractive is that there will be no access to the apartments from Orange Blossom Road.
“The fact that the apartment complex will not access ingress or egress on Orange Blossom is extremely important,” Bosi said. “What that means is the intensity of this project will be designed to be absorbed by Airport Road in the volume traffic and vehicles that are associated with that road.”
However, many local residents were at the meeting to voice their disfavor for the projects due to concerns about traffic increase on Orange Blossom Drive and the height of the building.
Dave Renner, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, approached the commission on behalf of the Orange Blossom-Airport Road Alliance which was formed about 15 years ago and is now made up of 14 communities. He said that they are in favor of affordable housing but thinks this particular project does not fit well for the area.
“We would be fine with 100% affordable housing on this parcel if it was lower density, lower height,” Renner said. “We just want it to be more compatible with what’s in the area.”
Renner said that the potential increase in traffic due to this project is not compatible with the family-filled surrounding communities, especially with the surrounding libraries and schools.
“Everyone wants to protect our beautiful neighborhoods, that’s a reason why we’re in Naples in the first place and that’s why we’re here today, to protect this primarily 90% residential neighborhood,” Renner said.
Despite the public opposition, Vice Chair Joeseph Schmitt said there are no grounds for him to disapprove the project.
“I simply cannot find a way to vote against this,” Schmitt said. “It is in compliance with all the rules and criteria. The density is what the density has to be to provide much-needed service to this county and that’s affordable housing.”
The only amendment Shea requested was that residents of the income-restricted units are subject to occupancy inspections with a seven-day notice.
Other amendments the board agreed to include the exit on the south side of the property off of Orange Blossom Road being for emergency vehicles only and establishing a 130-foot setback from the Carlisle property.
Commissioner Shea disagrees with the view that this area is an activity center and shares concerns with the public for the traffic impacts.
“My gut feeling is that I’m very worried about that traffic. I think it’s a little too dense and a little too tall and it’s not quite the same as the rest of the neighborhood,” Shea said. “And I think we’re giving up too much for 76 affordable housing units.”
The project passed 4-2 with commissioners Paul Shea and Chuck Schumacher opposing. The Haven at North Naples project will be brought to the Board of County Commissioners on May 23 and will need a supermajority vote of at least four commissioners to pass as a request of a growth management plan amendment.