Planned luxury apartment complex Ascend Naples was approved Tuesday by a supermajority vote from the Collier County Board of Commissioners after almost 7 hours of discussion.
The project, a half mile east of Logan Boulevard along Vanderbilt Beach Road, will consist of 208 units across 17.5 acres. Requiring an amendment to the county’s growth management plan, the land is now zoned to be the Ascend Naples Residential Planned Unit Development from the previously zoned Estates.
Out of all the units, which are deemed luxury, 34% will be income restricted. With the average median income, or AMI, of almost $100,000 for a family of four in Collier County, 31 units will be restricted to 80% AMI, 31 restricted to 100% and 9 units restricted to 120%. The complex will have an amenity center with a clubhouse of a maximum 12,000 square feet along with 2.35 acres of preserve.
Estimated to comprise between 14 and 16 buildings, the project will be adjacent to Cherry Wood Drive to the south and directly across Vanderbilt Beach Road from the Island Walk community. Patrick Vanasse with planning and design service The Neighborhood Co. said that more intense uses are typically placed directly off major roadways, making the location an appropriate spot for Ascend Naples.
“We’re not suggesting that we put this project within a residential neighborhood. It is on the periphery, it will be buffered, and we will ensure compatibility,” Vanasse said.
The project will have a more than 100-foot setback from the nearest house on the south side of the property and an 80-foot setback from the nearest home on the western side that is 135 feet away. During the meeting, nearby residents spent more than three hours voicing both concern and support for the development.
Cherry Wood Drive resident Amy Kurtz said the project will create too much traffic and bring too many people to her street.
“The kids will be on our street, they’re not going to be on Vanderbilt Beach Road. [People are] not going to be walking their dogs on Vanderbilt Beach Road, they’re going to be walking on Cherry Wood Drive, where there’s woods and quiet and safety,” Kurtz said.
Island Walk resident Diane Oczkwoski also cited traffic concerns.
“The goal of proper zoning is to protect public health, safety and general welfare. This rezoning of Ascend abandons these protections for the public, with the potential for increased vehicle accidents with the added traffic from [the development],” Oczkwoski said.
Lifelong Naples resident W.T. Pearson supported the project, suggesting the increase in the supply of units could lead to rent decreases elsewhere.
“Without a new supply of lower priced housing options, including studio units, this process will ultimately force out our middle and working class, which includes individuals and not just families,” Pearson said. “We have to intervene if we want to preserve the integrity and balance of our community, and that intervention looks like amending our growth management plan when it proves to be obsolete.”
Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce government relations director Donna Jannine spoke in support of the project on behalf of the organization.
“CIG Communities’ current proposal not only represents one of the many innovative solutions to benefit Collier County’s workforce housing concerns, but it will also boost the local economy, while supporting the long-term housing needs of a vital workforce for years to come,” Jannine said.
After the public comment ended, land-use attorney Rich Yovanovich said the developer would entertain offers from charter schools if the project wasn’t approved. The Estates Zoning District allows essential services, such as public schools, and Commissioner William McDaniel said he would rather approve this project to avoid something else being built without the need for a vote.
“I’m having trouble saying no, because of the known that we get with this development request.” McDaniel said.
Commissioner Rick LoCastro agreed. “I’m not sitting here saying I love this project, but boy, I love it more than 10 other things that I think could go there, and that’s what I’m sort of struggling with,” LoCastro said.
Holding the lone dissenting vote on the project, Commissioner Burt Saunders said this isn’t the proper place for a project of this size.
“I think for me this sends a message that the Estates zoning is something that I don’t want to alter unless the circumstances are really perfect for it. And I don’t think the these are, so I’m not going to support the project,” Saunders said.
A timeline for the next stage of design wasn’t announced.