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Q: I was wondering if you knew what was being built on Immokalee Road before Randall Boulevard on the right-hand side west of the fire department? —Pete Spagnuolo Jr., Naples 

A: Local developers have proposed 125,000 square feet of commercial uses, which would include a possible neighborhood retail center and up to 80,000 square feet of self-storage on the south side of Immokalee Road between Wilson and Randall boulevards in Golden Gate Estates. 

Potential commercial uses for the retail center of at least 40,000 square feet include general convenience commercial, including office and retail uses such as eating places that would not draw a great deal of traffic to the area, according to a representative for GM Advisors LLC, the co-owner and developer of the nearly 10 acres. The project is expected to be fully constructed and occupied within a few years on the combined three contiguous parcels. 

The project will satisfy the increase in retail demand over the next five years in the retail market area, according to a market analysis prepared last fall by Naples-based Real Estate Econometrics Inc.  

“The project is strategically located to take advantage of the future retail demand and the traffic flowing along Immokalee Road. The project will help address the demand coming to the market area over the next five years,” according to the market analysis commissioned by the developer. 

The project also will provide self-storage square footage that will satisfy the projected demand for self-storage space that will accompany the population growth within the 5-mile market area and the demand coming from the fringe areas around the 3-mile market area, the report finds. 

Clearing work recently began on land fronting Immokalee Road and an additional parcel that extends to 24th Avenue Northeast. The parcels are on the western side of the canal across from North Collier Fire District Station 10. 

During an advertised public hearing at its regular meeting March 26, Collier County commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance to rezone the property from Estates residential to a commercial planned unit development to allow a total of 125,000 square feet of commercial use, of which up to 80,000 square feet can be indoor, air-conditioned mini and self-storage. The board also approved a companion ordinance amending the county’s growth management plan to create the GMA commercial subdistrict within the rural Golden Gate Estates sub-element of the Golden Gate Area Master Plan. 

The property includes Pond 8, a county-owned 3-acre drainage area for Immokalee Road runoff. Both the developer and the county found it beneficial to swap this county drainage lot with a 5-acre parcel that the developer owned along the canal at 24th Avenue. The new larger county lot along the canal allows for a wet retention area with an outfall discharge into the canal. The board unanimously approved this particular land swap in November 2021. 

“The parcel you have right now is considered dry storage, and the one we will swap with you with the 5-acre parcel will be wet storage, which we have to excavate,” said Michel Saadeh, a principal of GM Advisors LLC and a 38-year resident of Collier County known for developing the Vineyards community. “So, this is really a win-win for the county, for the citizens of Collier County, the taxpayers, for us. It’s a good project for everyone.” 

The county is not paying anything for the stormwater pond excavation or drainage improvements, Saadeh said. “The county just will benefit from trading 3 acres of land for 5 acres of land, getting all the improvements, which are way north of a million dollars in terms of the cost,” he said. 

The transfer of title will not occur until all the stormwater improvements are made and approved. It is going to take a few months to dig the pond and install the pipes before that can happen, Saadeh said. 

County staff recommended approval of the small-scale GMPA and CPUD after the Planning Commission voted 3-2 against it on Feb. 1. The Planning Commission felt that it did meet the needs analysis requirements for the growth management plan, but the planning and zoning staff sees the public benefit of the related stormwater pond and direct canal access. 

Before commissioners approved the land changes, a resident who lives about a block and a half away from the future development opposed permitting “a Home-Depot-sized building” in a residential neighborhood. “This is completely inappropriate for this area,” Brian McMahon testified during the public hearing. “I didn’t move out there to have this thing, you know, around the corner from my house.” 

McMahon said the proposed project is a classic example of how people think Golden Gate Estates is the place to build whatever they want. “So, I’m begging you guys, please leave our neighborhood alone. There’s a lot of frustration already out here, and I’m sure you’ve heard it. People are talking about making a city because we’re getting tired of it.” 

Also speaking at the public hearing, Tom Henning said the proposed commercial development will serve as a neighborhood noise buffer for the nearby proposed partial flyover, where the westbound lane of Randall Boulevard eventually is planned to fly over Immokalee Road at that intersection. 

“The improvements over there will actually mitigate some of the noise coming from Immokalee Road,” said Henning, who represented that district as county commissioner from 2000 to 2016. “You’re going to have a ramp there. Those buildings will mitigate some of those noises.” 

Henning told commissioners that the project would be a benefit to the community, so he encouraged them to unanimously approve the ordinances. 

“When I was a commissioner, we encouraged commercial in Golden Gate Estates to serve the residents in Golden Gate Estates and the communities around there to shorten trips,” he said. “This is not a trip generator.” 

Commissioner Bill McDaniel, who represents that district, also perceives the project as being “a collector for local traffic and services” as opposed to drawing traffic to the area. McDaniel requested a deed restriction, though, as assurance that the property could not be developed as high-density housing in the future. 

Two right-in, right-out access points to the future development are designed to not interfere with the right turn lane onto Randall Boulevard. A potential future interconnection could occur with the adjacent parcel fronting Immokalee Road to the west of the proposed commercial project. 

The “Tim Aten Knows” weekly column answers local questions from readers. Email Tim at 

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