Fall 2019 Newsletter

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A Message from the County Manager

Dear friends,

Welcome to the fall edition of the County Manager's E-newsletter. The ubiquitous presence of car carriers off-loading vehicles around town can only mean one thing; our seasonal residents and visitors are returning to our community. These residents contribute in so many remarkable ways to the ambiance and well-being of our county. Let's be sure to welcome them back with open arms.

One of the most exciting projects currently underway in our community is the development of the Collier County Sports Complex and Event Center located in the City Gate Commerce Park located off Collier Boulevard. When fully completed, this facility will feature 19 multipurpose athletic fields, eight baseball diamonds, a 5,500-seat championship venue, fitness area, and a great lawn with a food truck pavilion. Plans are to have the first four athletic fields, championship venue, fitness area, and great lawn open by next summer with the rest of the project coming online by 2021. Visit www.SportsForceParksNaples.com, to track project progress, get a full list of amenities, and see upcoming events.

More recreational opportunities are on the way as a result of the County Commission's recent purchase of the Golden Gate Golf Course property located at the intersection of Golden Gate Parkway and Collier Boulevard. A community outreach and master planning process are underway to recommend the highest and best public uses for this property. While the course is not currently open for golf, the green space makes a perfect place to take a walk with nature.

Plans are also underway to enhance and fortify another one of our vital public assets, our award-winning beaches. The US Army Corps of Engineers has been engaged with county staff in a scoping process to survey and examine our coastal and tidal areas to assess their vulnerabilities to damage due to hurricanes and storm surge. The ultimate goal is to adopt a plan that not only enhances the recreational value of our beaches, but also makes them more resistant to damage by storm surges and rising sea levels. More to come on this project with public meetings in the offing, followed by a presentation of the study's preliminary findings to the County Commission after the first of the year.

Speaking of beaches, I hope you noticed the addition of solar-powered trash and recycling compactors at the beach access points. The "solar belly" compactors are part of a pilot program by our Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Division to help prevent unsightly litter in public places, while keeping animals out and reducing waste collection costs. These devices even electronically notify our staff when they need to be emptied!

The County Commission will soon be considering whether to restart the county's taxpayer-funded conservation land acquisition program, known as Conservation Collier. The program was created in 2003, following a successful voter referendum. To date, the Conservation Collier Program has expended $106,740,502 to purchase 4,302 acres from willing sellers. The ad valorem levy funding the Program ran from 2003 through 2013, though acquisitions were halted in 2011. At that time, during the recession, the BCC moved the remainder of acquisition funds into the long-term maintenance fund to ensure management funding into the future for existing acquired lands.

The BCC has requested that the Conservation Collier Land Acquisition Advisory Committee draft language to take another referendum to the voters during the November 2020 election to request funding be reestablished to continue land acquisition. The BCC will be reviewing the referendum language during its December 10, 2019, meeting. In addition, Conservation Collier staff will be taking the Future Acquisition Strategies document to the BCC November 12. This document identifies potential acquisition lands that could be targeted in future acquisition cycles if a referendum is approved by the taxpayers.

Finally, the holidays are quickly approaching, and as we look forward to the busy schedule of parties and family gatherings, I wish you and yours all the blessings of the season. As we observe Veterans Day November 11, I hope you'll take a moment to read about all the services the county's Veteran Services Division provides to assist our local veterans and their families in accessing the wide variety of benefits available to them in repayment for their service to the country.

As always, included is an update on the capital projects underway as a result of the voter-approved One-cent Sales Surtax. We are excited to provide these critically important facilities to our community.

Please encourage others to subscribe to this e-newsletter, as well as our news releases and e-notices so they can stay up-to-date on the what's happening with their county government.

It's an honor and pleasure to serve you.

Leo E. Ochs, Jr.
County Manager

Solar Belly Compactors

Solar Belly Trash Compactor Pilot Study

Something new you may have seen at our area beaches and marinas this summer are solar-powered trash and recycling containers.

The county’s Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Division has teamed with the Parks and Recreation Division and franchisee solid waste hauler Waste Management Inc., of Florida, to initiate a pilot study to place solar-powered trash and recycling compactors at 10 area beach access points and marinas.

The solar-powered compactors hold five times as much trash as regular trash receptacles preventing unsightly and unhealthy litter in public places, while keeping animals out and potentially reducing waste collection costs. Because the compactors need to be anchored to a solid, flat surface they were placed at beach access points rather than on the beaches themselves. Beach accesses are high traffic areas with the potential for windblown litter when regular waste containers are overfilled. Fully enclosed containers also prevent animal intrusion, further reducing the potential for scattered litter.

Both the county and Waste Management are hopeful about the potential this technology could have for maintaining a pristine, litter-free environment. Ordinary trash bins can overflow, particularly at busy intersections, public parks, streets and outdoor events, and the litter and debris can travel for miles, polluting waterways and endangering wildlife.

Another feature of these solar-powered compactors is the use of technology to track when a container is ready to be emptied. The compactors contain a level sensor that tracks the container’s percent of fill and provides a constant data feed to an app and web-based application.

Through the first six months of the pilot project, preliminary data show collection of 18,777 gallons of recyclable materials, and 20,460 gallons of trash. One benefit is that the recycling seems to be less contaminated (less garbage mixed in) than with a traditional collection container. One problem is people leaving bulky items like broken beach chairs, umbrellas, and large bags of trash stacked outside the units.

The Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Division continues to gather data on sensor reliability, maintenance and cost, as well as user feedback from park employees, the public, and the machines themselves. The pilot, which runs through April 2020, will be evaluated and the results presented to the Board of County Commissioners for its direction.

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Paradise Coast Sportsplex Rendering

Paradise Coast Sports and Special Events Complex

Work is underway on the Paradise Coast Sports and Special Events Complex, the county’s new amateur sports and event complex at City Gate just east of I-75 Exit 101. Construction crews have cleared the land and are working on underground utility installation. The first phase of field construction is planned to start in October.

The complex is being designed with both local and visiting sports teams and leagues in mind, and there will be many new recreation and entertainment opportunities at the complex for residents year-round. The Board of County Commissioners approved funding through the tourist development tax but also included General Fund contributions for land acquisition and operating dollars. Because of this, it ensures residents have equitable access to the facility.

Promotional efforts are already underway with sports event planners, arts, and music promoters. The tourist development team and the contract marketing and management company have already been hard at work promoting the facility at several major sports event trade shows. A high-level of interest is being expressed by organizers of soccer, lacrosse, football, baseball, and softball league events for both youth and adult teams. Additionally, the United Arts Council is partnering with us to make this facility a cultural showcase for music and art.

When youth sports teams travel for tournaments, most bring the entire family. These visitors provide a solid boost in economic impact for local businesses. As the County continues to grow, the complex will serve as a regional and national attractor that further diversifies the offerings we have for visitors and increases resident opportunities for both recreation and employment.

Several new hotels have already opened this year close to the complex. A WoodSpring Suites extended stay hotel opened at City Gate this spring and a second one is under construction on Tamiami Trail East near Bayshore Drive. A new Staybridge Suites just opened its doors at Lely and several other family-friendly, mid-range hotels are under construction on the north side of the county.

New hotels mean new jobs for residents, and the visitors staying in them add more than $1.8 billion in economic impact to our community from tourism each year. This impact is real, and the Collier County Tourist Development Tax paid by visitors staying in hotels, campgrounds and short-term vacation rentals is providing a bulk of the construction funding for the facility.

June 2020 is the targeted opening of Phase I, which includes four multipurpose artificial turf fields and the lakefront great lawn entertainment and event area. The Championship Stadium venue will follow shortly thereafter. When the final phase of the complex is completed in 2021 or 2022, there will be up to 19 artificial turf multipurpose fields for soccer, football and lacrosse; eight baseball/softball diamonds; training and fitness areas; LED lighting for all fields, and a championship stadium.

The great lawn will serve as a premier social gathering spot of Collier County, perfect for family entertainment and events. The great lawn fronts a 13-acre lake with a beach front bar, sand volleyball court, outdoor ping pong, corn hole and fire pits. Events like movies in the park, concerts, food truck rallies and contests, wellness-themed events, arts and craft fairs, holiday events celebrating Halloween and 4th of July, and much more will offer entertainment for our visitors and residents alike. The great lawn will also include the largest outdoor functional fitness area in Florida, with offerings including a fully equipped fitness court, yoga (group fitness) area, obstacle course, functional training equipment, and outdoor gym. This area will be open to the public and free.

We’re excited about all the benefits and amenities the Paradise Coast Sports and Special Events Complex will bring and have launched a temporary landing page at www.SportsForceParksNaples.com that you can visit to see planning, design, constructions updates, learn more about the project, and sign up for more information about the facility.

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Veteran Services Volunteer

Veteran's Service in Honor of Veterans' Service

Veterans Day will be here soon and our community will come together in recognition of, and respect for, the people that have served our country in the armed forces. In Collier County, there are close to 30,000 veterans that have served in conflicts from World War II to the war in Afghanistan and in times of peace in between and since.

Navigating the Department of Veteran Affairs claims or appeals process can be a quagmire of red tape, even for the most adept bureaucrat. Our Veteran Service Officers’ role is to act as a guide for veterans to navigate the process for the VA to satisfy their obligation to them and their dependents. Veteran Services Officers are professionally trained by the VA and have served more than 2,200 clients this year to date. The Veteran Services Officers’ passion to serve those who have served is what stands out.

A partnership with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, a team of 18 veterans and Collier County Veteran Services staff, allows us to provide free transportation to veterans who have medical appointments at a multitude of VA healthcare facilities across Florida. In 2018, our volunteer veteran drivers transported more than 550 veterans to their appointments, travelling more than 46,000 miles and dedicating more than 1,600 hours of their own personal time.

Reaching out to veterans that may not be aware of our services is one of the goals of Veteran Services. Veteran Services Officers stay busy with speaking engagements across Collier County. Also, each February, Veteran Services partners with other local veteran advocate organizations to help plan the Collier County Veterans Expo. This event allows veterans and their dependents to explore the services available to them through myriad local organizations. It is truly heartwarming to know that there are dozens of groups with the mission of taking care of our veterans.

We are always looking for ways to expand our services and ensure that those who have served our country are being taken care of by our country. We look forward to the future when we plan to provide more ways to reach us, set up appointments and gain information about all the programs and services we offer. We also look forward to maintaining and growing our resource network to direct veterans to the wide array of services in our community. Finally, we will continue to find ways to reach out to all the veterans who may have earned benefits they are not even aware of.

On Monday, November 11, 2019, from 9:45 until 12 p.m., the Collier County Veterans Council will host a Veterans Day Ceremony at Cambier Park. Collier County Veteran Services Officer Irene Johnson will be presenting a memorial wreath at the ceremony.

We are privileged to be able to assist the honorable men and women who have given up so much for our freedom. This Veterans Day, we say thank you to those who served our country over the years, in both wartime and peacetime. To the defenders of our great country, you have our gratitude, respect and reverence.

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One-Cent Surtax Project Updates

As readers may recall, on the November 6, 2018, General Election ballot, a majority of Collier County voters approved the one-cent infrastructure sales surtax to fund important infrastructure improvement projects and other high priority community projects. The projects include:

  • Transportation projects, including improvements to sidewalks, bridges, and several key roadways;
  • Facilities and other capital projects, including the Sheriff's Facilities, Big Corkscrew Island Regional Park, and hurricane resiliency projects; and,
  • Community priorities, including a career and technical training center, mental health and addiction treatment facility, and a workforce housing land trust fund.

On January 1, 2019, the Florida Department of Revenue began collecting the one-cent infrastructure sales tax. Collections from the first quarter of Calendar Year 2019, as reported by the Florida Department of Revenue, were approximately $26 M. Of that total approximately $23 M has been distributed to the county with the remaining revenue distributed to the three municipalities, City of Naples, City of Marco Island and City of Everglades City. The one-cent sales tax is expected to generate, on average, $70 M a year, or $490 M over seven years.

The Board of County Commissioners formed a seven-member Infrastructure Citizen Oversight Committee to validate that the planned projects meet several criteria based upon the ballot language, county ordinance, and state statute. The committee has held four public meetings since its inception and has discussed 14 projects seeking to utilize surtax revenue. The committee has validated the expenditure of approximately $202 M in surtax revenue. The Board of County Commissioners has approved eight of these projects thus far. The projects validated include Roadway and Bridge improvements as well as facilities improvements consisting of roofing, HVAC, hurricane resiliency, new buildings, and a public park.

A list of current and ongoing capital projects can be viewed on our Capital Projects Updates page. Additional information about the voter approved one-cent infrastructure sales surtax and the infrastructure projects can be found at www.CollierOneCentTax.com.

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North Horseshoe Drive Tree Canopy

Hacking Isn't Just Happening on the Internet

Improper tree pruning or 'hacking' not only creates an eyesore in the neighborhood, it can also cause damage that will last for the life of the tree, or worse, shorten the life of the tree.

Collier County has strict tree pruning and tree care regulations in place to protect trees and preserve the beauty of our communities. Native and non-native trees are protected by the Land Development Code Section 4.06.05 J (1), which states vegetation shall only be pruned to promote healthy, uniform, natural growth of the vegetation and shall be in accordance with the current Tree, Shrub, and Other Woody Plant Maintenance - Standard Practices (ANSI A300) of the National Arborist Association. Trees shall not be severely pruned in order to permanently maintain growth at a reduced height or spread. Severely pruned trees shall be replaced by the owner.

Trees are part of the infrastructure of a community. Their aesthetic, determined by the way they’re maintained, can increase or decrease property values. They also create a cooling effect and improve air quality and public health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publication, Stormwater to Street Trees, they also reduce stormwater runoff by intercepting and storing rainwater. Residents can take measures to ensure their communities adhere to proper tree pruning requirements by reporting unlawful pruning by homeowners and homeowner associations (HOAs) to the Growth Management Department, Code Enforcement Division, Code Violations Section located at 2800 North Horseshoe Drive.

HOAs and homeowners can avoid undesirable tree hacking, hat-racking, and removal of green palm branches or fronds, all of which are against county code, by hiring licensed contractors with proof of liability insurance for tree pruning maintenance and checking references and local pruning jobs by the contractor. Drastic tree pruning is sometimes erroneously perceived as higher value for the pruning investment, when, in fact, customers are receiving lower value due to temporary or permanent damage caused to the trees. According to Collier County Environmental Planning, there should not be a noticeable difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of tree pruning.

Some associations attempt to justify excessive pruning by claiming it’s required by local fire districts, The Greater Naples Fire Rescue District and North Collier Fire Control & Rescue District, because they require tree canopies along county roads be lifted in order to allow emergency fire and rescue vehicles to pass. However, residents and HOAs should know, they do not require more than a 14-foot clearance. The Collier County Fire Prevention and Protection Code Policy and Procedure Manual, Article Number ACC09-03, related to Fire Department Access Road Clearances states:

“Fire department access roads shall have an unobstructed vertical clearance of not less than 14 feet.”

This height still allows for beautiful tree canopies to grow and arch over roadways, much like we see along the road at the Growth Management Department on Horseshoe Drive North. According to an article by the Tree Care Industry Association (tcia.org), Tree Pruning to ANSI Standards:

Pruning is much more than the simple act of sawing off limbs. Proper pruning is an art based on scientific principles of plant physiology. At its most basic level, pruning trees involves removing damaged, dead or structurally weak limbs, which will improve a tree’s health and reduce the chances of personal or property damage caused by falling limbs. More advanced pruning methods aid in improving the tree’s structure and long-term health.

Proper pruning encourages growth, increases flower and fruit production, improves plant health and removes damaged limbs, all which give aesthetic appeal to a tree. Pruning at the right time and in the right way is critical, since it is possible to kill a tree by neglect or over-pruning. Pruning at the wrong time can be damaging to tree tissues.

Arborists adhering to the ANSI A300 pruning standard will not:

  • leave branch stubs
  • make unnecessary heading cuts
  • cut off the branch collar (not make a flush cut)
  • top or lion’s tail trees (stripping a branch from the inside leaving foliage just at the ends)
  • remove more than 25 percent of the foliage of a single branch
  • remove more than 25 percent of the total tree foliage in a single year
  • damage other parts of the tree during pruning
  • use wound paint
  • prune without a good reason
  • climb the tree with climbing spikes

If you observe improper tree pruning in Collier County, you can report suspected violations to the Growth Management Department, Code Enforcement Division, Code Violations Section by phone (239) 252-2440; through the Online Complaint Portal; through the Collier 311 system by dialing 311 (or download the app); or by visiting in person during normal business hours. A county inspector will be assigned to the case, check for violations, and issue fines where violations are found.

Contact the Development Review Division, Environmental Planning Section for more information about proper tree pruning techniques and procedures.

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Golden Gate Country Club

Collier County Purchases Golden Gate Country Club

After a unanimous vote by the Board of County Commissioners (BCC), Collier County recently purchased the Golden Gate Country Club. The land, located in Golden Gate City at the corner of Golden Gate Parkway and Collier Boulevard, is a 167-acre golf course. The property was purchased for $29.1 million.

On October 8, the BCC will vote to accept staff’s rankings and authorize contract negotiations for the planning and engineering firm that will help County staff evaluate potential uses of the site. Several public meetings will be held to vet conceptual plans and uses for the property. We look forward to these meetings beginning before the new year. The County will identify uses for the land that will have the greatest benefit for the for community while fitting in with the surrounding community. Possible uses for the property could include workforce housing, senior housing, government offices, outdoor recreation space and/or a Veterans Administration nursing home. In the meantime, the property will be maintained while these plans are developed.

Keep an eye out for announcements of upcoming public input meetings about this property. Great things are happening, and we need the citizens of Collier County to help be the voice of the community.

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Coastal Resiliency Feasibility Study Process

US Army Corps of Engineers and Collier County Work Together to Improve Coastal Resiliency

In late 2018, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began a scoping process to survey and examine the coastal and tidal areas of Collier County to assess vulnerabilities to hurricane and storm surge damage. The Collier County Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) Feasibility Study came as a result of a 10-year intense effort by the county’s Coastal Zone Management section to secure the $3 million federal grant to improve safety and coastal resiliency within the county. The study is 100% federally funded.

Collier County is an area of concern due to its history of prior coastal damage, vulnerable position along the coastline, and dense population of residents and visitors requiring additional time and assistance during evacuation. The county’s narrow beaches and low dunes provide little protection against storm surge, as weather patterns show an increase in hurricane frequency and intensity.

USACE and Collier County held an informal public meeting on Sept. 9 to present the study, hear public comments and concerns, and discuss structural, nonstructural, and nature-based management measures for consideration. Among the structural alternatives for consideration are flood gates, floodwalls, seawalls, surge barriers, beach berms, vegetative dunes, and mangrove and oyster restorations. The illustration above shows the CSRM Feasibility Study timeline which is scoped at three years.

USACE will present its findings sometime after the first of the year.

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