Big Cypress FAQ
Good Q&A about Big Cypress
Big Cypress FAQThe Community
What are your plans for Big Cypress?
Collier Enterprises is moving forward with the next steps in the creation of our new community in eastern Collier County. We submitted a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) pre-application package to Collier County and the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council on September 7 for the town of Big Cypress. The pre-application outlines our plans for the development of about 2,800 acres over a period of 12 to 15 years. This development will include a maximum of 9,000 residential units, with a proportionate amount of commercial space – jobs, shopping, services, schools, health care, recreation, and civic and cultural facilities – to serve residents of the community and the eastern part of the county.
A significant portion of our land in eastern Collier County will remain in active agricultural use. Our long-term goal continues to be creation of a community that embraces the rural character of the area and allows us to preserve large expanses of land and historic ranches and farms. Under the Rural Lands Stewardship Program, Collier Enterprises will protect 10,000 acres of environmentally important wetlands and wildlife habitat in conjunction with the development of Big Cypress.
Big Cypress is located east of Golden Gate Estates near Oil Well Road. We’re envisioning a new kind of sustainable community. By “sustainable” we mean a community that includes nearly everything its residents need – not just housing, but also jobs, shopping, services, health care and other aspects of everyday life. Big Cypress will have a town center and attractive residential neighborhoods, interconnected by a network of trails, parks and preserves.
How much land is involved?
Under this Development of Regional Impact (DRI) application, we’re proposing to create a new town on approximately 2,800 acres over a period of 12 to 15 years. We’re also planning to preserve 10,000 acres, including a continuous 10-mile length of the Camp Keais Strand, plus an important area of wildlife habitat along the Okaloacoochee Slough east of Immokalee.
When you first announced Big Cypress last fall, the scope of development was much larger. Why has this changed?
Our planning last year began with a broad, three-decade vision for our entire Big Cypress Stewardship District and associated lands. Today’s plan is a logical beginning. It enables us to serve an existing market and improve the local transportation network, while at the same time maintaining the rural character of the area by preserving land and continuing agriculture. Based on a lot of conversation with area residents, and considerable research and consultation with environmental experts, we decided to center our new town at the heart of our Big Cypress Stewardship District, in the area between Oil Well Road and an extended Randall Boulevard.
What types of housing will be offered at Big Cypress?
We intend to provide a variety of housing types and price levels. Big Cypress will also include shopping, services, recreational and cultural amenities, and business and commercial areas that we believe will bring jobs to the community. We want this to be a place where people of all income levels can live and work.
When do you expect to break ground? When will new homes go on the market?
The Development of Regional Impact (DRI) process is a key step in a series of planning measures likely to extend over the next several years. We anticipate that site preparation at Big Cypress will begin in 2010, with the first homes coming on the market in 2011.
How many residential units and how much commercial space will be developed?
We are currently planning a maximum of 9,000 residential units in Big Cypress over a period of 12 to 15 years. We’re also planning approximately 207 acres of commercial space.
What types of commercial development are planned for Big Cypress?
Our plans for Big Cypress include a broad range of commercial, retail and office development. The concept of a sustainable community is to provide jobs, shopping, services, schools, health care, entertainment and cultural opportunities within the community, so residents don’t have to drive long distances for their everyday needs and activities. So we anticipate there will be a variety of retail shopping, banks, offices for businesses and professional practices, restaurants, entertainment, and other kinds of commercial facilities that can provide jobs and create a healthy economic base for the community.
What sort of health care facilities and services will there be?
We anticipate that the community will offer a broad range of health care and services: physicians’ offices, labs and screening facilities, various kinds of specialist services, dental and eye care, along with fitness facilities and health clubs. Eventually, we think Big Cypress will be the ideal location for a new community hospital that will serve all the residents of eastern Collier County.
How will you make all of this happen? Who are the key members of your team?
Collier Enterprises has assembled a top-level team for our Big Cypress planning. Our team includes in-house experts as well as highly regarded national consultants with deep experience in long-range community planning. We are working with MSK Properties, a planning group comprising former top executives of The Rouse Company, which developed some of the finest large-scale master planned communities in America, including Columbia, Maryland, as well as landmark retail projects such as Boston’s Faneuil Hall and Harborplace in Baltimore.
Other key consultants include the planning and engineering firm of Wilson Miller, a key architect of the Rural Lands Stewardship Program; Ernie Cox of Family Lands Remembered, who has been instrumental in the RLSP; the Naples engineering firm of Agnoli, Barber & Brundage; and the environmental consulting firm of Passarella & Associates. As we move forward with plans for the residential and commercial areas within Big Cypress, we expect to invite quality home builders and other companies to participate.
What came out of the planning workshops you hosted in the fall of 2006? How has community input informed your planning for Big Cypress?
Our planning workshops were informative and helpful. We received many good recommendations and ideas, and we learned more about the concerns of county residents, particularly people already living in the eastern part of the county. Some of the strong community preferences have been incorporated into our revised plans. For example, many people urged us to avoid sprawling development and to locate jobs, shopping and services close to where people live. We agree and have proposed plans for Big Cypress that concentrate residential and commercial activity around a town center located between Oil Well Road and an extended Randall Boulevard. This will allow more homes to be in walking or biking distance of shopping and services. That was another preference we heard time and again: encourage walking and biking; discourage driving.
We plan to continue our discussions with community groups as the planning process continues. We hope future Big Cypress residents will play an active role in helping shape plans for the community.
top The Environment
What impact will this project have on the sensitive environment of eastern Collier County?
Our plans for Big Cypress include preserving more than 10,000 acres of green space. We are committed to protecting these lands, including sensitive wetlands, major flow ways, wildlife habitat (including habitat for endangered species such as the Florida panther and wood stork) and other natural ecosystems. This type of stewardship has been part of our company’s history for almost a century. About 80 percent of the county’s land today is in public ownership, permanently protected as parks and preserves. Almost all of this land was conveyed to government or nonprofit agencies by the Collier family and its companies.
Under the Rural Lands Stewardship Program (RLSP), Collier Enterprises will protect 10,000 acres of environmentally important wetlands and wildlife habitat in conjunction with the development of Big Cypress. After careful consideration, we identified lands that make strategic contributions to the protection of both the Camp Keais Strand and Okaloacoochee Slough, the two vital regional ecosystems within the Rural Lands Stewardship Area. We will set aside more than 7,000 acres within the Camp Keais Strand, protecting a continuous 10-mile length of the Strand through Collier Enterprises land holdings. We also will set aside nearly 3,000 acres of important wildlife habitat along the Okaloacoochee Slough east of Immokalee, which, when coupled with lands previously set aside under the RLSP in this location, will provide a broad area of habitat preservation.
Big Cypress is located near critical habitat for the endangered Florida panther. What steps are planned to protect panthers?
We have studied this issue carefully and consulted with panther experts to better understand panther science and the patterns of panther movement around the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Camp Keais Strand and up to the Okaloacoochee Slough. We are looking carefully at the corridors where panthers are currently active and where there is non-functioning habitat. Big Cypress development will be concentrated near existing development in eastern Golden Gate Estates, in the area around Oil Well Road and Randall Boulevard. Our planning team will continue to study wildlife and ecosystem issues, working with Florida and national panther experts, as well as experts in conservation biology, water quality and other disciplines.
Will there be an adequate water supply for the new community without risking the water supply for current residents of eastern Collier County?
The community we are planning is expected to consume less water than is currently permitted for agricultural use. In addition, future developed areas will be designed to take full advantage of the sustainable practice of reusing water for irrigation, which will further reduce demand for fresh water.
Will Big Cypress cause flooding in Golden Gate Estates?
No. Water within the Big Cypress Stewardship District flows south and east away from the Estates and therefore does not contribute to Golden Gate Estates flooding.
top Regional Planning
Please explain the concept of the Rural Lands Stewardship Program.
Big Cypress is being developed under Collier County’s Rural Lands Stewardship Program (RLSP), a measure approved by the county in 2002. The RLSP is an innovative, incentive-based approach to planning and implementing a sustainable long-term growth in rural regions. Other similar efforts are under way in other parts of the state, but the Collier County RLSP is the first and most fully established program in Florida.
The RLSP is a tool to help protect natural resources, support continued farming and grazing, and promote sustainable economic growth. The program encourages landowners to preserve large areas of land. It offers incentives to concentrate development away from environmentally sensitive areas and to locate future communities in places more suitable for development. The RLSP designates specific lands as habitat stewardship areas, flow way stewardship areas and water retention areas. Permanent protection of these areas creates stewardship credits that can be transferred to areas intended for development.
The Rural Lands Stewardship Program enjoys widespread support from diverse constituents including environmental advocates, farmers, property owners, government agencies and community developers. The program has won major recognition including a 2003 award from the Council for Sustainable Florida.
Transportation and traffic congestion are important issues for many area residents. How are you approaching local and regional transportation concerns?
Along with protecting natural areas, one of our top priorities is working with the county and state to participate in providing good transportation solutions. At Big Cypress our transportation plans focus on Randall Boulevard and a widened Oil Well Road, both of which will enter our community at the location of its town center and both of which connect to a widened Immokalee Road. We also believe that the availability of businesses, shops, schools, parks, restaurants and services within Big Cypress will give residents of Golden Gate Estates new reasons to drive east instead of west for jobs, groceries and entertainment. We think this should help reduce traffic on roads to the west.
What are your plans for Immokalee? What other Collier Enterprises projects are under way?
Our Immokalee Tradeport Technology Park will combine industrial, commercial and residential development in a new community located just east of urban Immokalee and south of Immokalee Airport. More than 2.5 million square feet of commercial and industrial space will be created for manufacturers, distributors, offices and retail outlets. Adjacent to this commercial space will be a residential community where we anticipate parks, preserves, lakes and a new school. When completed, Tradeport Technology Park is envisioned to generate as many as 5,000 new jobs and provide homes for people working in the surrounding area.
Other current Collier Enterprises projects include the new Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club and the residential community of Sabal Bay. Hamilton Harbor, scheduled to open in early 2008, will offer a limited number of wet and dry slips, a full service marina and waterfront dining. Sabal Bay, located in south Naples, will be a 1,500-acre community of estate homes, single-family homes, villas and mid-rise condominiums.
Is Collier Enterprises getting out of the agriculture business?
Not at all. Collier Enterprises has been involved in farming and ranching for decades, and we expect this activity will continue on our lands in the future. The Rural Lands Stewardship Program encourages the continuation of farms and ranches and a significant portion of our land in the Big Cypress Stewardship District will remain in active agricultural use. We believe that agriculture will remain an important part of life in eastern Collier County.
How will current residents of eastern Collier County benefit from development of Big Cypress?
The location of Big Cypress in eastern Collier County puts it at the heart of an area whose residents will benefit from access to additional services – shopping, health care, schools, recreational and cultural activities, and other community services. We have had a number of discussions with major retailers, health care providers and other institutions interested in opening facilities at Big Cypress.
We are listening to our neighbors and will keep working with them in the coming months and years. We anticipate that Big Cypress will provide residents of eastern Collier County with new opportunities for jobs, health care, shopping, recreation and education.