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Bill of rights for Golden Gate Estates?

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avatarUdut, Kenneth -- on Mar. 24 2009, from Golden Gate Estates, Naples, FL
Founder of this Naples site of NeighborHelp Referrals.

COLLIER COUNTY — “The Golden Gate Estates is a unique rural community with rural community needs, rural citizen concerns and rural living issues not found in any other area of Collier County. The unique rural community setting that exists in The Estates was sought out by the people that reside there because of the opportunities it offers.”

OK, it ain’t exactly, “We the People of the United States...” but it is a preamble nonetheless.

It precedes the Estates Bill of Rights, a draft document formed in an effort to preserve the character of what is affectionately known as the World’s Largest Subdivision.

Leaders of the Golden Gate Estates Civic Association have been working on the Bill of Rights for a couple of years, envisioning it as a hedge against the urban encroachments they see threatening their way of life.

Instead of guaranteeing a free press, the Estates Bill of Rights seeks to protect the right to streets free of urban amenities like curbs, street lights and landscaping. Instead of the right to bear arms, the Golden Gate Estates Bill of Rights would ensure the right to adequate well water. The freedom from unwarranted search and seizure is replaced by the freedom from forced hookup to government utilities.

The Bill of Rights covers areas including transportation, parks, public safety, commercial development and hazard mitigation.

Golden Gate Estates sprawls over 80 square miles east of Collier Boulevard and west of Desoto Boulevard. Its 35,000 residents moved there with an expectation that it would remain rural in nature, with homes on lots ranging from a couple of acres to 10 acres or more, said Peter Paul Gaddy, vice president of the GGECA. Recently, proposals to alter that formula have been coming in steadily. Gaddy cites the example of a proposed 40-acre commercial complex at the intersection of Golden Gate and Wilson boulevards. Seeking 225,000 square feet of office and retail uses, the plan covered 300 pages. “We needed a staff just to read the material,” Gaddy said.

Tim Nance, past president of the group, said the case is an example of the piecemeal planning that has been going on in the Estates. “We are seeing the plan change according to the desires of individual developers. It’s planning by exception, by exception by exception.”

County rules that work well west of State Road 951 don’t always translate well in the eastern reaches, Gaddy and Nance agree. “When you have codes that are supposed to fit everybody, they don’t fit anybody,” Nance said.

The Bill of Rights exists now as a draft. For the rest of the year the civic association will hold meetings to get input from residents. Ideas other than the ones articulated in the draft are welcome, Nance said. The main purpose is to set out a vision for the Estates that is drawn by the people who live there. “If there’s going to be development, what kind of development do you want?” he asks.

The Bill of Rights is also posted on the civic association’s web site, where comment is invited. James Flannigan , the James Madison of the Golden Gate Estates Bill of Rights, is the contact person for questions and information about the draft.

Ultimately, leaders like Gaddy and Nance would like to see Collier County commissioners incorporate it in the Golden Gate Estates Master Plan, which is part of the Collier County Growth Management Plan. That would give it the force of law, just like its federal namesake.

Beyond that, it could serve as the basis for an incorporated Golden Gate Estates City or even be part of the charter of a separate county, a move Gaddy sees as unlikely, but possible, given the diverging natures of coastal and inland Collier.

“When in the course of human events...”

E-mail Brent Batten at
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Bill of rights for Golden Gate Estates?