Housing development planned on 175 acres off Bonita Beach Road, near CREW Flint Pen Strand

Seagate Development Group and Barron Collier Companies are partnering on a new neighborhood…

Housing development planned on 175 acres off Bonita Beach Road, near CREW Flint Pen Strand
Housing development planned on 175 acres off Bonita Beach Road, near CREW Flint Pen Strand 1

David Dorsey
 
| Fort Myers News-Press

A 175-acre piece of land that has been a sand and limerock mine and lies adjacent to thousands of acres of protected watershed lands could be turned into a residential community off Bonita Beach Road.

Seagate Development Group and Barron Collier Companies purchased the land, a package of 19 parcels sold as one, for $6 million Dec. 30. They announced they want to create a community with pristine views of some of those preserved lands, plus the two on-site lakes that were created about 20 years ago for mining. The property borders the Kehl Canal to the north, which is the headwaters of the Imperial River.

The land has an address of 14780 on the north side of Bonita Beach Road, east of I-75 and Bonita Grande Drive. The planned development is about quarter of a square mile in size.

The community could be a hybrid mix of multi-family apartments and single-family homes, said Matt Price, chief executive officer of Seagate. The site plan is still in the works, but single-family homes would be a part of the project, he said. Apartments also are a possibility. The number of units are not yet decided or ready to announce. Seagate and its partners are looking at density and traffic studies.

“It’s a property we’ve had our eye on for several years,” said James Nulf, chief operating officer of Seagate. “It was just a matter of timing. It made a lot of sense to move forward with this project because of the economy and the location. That location seems to be the center point of where people want to be. We have a much better location into Naples from that location in addition to I-75.”

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There will be some red tape to clear prior to development. Portions of the land are zoned for industrial planned development. Other parts are zoned for agriculture. About 75 acres lie under Lee County jurisdiction. Other parts are within the city of Bonita Springs. The new owners seek rezoning to moderate density/mixed use.

On Oct. 1, the previous owner applied with Bonita Springs to annex the county lands into the city limits, public records show. But because none of the property had a land use category under city guidelines, county approval and rezoning would be needed, according to the annexation application submitted by Waldrop Engineering.

Lee County communications director Betsy Clayton would not allow any county government employees to be interviewed about this parcel. Lee County has not received notice of pending annexation, the county said.

The land at one time had been in the county’s 80,000-acre DR/GR, which stands for Density Reduction/Groundwater recharge area, a distinction that changed in 2015. The DR/GR allowed one home per 10 acres. The new Environmental Overlay allows one home per acre, but as an environmental tradeoff requires the development to hold back 60% of the land for preserves and open space.

If Bonita Springs were to annex the county portions of the property, it would go through a rezoning process with the city, Bonita Springs city councilman Fred Forbes said.

“If they filed a zoning application, I’m one of seven judges,” said Forbes, a Bonita city council member since 2016. “We’re not supposed to comment. Like a judge, I’ve got an open mind until I hear the last piece of evidence.

“They’ll probably submit I’m guessing a comp plan amendment. That kind of outlines some things as to what the land can be used for. The council would vote on the comp plan amendment first. If that is passed, then the next step would be looking at the master concept plan, and that could come in front of us for a zoning hearing.”

Donmal LLC bought the land in May 2013 for $2.9 million and then sold it to Seagate BC LLC in December. Justin Thibaut of LSI Companies in Fort Myers brokered the deal. Prior to that, parts of the land were known as the Plumosa Pit mine.

“It was marketed for about six months,” Thibaut said. “The primary attributes of the site are Bonita Beach Road access. It’s only about a mile from the Publix up the street. It’s a prime location for a future development site. It is the largest continuous single-owner parcel site off Bonita Beach Road. For future development, it’s in a prime position for that.”

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This will be the second residential partnership between Seagate and Barron Collier Companies, the first being Hill Tide Estates, a 19-home, 10-acre neighborhood at the southern end of Boca Grande, where six home sites are remaining.

“Our reputation with Barron Collier – every project that we do with them is first class,” Nulf said.

As for environmental concerns, Nulf said the development should have a synergy with the surrounding ecosystem and also could help with storm-water management.

“There have been some (flooding) issues in that area in the past,” Nulf said. “It’ll be required to retain water on that site. It will really help manage the water there.”

Brenda Brooks, the executive director of CREW Land & Water Trust since 2008, voiced no opposition to the development, which is just west of her organization’s hiking trails off Bonita Beach Road. The trails opened to the public May 2018.

“Wow,” Brooks said upon viewing the address on Google maps, which shows a massive green stretch of land that includes CREW Flint Pen Strand, Lee County Conservation 20/20 lands and lands bought by other entities that that total 54,579 acres and help Lee and Collier County have fresh, clean drinking water. “They have a good site there.

“What you’re looking at is outside of that boundary. It’s adjacent, so good for them. They’re going to have conservation lands in their backyard. How lucky for them to have that.”

Brooks said it’s inevitable for most of these remaining, privately-owned parcels of land to be developed. She said she would welcome her new neighbors.

“What we do, is we go in and communicate with them,” Brooks said. “We want them to understand and hopefully appreciate the value of these lands and that they can access them for recreational purposes. We want them to understand that they may occasionally see a bear. Or they may see some alligators. How can we live with nature?”

Connect with this reporter: David Dorsey (Facebook), @DavidADorsey (Twitter).

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