Imagine waking to the sun rising over the shimmering lakes of Longwater, a village in eastern Collier County where more than 260 of 1,000 acres will be dedicated to lakes to ensure nearly every home enjoys an up-close view. The day ahead will be full of friends and activities: using the community-wide pathways for a vigorous walk or pleasant bike ride through neighboring residential areas, enjoying a workout in the community amenity center’s fitness area, relaxing over a picnic lunch in one of the spacious village parks, and making a quick trip to the Village Center to drop off dry cleaning before hitting the grocery store next door.
Longwater brings together the best features of the village plans outlined in Collier County’s Rural Lands Stewardship Area. A diverse offering of housing types, including up to 2,600 homes, will allow for attainable price ranges for families, essential workers, and retirees. The Village Center will provide neighborhood-scale retail, office, civic and community uses – accessible from both within Longwater and from the future Big Cypress Parkway, making access easy for residents of Golden Gate Estates and other areas.
A scenic spine road in the village will be enhanced by a 10-ft. multi-use pathway on one side, a 6-ft. sidewalk on the other, and 4-ft. bike lanes within the street itself, all welcoming pedestrians and bicyclists to Longwater’s tree-lined streets.
Longwater will include a connection to the nearby village of Rivergrass, enabling convenient access between the two communities’ parks, open spaces, and shopping centers.
Nature-viewing platforms will overlook hundreds of acres of wildlife habitat and open space, which comprises more than 50 percent of Longwater village, far exceeding the county’s minimum requirements.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the Town of Big Cypress coming back?
Collier Enterprises was encouraged by Collier County management to submit an application for a new town that would bring jobs, include an expansive public park, add new schools, and reduce the number of cars traveling west into Naples for goods, services, and employment. Collier Enterprises agreed with the County’s thinking.
Where is the Town of Big Cypress located?
The Town of Big Cypress is located in eastern Collier County just east of Golden Gate Estates at Oil Well Road and the future Big Cypress Parkway. The town is proximate to Collier Enterprises’ three new Villages – Rivergrass, Longwater, and Bellmar.
What are the benefits of the Town of Big Cypress?
The Town of Big Cypress brings numerous benefits to Collier County residents, including economic diversification, employment opportunities, mixed-use development, school sites, community park, affordable and attainable housing, and a town core with large-scale industrial, commercial, goods and services to an underserved portion of Golden Gate Estates and other eastern Collier County residents.
Are the Town of Big Cypress and the three new Villages being created as a bedroom community to Naples?
No – instead, residents of the Town of Big Cypress, Rivergrass, Longwater, and Bellmar will be able to live, work and shop in the new town and the numerous commercial centers being created as part of the development plan. Connectivity between the Town and Villages are built into the plan. Big Cypress will feature employment centers, office space, retail shopping, services, entertainment, healthcare and other aspects of everyday life – all in eastern Collier County. While some residents will certainly choose to travel to Naples and other destinations for employment and services, this new town is intended to be a self-contained, sustainable community.
How many residential units will there be and what types of homes will be offered?
The total number of homes in the Town of Big Cypress, Rivergrass, Longwater, and Bellmar totals approximately 8,350. The residential offerings will span a broad range of options for working families, essential workers, retirees, and second-home owners. Additionally, the Town of Big Cypress includes a set-aside of acreage for Collier County to create 880 affordable housing units – an unprecedented commitment to ensure a variety of attainable housing for all.
When will development activities commence? When will new homes go on the market?
Rivergrass Village, Longwater Village and Bellmar Village have been approved at the County level. Additional public spaces, both residential and commercial, are currently under review by the County and will be incorporated into the Town of Big Cypress in the future.
Construction permits from the County, State and Federal agencies are expected in 2023. Utility and infrastructure construction is expected to begin in 2023, with homes being built in 2024.
How will current residents of eastern Collier County benefit from the Town of Big Cypress?
The location of the Town of Big Cypress in eastern Collier County puts it at the heart of an area where current and future residents of Golden Gate Estates, Ave Maria, Orange Tree and other nearby communities will benefit from access to additional employment opportunities, services, retail shopping, healthcare, and civic, recreational and cultural activities.
Will Collier County taxpayers foot the bill for the new Town and Villages?
Absolutely not. Collier County requires that the Town and Villages be “fiscally neutral” – in other words, the development must pay for itself through a number of revenue streams to the County. The analysis is reviewed and confirmed by County staff and rechecked by a professional, neutral industry expert; in every analysis, the Village applications have been found consistent with the fiscal neutrality requirement. These reviews of the Villages have confirmed that upon completion, the Town of Big Cypress will generate 6,000 jobs in eastern Collier County, approximately $200 million in total impact fees, and – at no cost to taxpayers – forever protect more than 12,300 acres of prime panther habitat and add $3 million in panther crossings and fencing to protect panthers. Additionally, the clustered development design of the Town and Villages, which is a pillar of the RLSA program, eliminates urban sprawl. Villages reduce road trips and create the opportunity for large-scale environmental preservation.
How much commercial development is planned?
Total commercial for the Town of Big Cypress and the Villages is 1, 575,000 square feet, with 1.3 million within the Town and the remainder in the Villages. There will be a variety of offices for businesses and professional practices, retail shopping, restaurants, entertainment venues, and space for manufacturing – all of which will provide jobs and create a healthy economic base for the community. This sustainable community will reduce the need for residents to drive long distances for their everyday needs and activities.
What sort of healthcare facilities and services will be there?
We anticipate that the Town of Big Cypress will offer a broad range of healthcare services, including physicians’ offices, labs and diagnostic facilities, various kinds of specialist services, dental and eye care, and fitness facilities and health clubs.
How will the Town of Big Cypress impact current and future roadway networks?
Along with protecting natural areas, one of the top priorities for Big Cypress is working with Collier County to participate in providing transportation solutions. Collier Enterprises has reserved 10 miles of right-of-way for the future Big Cypress Parkway, and we have committed to pay $27 million for intersection improvements. Additionally, the Town and Villages will generate approximately $67 million in transportation funds – which County staff has confirmed far exceeds the Villages’ transportation impacts – to help advance road improvements in Collier County. Our plans call for convenient access to important area thoroughfares as Big Cypress and the Villages develop. In addition, the availability of businesses, shops, schools, parks, restaurants and services within the Town of Big Cypress will give residents of Golden Gate Estates new reasons to drive east instead of west for jobs, groceries and entertainment.
Will the Town of Big Cypress require a new interchange on I-75?
The Town of Big Cypress does not require or anticipate the need for a new interchange on I-75. There is adequate capacity on I-75 interchanges at State Road 29 and Immokalee Road to serve the transportation needs of the Big Cypress community. We anticipate that Big Cypress will reduce the need for many area residents to travel west to Naples for jobs, shopping and other needs.
What impact will this project have on the sensitive environment of eastern Collier County?
Care and respect for the environment is an essential element of the Town of Big Cypress and the nearby Villages. Demonstrating our commitment to protecting these lands, our preservation plan provides 12,337 acres of conservation –approximately three acres of preservation for every acre we develop – meaning sensitive wetlands, major flow ways, wildlife habitat and other natural ecosystems will be restored and protected in perpetuity. This type of environmental stewardship has been part of Collier Enterprises’ history for more than a century. In fact, about 80 percent of the county’s land today is in public ownership, permanently protected as parks and preserves – and much of this land was conveyed to government entities and nonprofit agencies by the Collier family and its companies.
In planning for Town of Big Cypress, we have identified land that makes strategic contributions to the protection of Camp Keais Strand, a vital regional ecosystem within the Rural Lands Stewardship Area. Thousands of acres within the Camp Keais Strand will be preserved, including a continuous 10-mile length of the Strand through Collier Enterprises’ land holdings. We also will set aside several thousand acres of important wildlife habitat along the Okaloacoochee Slough east of Immokalee. Coupled with lands previously set aside under the Rural Lands Stewardship Area in this location, this will provide a broad area of connected habitat preservation.
The Town of Big Cypress is located near critical habitat for the endangered Florida panther. What steps are planned to protect panthers?
The Town of Big Cypress will be concentrated immediately adjacent to existing development in eastern Golden Gate Estates, in the area around Oil Well Road and Randall Boulevard, on farm fields that have been cleared for decades. The preservation of 12,337 acres, including the Camp Keais Strand, represents the permanent protection of a key corridor for the endangered Florida panther, connecting the CREW lands to the north with the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge to the south – all at no cost to Collier County taxpayers. 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.
In addition, Collier Enterprises has joined four leading conservation organizations – Audubon of Florida, Collier County Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and Florida Wildlife Federation – plus other eastern Collier County landowners in a collaborative effort to protect the Florida Panther by creating the Florida Panther Protection Program and Florida Panther Protection Fund. The Villages will generate $3 million for the fund and the fund pays for panther protection measures such as acquiring and restoring habitat and installing panther crossings and fencing. These efforts also benefit dozens of other species. In compliance with the Florida Protection Program, the Town of Big Cypress will generate several million dollars for the Florida Panther Protection Fund.
Are farm fields primary panther habitat?
According to experts on panther habitat and conservation as well as panther GPS tracking data, farm fields are not preferred habitat for panthers. One look at the telemetry data shows that panthers den, roam, and hunt prey in Camp Keais Strand. All development will occur on farm fields, while preserving 12,337 acres of true primary panther habitat in Camp Keais Strand.
The Kautz Study concludes with this clear direction: “An ambitious, comprehensive strategy for working with private landowners to protect, enhance, and restore panther habitat within the Primary, Dispersal, and Secondary Zones is essential.”
Will there be an adequate water supply for the new community without risking the water supply for current residents of eastern Collier County?
The allocation of water for the Town of Big Cypress will be less than has been historically permitted for agriculture and farming in this location. Additionally, Collier Enterprises is investigating the potential for implementing reuse water supplies for irrigation needs, which may further reduce the development’s demand for fresh water.
Will the Town of Big Cypress cause flooding in Golden Gate Estates?
No, Big Cypress will not cause flooding in Golden Gate Estates. Water within the Big Cypress Stewardship District is managed onsite, and any discharge from the development will flow south and east away from the Estates.
Please explain the concept of the Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RLSA) Program.
The Town of Big Cypress is being permitted under Collier County’s Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RLSA) program, a zoning measure approved by Collier County in 2002 for approximately 185,000 acres of land in eastern Collier County. The RLSA program is an innovative, incentive-based approach to planning and implementing sustainable long-term growth in rural regions. Collier County’s RLSA program has received national recognition and served as the basis for Florida’s Rural Lands Stewardship programs in other areas.
To date, Collier County’s RSLA program has already conserved 50,693 acres in perpetuity at zero cost to taxpayers – land that is valued at $1 billion. By comparison, the Conservation Collier program funded by taxpayers has purchased a total of 4,054 acres at an acquisition cost of nearly $104 million, with taxpayers also funding the maintenance of these lands in perpetuity.
The RLSA program protects natural resources, supports continued farming and grazing, and promotes 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 Town of Big Cypress does exactly that: For every acre developed, Big Cypress and the three Villages will provide approximately three acres of preservation land including sensitive wetlands, major flow ways, wildlife habitat and other natural ecosystems.
The RLSA designates specific lands as habitat stewardship areas, flow way stewardship areas, and water retention areas. Permanent protection of these areas creates stewardship credits that are required to permit development on land suitable for development.
The RLSA program enjoys widespread support from diverse constituencies, including environmental advocates, farmers, property owners, government agencies, and community developers.
The Town of Big Cypress will comply with all Rural Land Stewardship requirements – and in some cases, exceed them.
Is Collier Enterprises getting out of the agriculture business?
Collier Enterprises has been involved in farming and ranching for decades, and agriculture will remain an important part of Collier Enterprises’ organization and life in eastern Collier County. The existing agricultural operations will transition to alternate lands within Collier County and the surrounding areas.
Will the Town of Big Cypress include civic uses and county services?
Yes, the Town of Big Cypress will set aside land for civic uses, such as schools, churches, county services, and emergency services.