Conservancy of Southwest Florida files suit challenging Collier County’s approval of Rivergrass Village in eastern Collier County

The proposed development is unlawful, burdens taxpayers and negatively impacts panther habitat and quality of life.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has filed a lawsuit against Collier County in response to the Collier County Board of County Commissioners’ approval of the development of Rivergrass Village within the County’s Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RLSA) in eastern Collier County.

Filed today in Florida’s 20th Judicial Circuit Court, the complaint contends that Rivergrass Village Stewardship Receiving Area (SRA) is inconsistent with the RLSA policies in the Collier County Growth Management Plan and Land Development Code.

What is the Rural Lands Stewardship Area?

In 2002, Collier County adopted the Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RLSA) program to guide development of 182,000 acres of privately held lands in eastern Collier County. The goals were to protect agricultural lands, direct development away from wetlands and wildlife habitat, and to avoid urban sprawl.

Why is the Conservancy opposing it?

Rivergrass Village contradicts the County’s own growth policies and sets the stage for approval of other large new communities that if approved, will result in urban sprawl the geographic size of Fort Lauderdale – times two. Additionally, the taxpayers will bear the burden of roadway, infrastructure and other costs. As one of the Collier County Planning Commissioners stated when voting against Rivergrass, “…this is the last clear chance for our County to get it right.”

What are the areas of inconsistency with the County’s plan?

The complaint addresses several areas of inconsistency with Collier County’s Growth Management Plan, including:

  1. Rivergrass Village is neither interconnected nor walkable;

  2. Rivergrass is not fiscally neutral and will result in a drain on taxpayer dollars;

  3. Rivergrass Village will destroy endangered species habitat;

  4. Rivergrass Village fails to incorporate innovative planning strategies

Who approved it?

The Collier County Planning Commission in November, recommended denial of Rivergrass Village by a 4 to 1 vote. Collier County staff rated Rivergrass Village a D- and stated that the project “does not fully meet the minimum intent of the policies in the RLSAO.” Despite these findings, the Board of Collier County Commissioners approved Rivergrass Village on Jan. 28, 2020 in a 3-2 vote.

What’s next?

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has hired Arnold & Porter, an international law firm based in Washington, D.C. with nearly 1,000 lawyers and more than 100 years of experience including in environmental law, to achieve its desired goal of overturning approval of the Rivergrass Village development order.

The Conservancy believes that growth and preservation of natural resources can work together and urges that all new development follow RLSA policies and be located away from primary panther habitat.

This page will be updated once new information becomes available.

Click the links below to learn more about the Conservancy’s advocacy efforts for Smart Growth in eastern Collier County.

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