Title: Golden Gates Estates Redevelopment Study - Phase I - Collier County, Fla. - Background
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/WL00003008/00001
 Material Information
Title: Golden Gates Estates Redevelopment Study - Phase I - Collier County, Fla. - Background
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publisher: Golden Gates Estates Study Committee
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Abstract: Richard Hamann's Collection - Golden Gates Estates Redevelopment Study - Phase I - Collier County, Fla. - Background
General Note: Box 12, Folder 4 ( Golden Gate Estates Redevelopment Study - Phase I - 1975 ), Item 2
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: WL00003008
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text


In the late 1950's, Gulf American Corporation began
acquiring many thousands of acres of outlying, undeveloped
land in Collier County for the purpose of creating a massive
S inventory of real estate parcels which would be marketed on
a world-wide basis. The real estate sales project, named
Golden Gate Estates, is now physically in place and occupies
approximately 173 square miles, well over 100,000 acres.
The overall Golden Gate Estates subdivision plan was submitted
to and approved by Collier County government in early 1960.
In that and subsequent years, plats for the many different
Golden Gate Estates subdivision units were approved and
placed of record in the official County plat book. Physical
improvements existing today in Golden Gate Estates include
a grid-iron system of roads typically spaced at one-quarter
mile interval, and a grid-iron system of canals which drain
in part into the Gordon River and Naples Bay and in part into
Fahka Union Bay. These road and canal improvements were
Committed to be made by the developer at the time of plat
approval, and met the then existing governmental improvement
requirements, both of Collier County and of the state and
federal agencies which had regulatory jurisdiction over such
land developments. Upon request by the development sponsor,
Collier County zoned the Golden Gate Estates subdivision for
commercial, multi-family, and single family residential use.
After platting, an extensive sales program began and continued
S through the 1960's and early 1970's. To date, a very high
proportion of the total 173 square mile area has been sold,
and although no records are available to show the precise
number of current owners and contract buyers within the
.project, it is estimated that there are well in excess of
1 50,000. The geographical position which the Golden Gate Estates
project occupies within Collier County may be seen on the
cover exhibit.

Prior to installation of the Golden Gate Estates
canal system, much of the land within the project area was
flooded during the annual rainy season and for some months
thereafter. The extensive canal system, which has now been
largely completed, was designed to permit rapid runoff of
the annual rainfall waters, preventing surface flooding
of the properties which were being sold. As progress on the
canal construction program was made, it became obvious to
interested observers that, although some surface flooding
continued, the canal system was nevertheless very effective
in quickly moving huge volumes of fresh water to tide water
during and after the annual rainy season.
During the late 1960's, in pace with growing public
/ and political awareness of the need for more careful management
of natural resources, a general awareness developed that the
quality of life for all living things inIT Florida; man,
plants, animals, birds, fish and nearly every other organism;
was dominantly related to the area's water resources. It also
became apparent that as urbanization and agricultural develop-
ment of South Florida continued, there would be an intensification
of competition for available water resources, and increased
need for logical and effective water resource management
Because of the size of the Golden Gate Estates

project and of the quantities of fresh water which its canal
system shunted rapidly to tide water, concern developed over
the prospect that the Golden Gate Estates project posed some
severe problems which had not been foreseen at the time of
initial subdivision plan approval. An engineering study was
undertaken for Collier County government by Black, Crow and
Eidsness, Inc., to determine the possibility of modifying the
existing canal system so as to substantially reduce the amount
of fresh water annually drained away, while preserving the
development opportunities on the privately owned parcels
within Golden Gate Estates. The results of this study


arrll~~~_~__ ~ _______~__ (I 1___1_____

indicated that by the expenditure of very large sums of money
on the existing canal system, some reduction in water losses
could'be achieved. The study pointed out, however, that the
necessity to prevent former natural wetlands which had been
platted and sold as building sites from flooding during the
annual rainy season would continue to require massive and
S rapid drainage of rainfall to tide water. This kind of
S drainage program is in direct contradiction to contemporary
water management and land development practice, which decrees
that development projects be designed to temporarily store and
slowly release rain water in a manner not greatly dissimilar
to the natural condition which preceded the development.
-The specific water related problems posed by the
SGodeFt-atestaes eve opment which began to come into
focus as physical improvements in the area were made included:
1. The annual loss of huge quantities of fresh
water which will be needed to serve the growing water con-
sumption needs of urban and agricultural interests in the
coastal portion of Collier County as well as needs of the
Golden Gate area itself.
2. Adverse impact on marine resources in the estuarine
water areas where historical hydrological conditions had been
abruptly changed by the Golden Gate Estates project, with the
S probability that the adverse impact will be accentuated over
time as additional land use activities are initiated in the
S Estates area, resulting in greater amounts of runoff and greater
amounts of pollution within the runoff.
3. Intensificatio ,of f st fires in the over-
drained lands, coupled with 1 of organic soils, and a
variety of adverse impact on pl t and animal communities
in the area.
4. The necessity to cease farming the better agricul-
tural lands near the north end of the project, because of greatly
lowered ground water levels.

Parallel to the development of concern over the
water resource management aspects of Golden Gate Estates,
there grew a concern over the potential of severe urban
development deficiencies, problems, and associated costs
which would stem from the fact that the entire Golden Gate
Estates development project had been conceived and executed
purely as a real estate sales project. No attention what-
soever had been given to the planning and development of
the necessary urban services and facilities required to
make a viable urban area of this 100,000+ acre project.
The recorded plats of Golden Gate Estates contain no sites
for governmental utilities, no school sites, no park or
playground sites. With the exception of the road and canal
right of ways, the entirety of the 100,000+ acre area was
subdivided for marketing as home or apartment or commercial
building sites, yet the huge project contains no mechanism
to control the location and timing of home building and other
private construction within its 173 square mile area. No
provision was included in the development program for
establishing public water, sewer, trash and garbage col-
lection, or other necessary urban services.
-Housing development to date in Golden Gate Estates
occupies a miniscule fraction of the total project area, yet
813 miles of road, 183 miles of canal, and 24 water control
structures have been constructed. Many of these roads, canals,
and water control structures are rapidly deteriorating and
will require extensive maintenance and repair expenditures
if they are not to be totally lost. Major expenditure on
such maintenance and repair is very difficult to justify,
however, since the roads, canals, and water control structures
serve almost no urban uses. The precise nature and extent of
urban development problems which will occur as an increasing
percentage of the privately owned building sites in the area
are utilized is not predictable with certainty, but the scale
of the project is such that it appears mandatory to make a

4 i


concerted effort to prevent the occurrence of major problems
rather than waiting until they occur and attempting to correct
i The establishment of a formal county governmental
movement to identify the specific Golden Gate Estates area
problems and to prepare a definitive course of action for
dealing with them began on March 12, 1975, when the County
Water Management Advisory Board formally requested the Collier
County Board of Commissioners to direct the Coastal Area
Planning Commission and Environmental Advisory Council and
Water Management Advisory Board to collectively review and
make appropriate determinations regarding long term urban
8I planning and natural resource management needs within the
; Golden Gate Estates area. In response to this recommendation,
on March 24, 1975, the Board of County Commissioners
established the Golden Gate Estates Study Committee, comprising
representatives of the three above-mentioned advisory boards.
The Study Committee quickly recognized that any significant
modification of the status quo in Golden Gate Estates would
raise complex legal questions. In search of reliable advice
as to whether there were legal pathways available for correc-
ting problems associated with Golden Gate Estates, the
Committee, with the encouragement and financial assistance
of the Collier County Conservancy, retained Frank E. Maloney,
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at the University of
Florida. Dean Maloney was asked to direct his attention to
the potential legal problems associated with making major
changes to the existing Golden Gate Estates, and offer advice
on whether opportunities for making significant changes in
the Estates development pattern existed. In June, 1975, Dean
S iraloney documented his findings and advice in his "REPORT ON

herein. The Maloney report notes the basic incompatibility
between the existing Golden Gate Estates canal system and
urban utilization of the Estates lands as platted and sold.
With regard to the prospect of doing a proper job of water
management while simultaneously preserving development and
use rights of the existing Golden Gate Estates platted
building sites, the Maloney report notes:

"It would seem that a much sounder approach
from the viewpoint of preserving the ecolo-
gical integrity of western Collier County
would be to re-plan the Golden Gate Estates
area with a view toward aiding the development
of future homesites on those portions of the
area which are located on sufficiently high
ground to justify their use for such purposes.
At the same time such re-planning would envi-
sion returning to their best use as wetlands
those areas which are properly suited for that
purpose, and which are needed as wetlands to
deter harm to the coastal areas of the County
both in the Bay of Naples and the Ten Thousand
Islands area. This action would alleviate
the substantial danger of salt water intru-
sion inland from the coastal areas as a
result of the lowering of the needed head
of fresh water in the area."

The Maloney report makes the point that halting the
overdrainage effect of the canal system and returning ground
water levels to a height closer to their original natural
condition might possibly be construed to make some of the
privately owned lands in the Golden Gate Estates area so
unuseable as to constitute a "taking" of those lands,
although modern court holdings in Florida and other juris-
dictions might well lead to the classification of the proposed
actions as valid regulation in the public interest. The basic
options available to resolve the "taking" problem are to
provide compensation to the owner whose land has been made
unuseable, or to completely rearrange the pattern of ownership,
with the objective of the ownership rearrangement being to

t the necessary water and other natural resource manage-
t actions, while simultaneously providing each land owner
ia useable parcel of land which has comparable if not
tter utility and value than that which he formerly owned.
S With regard to the existence of legal authority to
se land use regulations to help effect major changes in the
hanal system and ownership patterns, the Maloney report notes

"The modern trend of the law across the country
favors an expanded degree of regulation when
Reasonably necessary in the public interest,
in which case such regulation is classified
as a valid exercise of the police power rather
than a taking."

The Maloney report notes that legal authority to
effect water management and related changes in Golden Gate
Estates is dispersed. Not only does Collier County have
substantial authority stemming from water management and
zoning legislation, but there is also substantial legal
authority to effect changes in the Golden Gate Estates area
lodged in the Regional Water Management District in which
Collier County is to be placed; the State Department of
Environmental Regulations; and several federal agencies.
In the concluding remarks, the Maloney report offers
the following:

"In conclusion, it appears that there is
sufficient legal authority available either
at the County, Water Management District,
State or Federal levels to make it possible
to stabilize water runoff in the Golden Gate
Estates area and to control, reduce or hope-
fully eliminate the substantial waste of
fresh water resources of Collier County,
while at the same time reducing or elimina-
ting the effects of salt water intrusion
which have resulted from the unnecessary
lowering of ground water elevations. Such
stabilization would also result in reducing

1 ---~--,,.._.. -~I --- ___~III--PI-C----~L~-1.~~.

the siltation effects of the pulse dis-
charges of large quantities of water from
the GAC canals,

"While the permits received by GAC will no
doubt raise problems of estoppel, the
multitude of legal approaches available
at all levels of government, local, regional,
state and federal, plus the opportunity for
direct citizen suits in both state and fed-
eral courts would seem to minimize the
possibility that estoppel could be success-
fully argued if the proper forum were chosen
to protect the public interest."

In essence, the Maloney report advises that, in spite
of the fact that Golden Gate Estates was a governmentally
approved plat of record; in spite of the fact that the street
and canal construction was governmentally approved; and in
spite of the fact that thousands upon thousands of building
sites have been lawfully sold for urban development purposes,
there is not an impenetrable legal bar against making major
changes to the existing physical street and canal system, and
major changes tb the existing pattern of land ownership and
land use rights.
Upon receipt of the Maloney report, the Golden Gate
Estates Study Committee was encouraged to take a first step
toward building a factual base of information on which
rational decisions could be made regarding necessary re-
planning and re-development of Golden Gate Estates. Decision
was reached that.the first requirement to be met involved
gaining an understanding of the natural resource features
and functions which existed in the Golden Gate Estates area
prior to development, and the impact which the physical
changes that have occurred in Golden Gate have had and will
continue to have on natural resources. The necessity for
this natural resource inventory and analysis rises from the
fact that the character and quality of natural land and water
resources are dominant determinants of intelligent land use

~" -------m~m

~. .~.U-L-Y~U~U~i~~iUs~~~~*~;IY~~~CI~EIEI~

planning and rational decision making regarding water manage-
a ina t actions. This is equally true if the land is to be
devoted to forestation, water storage, agriculture, or urban
Suses. It is anticipated that in the huge Golden Gate Estates
area, a mixture of various land uses should properly take
i pace. Which uses should occur in what areas can be much
more accurately determined and legally substantiated once
Sthe character and quality of the area's natural resource
features and functions are thoroughly understood and documented.
In order to accomplish the technical work associated
with the initial and succeeding steps in the Golden Gate
Estates re-planning and re-development program, the Committee
recognized the necessity to supplement available County
technical staff resources with specialized assistance in the
fields of natural sciences, urban planning, law, hydrological
engineering, etc. Successful experience in melding in-house
staff, consultant, and other governmental agency staff resources
had been gained by the County in the preparation of Water
Management District plans for the coastal area of the County
S in recent years. Accordingly, the initial natural resource
fact finding, analysis, and advisory assignment was given to
the natural science consulting firm Tropical Biolndustries
Development Company in the form of a six-months service
contract, with supporting activities to be provided by County
staff. The essential components of the'work assignment
delegated to Tropical Biolndustries "included: (1) assembly
of available pertinent information; (2) biological, hydrological,
and ecological sampling as necessary; (3) definition of the
historic boundaries of the Golden Gate watershed and its
drainage sub-basins and flow-ways; (4) assessment of the
physical possibility and relative importance of restoring
S major natural features to some semblence of their pre-development
character and function; (5) natural resource based recommenda-
tions on what urban and non-Urban land uses the study area is




best suited for; (6) advice on basic water management strategy
needed in the study area.
Simultaneously with the natural resource investiga-
tion and advisory assignment given to Tropical Biolndustries,
the urban planning firm Vines and Associates, Inc. was retained
by Collier County as project coordinator and land planner.
The work product of the Tropical BioIndustries
service contract is made a part of this report. It follows
the Maloney Report.


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