Immokalee’s plan to transform neighborhoods…

When out-of-town businesses consider Immokalee as a potential relocation or expansion site they tell us, “Immokalee needs a better range of housing choices.”

The Immokalee Master Plan sets several “smart growth” goals that will encourage development of diverse, safe, code compliant housing stock and attractive, vibrant neighborhoods.

“Smart growth” looks beyond the short-term to long-range, regional benefits and sustainability. Its goals are to achieve a unique sense of community by expanding transportation, employment, and housing choices; distributing the costs and benefits of development equitably; preserving and enhancing natural and cultural resources; and promoting public health and wellbeing.

This approach to planning concentrates growth in the center of a city to avoid urban sprawl; and advocates compact, transit-oriented, walkable, and bicycle-friendly land use. It includes neighborhood schools, complete streets and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices.

Like other aspects of the Master Plan, no one sector can change the housing stock available or the nature of our neighborhoods. Real estate developers, landlords, homeowners, housing organizations, agricultural growers and at least five different county agencies each play a role in accomplishing these goals.

The Plan identifies three specific housing objectives:

  1. Increase the availability of housing for the employees of companies we would like to attract.
  2. Bring sub-standard housing in targeted redevelopment neighborhoods up to code.
  3. Increase the availability of safe and code-compliant housing for seasonal and migrant farm worker families. We’re pleased to note that with CRA authorization of funding toward infrastructure work for Esperanza Place we are already on our way to meeting this third objective.

Past housing inventories have verified the shortage, or ‘gap,’ of middle income and workforce housing units and Immokalee’s growth will only increase that need. To address those shortages, we will realign development standards and incentives; identify potential developers and funding sources; and as at Esperanza Place, address the public infrastructure – roads, water, power, schools, and parks. 

Developers and planners can work together to ensure that new and upgraded housing complements Immokalee’s objectives.

We want our neighborhoods to be walkable and environmentally sensitive. The Master Plan envisions residential neighborhoods of 700-1200 families built around an elementary school within walking distance of neighborhood shops and restaurants, a recreational park, and public services.

To achieve that, we are writing Immokalee specific Land Development Codes to encourage cluster development and more mixed-use zoning. Cluster development calls for smaller residential lots and shared community facilities, surrounded by common open space for active and passive recreation.

Our elementary schools already provide a foundation on which we can build. They are strategically placed throughout the community. Design standards based on the community’s Hispanic and Caribbean heritage will call for public plazas and neighborhood parks in new construction projects. And, by adding sidewalks, bike trails, and extending public transit, we hope to nurture a positive, active lifestyle for our young who may not have cars.  

Those pockets of existing housing that don’t meet code need our attention. The County Code Enforcement and Health Departments will continue to work with landlords and other government agencies to ensure these units are safe and brought up to code. Nonprofits will continue to help relocate residents currently in sub-standard housing. The proposed Future Land Use Map that accompanies the Draft Immokalee Master Plan submission includes areas set aside for mobile home parks but will no longer allow for scattered site mobile homes.

Immokalee’s housing goals are achievable and the work is already underway. The Master Plan lays out the direction and keeps us focused on what needs to be accomplished. Before long, we expect any company considering relocation to Immokalee will be pleased with the housing choices available. 

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