How do you protect more than 53,000 acres from future development without spending any government money?
Just ask Al Reynolds, vice president and U.S. sector leader with Stantec, the international engineering and planning firm. He’s the architect of the bold Rural Land Stewardship Area, a development and conservation plan for eastern Collier County he helped create nearly two decades ago.
The program is a transfer-of-development-rights program, where landowners with environmentally sensitive land can earn credits that they can sell to developers in exchange for giving up development rights.
“This was a big experiment, nothing like this had been done before,” Reynolds told a gathering of the Real Estate Investment Society in Fort Myers recently.
Reynolds says the Rural Land Stewardship Area already has protected 53,569 acres from future development. Reynolds says a total of 89,300 acres could be protected by 2025 and 134,000 acres by 2050.
Developers in the rural areas must purchase credits from willing sellers to build homes and commercial buildings. For example, Rural Lands West, a new town in eastern Collier County that is under review, will set aside 12,200 acres for conservation by buying 32,000 credits.
For example, the Rural Lands West plan would put the environmentally sensitive Camp Keais Strand in conservation, a deal that likely could have cost the county $80 million based on current market prices. Now, with the transfer-of-development rights plan, “there’s no cost to the public to do it,” Reynolds says.
You can find out more about the Rural Land Stewardship Area by clicking here.