Gateway Sun

One by one at last night’s meeting to discuss the proposed new residential complex in Gateway, upset homeowners grabbed the microphone and blasted Paula McMichael of Hole Montes.

While no official count was kept, approximately 50 people in the standing room only crowd at Relevance Community Church took their turn berating the plan to build a four-story, 310-unit, all-rental property at the northeast corner of Gateway Boulevard and Griffin Drive.

The developer had previously announced there would be 336 units, but that has apparently been scaled back slightly.

If built, the new community would be named Boardwalk at Gateway.

The crowd expressed their deep concerns in regards to the effect the proposed complex would have on traffic, wild life, crime rates, and most troubling of all to many of those who attended: an influx of renters.

One man pointed his finger at McMichael and forcefully stated that the rentals buildings would attract “FGCU students!”

That comment drew only partial support from the audience, likely since a decent number of them have children or grandchildren who attend FGCU.

“I hope you capture the unanimous opposition to this rental proposal!” one Gateway HOA president who was at the meeting wrote me in an email. “What amazed me was the complete lack of interest in our community on the part of the presenter, Paula McMichael and her engineer sidekick. They could care less about Gateway. There is no way we want anything similar to Doral!”

As part of the presentation, McMichael showed images of a community named Signature at Doral and told the room that Boardwalk would closely resemble Signature’s architecture. During the comment portion of the meeting, one woman noted that the buildings were clearly designed for the look and feel of Miami, not Gateway.

Doral is a community located 5 or 6 miles from downtown Miami.

In addition to revealing the name of the community, McMichael shared some more details about the proposed complex. Boardwalk would be a gated “luxury apartment” complex with rents ranging from $1,400-$2,000 per month. The developer would retain full ownership of all units, 30% of which would be one bedroom, 60% two bedroom, and 10% three bedroom. All seven buildings would be four floors and have elevators.

McMichael also echoed some of our previous reporting, namely that the property may already be approved for 200 multi-family units. McMichael suggested that even if they cannot secure approval to build 310 units, then they could always build 200 units, no matter what Gateway residents say about it.

She also stated that there would be two entrances and exits in to Boardwalk, one from Griffin Drive and the other from Gateway Boulevard. The Gateway Sun had previously reported that there would also be an entrance from Devonshire Lakes Drive, but that was incorrect. (Our source for that was a statement made by a local official who we’re choosing not to name. The statement was heard by at least a dozen people and we have it recorded. Nonetheless we apologize for the error and point out that we went to great lengths to let people know we were doing the best we could with limited information.)

The over-all message from those who attended was pretty simple: the proposed complex would not fit in at all with the rest of Gateway.

Audience members waved signs and cheered each other on as they claimed that 300 families of renters would mean lower property values in Gateway, improperly maintained units, and even an increased likelihood of murder. One woman suggested that they build this complex on “the other side of SR-82,” because according to her, “they love rental units over there!”

McMichael had asked for constructive criticism, but there wasn’t much of it. One woman asked McMichael why they didn’t at least plan to put condos instead of rental apartments. McMichael stated that rental units were needed in the area.

Multiple individuals pressed McMichael for the name of the individual or individuals are who would own the proposed development, but McMichael claimed not to know that. McMichael said that the owner was a company named SH Communities but she had no information about the company’s shareholders.

According to SunBiz.org, SH Communities is a business name directly linked to Southern Construction and Design, LLC. The Sun discovered the name of the company’s CEO, but we’re choosing not to publish it at this time.

According to leepa.org, the property itself is owned Gateway 2012 LLC., a Delaware corporation that appears to be properly registered as a foreign (non-Florida) company in this state.

The next steps for Boardwalk at Gateway will be up to the developer. They have not submitted a formal application, but have asked Lee County’s Department of Community Development if they would consider an administrative change to the Gateway DRI to allow them to proceed with the development without a formal public hearing. Given yesterday’s meeting, that seems extremely unlikely.

Some Gateway residents appear ready to battle this project, with one man saying Gateway must “oppose hard ball with hard ball” and another man looking to organize a group that would either fund a legal challenge or perhaps even purchase the property.

McMichael said she would share the feedback she received from the meeting with the developer.

McMichael also said several times, to the jeers and disbelief of the Gateway homeowners, that if they built an all-commercial complex on the property that traffic would be nearly 7 times worse than an apartment complex. That actually does sound accurate according to traffic studies of other areas that I have seen.

At least a dozen times, homeowners at the meeting urged each other to contact Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass if they wanted to provide feedback to the proverbial powers that be. You can always do that, but as we previously reported Pendergrass cannot directly address your comments aside from a boilerplate “we received your message, thank you” type of response. So if you write the Commissioner please don’t be angry when he doesn’t personally write back with a meaningful answer. He’s legally not allowed to.

It’s unclear what will happen next, and when pressed for a timeline McMichael offered none. Yesterday’s meeting was simply a step in their process specifically for the purpose of finding out if the community would support Boardwalk at Gateway as presented.

As the HOA president who wrote me an email correctly noted, the answer from yesterday’s meeting was a unanimous “No.”

For the record, I love Miami.

My youngest daughter, Mia, is named after the city.

So I’m definitely not trying to diss Miami’s look or architecture. But the resident who said that the Miami-style appearance of Boardwalk wouldn’t be a great fit for Gateway is correct.

In my opinion everything about this project as it currently stands is wrong for this community. The developer should go back to the drawing board and come up something that would be appropriate for Gateway, not Doral.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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