What is the RLSA?
The Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RLSA) is a planning and zoning overlay approved by Collier County in 2002 for approximately 185,000 acres of land in eastern Collier County. The RLSA program is an innovative, incentive-based approach to planning and implementing sustainable, long-term growth in rural regions.
Collier County’s RLSA program has received national accolades and awards and has been the model for rural lands stewardship in other areas of Florida.
Together, the members of the Eastern Collier Property Owners (ECPO) own about 85 percent of the RLSA lands, which have been stewarded across generations.
These landowners currently have the right to develop their land at 1 home per 5 acres, which would create a vast area of sprawl; these homes would use septic tanks and wells, and residents would have to travel into Naples for jobs, basic retail services, and other necessities.
All stakeholders involved in the RLSA process recognized this was not the best plan for the future of Collier County.
Instead, the RLSA program guides where preservation and responsible development can occur across the vast RLSA area using detailed data and sophisticated models.
More than 130,000 acres — 10 times the size of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary — will be protected and maintained in perpetuity for its natural resource and agricultural value, at no cost to taxpayers. Private landowners are setting aside lands with the highest environmental value to ensure wildlife have room to roam, wetlands remain a priority, and native vegetation can thrive.
Towns and villages are identified for development on lands that have the lowest environmental values, such as lands previously used for the harvesting of row crops and citrus. New community development is capped at a total of 45,000 acres, or less than 25 percent of the entire area.
Under the RLSA rules, landowners actually relinquish their development rights on environmentally sensitive land to build on less-sensitive land. Overall, for every acre of development, over 3 acres of high-quality environmental lands and productive agricultural areas will be protected, at no cost to Collier County taxpayers.
- Towns and villages in the RLSA must pay for their own impacts.
- Towns and villages must include commercial centers so residents can easily access jobs, groceries, goods, services, schools and parks.
- Towns and villages keep residents local, which helps relieve the burden on roads throughout the county.
- Towns and villages provide housing that is attainable by Collier County’s working families.
The Eastern Collier Property Owners – or ECPO – is comprised of 11 members who have been responsible stewards of their lands over multiple generations. These members have historically participated in agricultural activities such as cattle ranches, orange groves, and tomato and vegetable farms – plus they hold thousands of acres of lush, natural areas with wetlands, wildlife habitat, and native vegetation.
ECPO members voluntarily participate in the RLSA program, in which each landowner receives credits for their land based on whether it is a “Stewardship Sending Area,” which contains environmentally desirable features, or a “Stewardship Receiving Area,” which includes lands suitable for development. Under the program, landowners actually relinquish their existing development rights – 1 home per 5 acres – on environmentally sensitive land and transfer those rights, or credits, to build on less-sensitive land. Plus, for every acre of development, the landowner must preserve over 3 acres of high-quality environmental lands, at no cost to Collier County taxpayers.
The members of ECPO include:
- Alico, Inc.
- Barron Collier Partnership
- Collier Enterprises Management, Inc.
- Consolidated Citrus Limited Partnership
- English Brothers Partnership
- Gargiulo, Inc.
- Half Circle L Ranch, LLP
- Heller Bros. Packing Corp.
- JB Ranch I, LLC
- Owl Hammock Immokalee, LLC
- Pacific Land, Ltd.
- Sunniland Family Limited Partnership