Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Florida panther habitat considered in creation of new town

Ave Maria gets permit for construction
By Eric Staats
Monday, August 21, 2006

Ave Maria University and the Town of Ave Maria have cleared a federal environmental permitting hurdle.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a wetlands permit allowing construction on more than 4,300 acres of old farm fields and pastures to be developed in future phases of the Ave Maria project, which qualifies as a Development of Regional Impact, or DRI.

The agency issued a stormwater permit for Ave Maria's first phase, covering some 600 acres, in 2005. Construction is under way on the first phase south of Immokalee.

Barron Collier Cos. and Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan are partners in the Ave Maria venture, the first Roman Catholic university to be built in the United States in more than 40 years.

The permit for the DRI will allow the university to grow to 6,000 students and allow the construction of hotels, offices, shops, schools, medical facilities, parks, playing fields, stadiums, a 27-hole golf course and an 18-hole championship golf course, according to the permit.

The DRI includes 113 acres of wetlands, and the university is proposing to destroy about 20 percent of the wetlands. In return, Ave Maria is creating 103 acres of wetlands and uplands preserve.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also required the preservation of more than 7,200 acres of Florida panther habitat and 600 acres of habitat for a bird called Audubon's crested caracara.

This mirrors preservation plans Barron Collier Cos. is undertaking to meet requirements in the county's Rural Lands Stewardship Area growth plan.


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