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Ave Maria Rural Lands Stewardship Area

Ave Maria FL was the first community approved in Collier County's Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RLSA). The RLSA was implemented to control growth on private lands that protects natural resources and highly valued environmental lands. 

Prior to the private/public RLSA, land owners in the RLSA could build a home on each five acre lot. This would result in uncontrolled wide urban sprawl, with homes on lots needing a canal systems for storm drainage and flooding. Similar to the image shown here.

Motivations for the land owners and Collier county were in alignment. With the RLSA in place, land owners could develop under planned urban development guidelines that could be approved by the county under it's long range growth plans.

With the RLSA zoning in place, development can only occur if other lands in the RLSA are set aside as non-developable private lands. The RLSA covers 185,000 acres, of which 130,000 acres will be permanently protected. There is a detailed formula as to how many acres are set aside to develop one acre. Some set aside lands are more valuable environmentally than others. The exchange averages three acres of set aside lands, to one developed acres.

Stewardship Sending and Receiving Areas

The set aside acres are referred to as Stewardship Sending Areas (SSA), allowing other acres to be developed. The areas to be developed are the Stewardship Receiving Areas (SRA), acres that were previously agricultural lands. The town of Ave Maria was the first approved SRA. In exchange for the original 5,000 acres to be developed, approximately 17,000 acres were set aside as (SSA's).
Other agricultural lands have been designated and approved as Receiving areas. The Town of Big Cypress and the Village of Rivergrass, received Collier County approval in 2023 to begin construction. The developer of those communities also set aside thousands of acres.

The white sections on the map below represent mostly agricultural lands, that could become future receiving areas for development.

Rural Lands Stewardship Area Map

Tour of Ave Maria’s Added Lands

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