Homes & businesses can now be built together in some Charlotte County areas

By Betsy Calvert, Charlotte Sun Staff Writer, Dec 13, 2020

Developers looking at Charlotte County can now consider building more units in tighter spaces, taller and with a mix of residential and commercial.

But only in a few locations.

Commissioners unanimously approved a new mixed use zoning category Tuesday after months of debate and staff presentations.

Commissioner Chris Constance praised staff.

“I think they’ve done a really good job at making this more usable … I hope that it’s used to revitalize neighborhoods, and not just take advantage of new development, but to really look at areas where more value can be drawn into a place where right now there isn’t a whole lot of value,” he said.

“I hope it’s going to be done in the right places,” he added.

The new option would be limited to certain parts of the county — staff were not able to provide a list of locations. Areas that already have development plans, like Charlotte Harbor, Murdock Village or Sandhill, are not eligible. Areas in coastal flood zones are not eligible, like Grove City in Englewood. The new plan directs this new use to areas on major thoroughfares. Neighborhoods seen as blighted or neglected are targets.

Parkside’s commercial section at U.S. 41 in mid-county is the prime spot commissioners want to see redeveloped. This is a neighborhood laid out in the 1950s and 1960s by General Development, with small lots. Commissioners and planners would like to see developers consolidate smaller lots and build an innovative downtown area incorporating commercial and residential buildings in the same block or same building.

The new zoning district requires plans that are pedestrian-oriented, discouraging drive-throughs and excessive parking.

The single family parts of Parkside would not likely be a target for redevelopment, staff have said. It would be hard for a developer to accumulate enough of these individually occupied lots to create a project.

Not everyone thinks the new zoning district is great.

Resident David Kesselring questioned who the law was designed to please.

“Who gets to decide what’s outdated? The current residents or some outsider who gets to benefit from their removal?” he asked. “How does anyone not politically connected have any security in their places or homes? This proposal seems like a collection of individual wants of a small group of people forced on everybody else … What usual suspect will benefit?”

Land use lawyer Rob Bernsston was also somewhat critical, but from an inside perspective.

“I think it’s a good tool to have … but I think it goes too far in some ways,” he said.

He said he fears developers will ask for a zone change and project, but never get to the final steps. And he believes commissioners will not be comfortable approving a large rezoning project without seeing final details.

I think the reality of that happening is so slim that I’m afraid that we’re never going to use this,” he said. The new zone type comes in small, medium and large sizes. Developers would have to pay through development units to reach the tallest heights. They must buy development rights for land the county does not want developed

Image Credits: Charlotte County Government