FOCH v. Charlotte County (re)set for July with new petitioners

BY JACK SHORT – T he lawsuit brought by local conservation group Friends of Cape Haze against Charlotte County, which was to be decided at an administrative hearing in February, was continued.


The delay was allowed so FOCH’s counsel could undergo invasive medical testing, regularly performed by only a few physicians in the country, according to the motion for continuance.

The motion was unopposed, and a new hearing date has since been set for July 27 to 29 at 9 a.m. at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center.

Since the original hearing was continued, beginning in January, two more entities petitioned to intervene as “affected parties.” Boca Norte, LLC, owners of the former Mercabo facility on Gasparilla Road and the former site of Grande Tours, and Carribean Bay Mortgage Lender, who owns property in the Placida area as well, both petitioned to intervene in the case.

Both petitions were objected to by The Sierra Club, also plaintiffs in the case, on the grounds that neither corporation is an affected party and had not submitted any written or oral comments during the period in which the plan was amended. They must have done so in order to qualify, according to Florida statute 163.3184(1)(a).

Judge E. Gary Early, who is hearing the case, ruled they qualify, and granted both petitions on February 13.

The hearing will decide whether objections to changes in Charlotte County’s comprehensive land use plan, “Charlotte 2050,” violate Florida statutes by failing to control density after the county removed language they claimed was duplicated in state legislation.

Additionally, the change of language related to density in Coastal High Hazard Areas, from restricting “density” to “net density,” say representatives of FOCH, will allow increased density in areas like Placida and Cape Haze and could exacerbate already high evacuation times if land just off island is developed.