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Charlotte County commissioners ‘bit the apple,’ bought two of four lots for boat parking, kayak launch project

April 1, 2022
By Sheila Evans


Charlotte County commissioners attended a meeting on Tuesday, March 22 that included the decision to unanimously give the go-ahead to purchasing two parcels of environmentally sensitive land in Placida as part of a project that will expand boater access to the Placida Boat Ramp and provide a new kayak launch location.

The two parcels are on Placida Road, across from the county boat ramp near the Boca Grande Causeway. Two additional parcels, which are adjacent to the ones considered at the March 22 meeting, are also under consideration for purchase by the county. They are owned by Brad Kelley, a man with local ties who is considered to be one of the top 10 landowners in the United States.

“Water quality is our number one priority, and this purchase is a massive benefit toward that goal,” said Bill Truex, chair of the County Commission and commissioner for District 3, which covers much of the Cape Haze Peninsula and the adjacent barrier islands. He noted that development pressure on the area is high and that the land is essential to the environmental preservation and protection of the coastal estuary, and the surrounding water systems. 

All commissioners agreed that purchasing these lands presents a unique opportunity that would disappear quickly if a decision were not reached on the purchase. 

“We have only one bite at the apple,” Truex said. Commissioner Stephen Deutch agreed, and said it is “a one-time opportunity,” and an “incredible opportunity to protect our environment and maintain our open spaces.”

The parcel at 12565 Placida Road (owned by the Cole family) will be purchased for $725,000, while the parcel at 12555 Placida Road (owned by the Knight family) will be purchased for $932,500, which includes an accommodation for the owner to remain on the property for a year. Funds from sales tax surpluses will be used for the purchases. 

Because these purchase prices are significantly above the appraised values, a super majority of four “yes” votes was required. All five commissioners voted “yes.”

It was agreed that normal property appraisals do not take into consideration such things as the land’s environmental value, the proximity to other protected coastal areas, or its consistency with the county’s desire to preserve open spaces. All of these “added value” considerations went into the decision to purchase the parcels, even at the above-appraisal prices. 

All the commissioners acknowledged that the purchase of the two remaining parcels will be more difficult than these purchases. They want to see such things as partnerships with the private sector included in future discussions. Some hope to have parks and environmental preservation impact fees help offset the costs. There were also questions about competing projects that may already be earmarked for sales tax surpluses. There was no date mentioned for consideration of the purchase of the additional parcels.

Commissioner Truex, who had originally brought forward the proposal to purchase the land, said he has heard tremendous enthusiasm from people he has talked to about the purchase. He noted the Rotary Club he belongs to in Englewood has 91 members, and “every one of them is excited about preserving and protecting this area for its historic value, and its place in protecting and preserving our environment.” 

Other commissioners agreed, but felt those who are enthusiastic about the purchases need to help find ways to pay for this preservation.