■ BY SUE ERWIN
At a public hearing on Tuesday, September 25, Charlotte County Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance to adopt a small-scale plan amendment to the development of the Fishery property, located at 13000 Fishery Rd.
The “Village & Marina at Boca Grande” project, spearheaded by real estate developer Jay Feinberg, went before commissioners on Tuesday as a proposed petition to request a change in zoning from resource conservation to commercial, and a companion rezoning plan for property.
The focal point of the proposed marina development would be a 150-room boutique hotel, designated to cater to destination weddings and meetings. It will be no more than three stories. More than 4,000 square feet of retail space will be provided for a hotel gift shop and other shops.
The developers plan to keep the existing marina that has 44 boat slips and is leased from the State of Florida.
A roundabout near the marina will feature a replica of the Gasparilla Island Range Light, and the restaurant and bridge room will have a design similar to the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse.
“We thought people would enjoy seeing a touch of Boca Grande at this new destination site,” Feinberg said.
The development will also feature a variety of indoor and outdoor public facilities that will accommodate functions of all sizes. The hotel will be built around a large events lawn that sweeps down to the water’s edge of the marina. A freestanding restaurant will be built at the northern part of the property – approximately 4,900 square feet – with an outdoor terrace.
Developers propose buildings as high as 39.9 feet, which is higher than the 35-foot limit.
Charlotte County regulations allow the developer to compensate for this by adding open space.
Open space is defined as land area unencumbered by an impervious surface, which may include waterways and vegetation areas.
County staff is recommending that the developers conduct a cultural resource assessment survey of the site, given its important history.
The property is currently zoned as a high/low intensity industrial land use.
A petition was filed to approve future land use from resource conservation to commercial property located at 13000 and 13012 Fishery Road, and 14001 Gasparilla Road in the Placida Revitalizing Neighborhood.
Another petition was filed to approve a rezoning request from industry intensive to residential multifamily use, increasing the density from 23 units to 60 units at the Fishery property.
Principal planner Jie Shao gave a detailed presentation of the plans.
“The proposed mixed-use development is consistent with all of the criteria set forth in FLU Policy 5.6.3: Encourage public marina use, which states that the County shall encourage preservation of existing marinas or the creation of new marinas when in appropriate locations and when developed with minimal harm to the natural resources to which they are providing access.”
Planning and zoning staff said the proposed plan is consistent with the surrounding area, and it is consistent with Charlotte County’s comprehensive plan.
Currently, the area is zoned for industry, multifamily residential, single-family residential and about one acre as environmentally sensitive.
Robert Berntsson, attorney for Feinberg, said the property should not be considered environmentally sensitive, because there are currently invasive, non-native species of trees that exist on the property.
“So we respectfully request that this small portion of land (less than one acre) be amended to commercial,” Berntsson said. The overall plan development recognizes that the Placida area was designated as a revitalizing neighborhood under the 2010 plan. That means this is an area needing reinvesting and revitalization.
“Although there is much history there, this is a property that is in serious disrepair,” Berntsson said. “The septic tanks are failing, there are squatters living in them (the buildings), and there are sunken and abandoned boats on the property that need to be removed.”
Feinberg said the buildings that currently exist on the property are not structurally sound.
“Eventually everything will get demolished,” he said. “We’re hoping to have it done by the end of the year.”
The site was once home to a thriving local fishing industry, a seafood shop and several art and gift shops.
The County rejected a proposal last February for a much larger-scale project on the land, by a different developer.
“My clients spent time talking to their neighbors in Boca Grande and Placida to find out exactly what they wanted, and these plans reflect it,” Berntsson said.
He added that the proposed development could improve property values in the future and will have no negative effect on public safety.
The County is asking that a historic and archeological study be done.
Feinberg has initiated the study, and it is currently underway.
Berntsson said the author of that study spent a great amount of time with Mrs. Albritton on the property, and the history was recorded and will be in the report.
Charlotte County planning and zoning staff recommended approving the project.
There were no comments made by the public regarding the two petitions.
Commissioners Jen Doherty, Joseph Tiseo, Bill Truex, Chris Constance and Stephen Deutch were all in support of the project.
More detailed information may be obtained at charlottecountyfl.gov.