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Pirate Harbor resident William Fischer seeks to rezone his 40 acres so he can bring a supermarket and possible urgent care facility to the Burnt Store corridor, which runs between U.S. 41 in Punta Gorda and Pine Island Road in Cape Coral. 

On July 8, he’ll ask the Charlotte County Planning & Zoning Board to allow his land, currently zoned for residential development, to be rezoned for commercial development. 

Fischer, a forensic transportation engineer, his attorney, another engineer and a planner will provide the Planning & Zoning Board with a presentation.  

Fischer said he bought the acreage three years ago after realizing the need of 6,000 area residents who lack quicker access to essential facilities, including a supermarket and medical providers. 

“I live nearby, I’m trying to provide something for our (corridor) residents,” he said. 

John Fleming, chair of the Burnt Store Corridor Coalition, or BSCC, representing about 6,000 residents in the area, has repeatedly asked the county to designate vacant parcels of land for much-needed services. 

“Our pets have better access to medical care than we do,” Fleming said. 

Jie Shao, principal planner for the county, said the Burnt Store Corridor area already has commercial acreage that can accommodate 500,000 square feet of commercial development, and Heritage Landing alone has vacant land supporting 115,000 square feet of commercial use. 

An interested party could buy the land and build a shopping center, she said. 

Recently, Fischer contacted Fleming to press the county to provide the area with a shopping center that would include a supermarket and medical center. 

Fleming said he’s received pushback from the county. 

At an April 24 Board of County Commissioners meeting, zoning official Shaun Cullinan said the corridor communities have 1,990 singlefamily homes and 739 multifamily units, with a population of approximately 5,540 residents.  

Although there is ample acreage for a Publix plaza-type shopping mall, a metro study shows a population of 15,526, which is estimated for 2045, would be needed to support it, Cullinan said.   

At the April meeting, the commissioners agreed a stakeholder meeting should take place and residents in the corridor area should be able to attend and provide feedback, but no timetable has yet been set. 

Meanwhile, the county’s website has a section devoted to the Burnt Store Area Plan, which provides maps and updates on residential construction.  

Also, residents are asked to take an online poll within the Master Plan to help focus the vision of Charlotte County 2050. 

Commissioners have been pushing for the county to revise its 2005 Burnt Store Master Plan. The original plan was primarily created by developers’ input at a time when population was sparse. 

For residents, a shopping plaza can’t come soon enough. 

Currently, the only store in the area is a Dollar General, and before Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Southwest Florida in September 2022, the store’s water and food sold out within minutes, Fleming said. 

Residents must drive 8 miles either to Cape Coral in Lee County or Punta Gorda in Charlotte County for groceries and medical services. 

Recently, a second emergency medical technician was added to Charlotte County Fire/EMS Station 515200 Burnt Store Road, and Fleming said some residents with nonlife-threatening conditions have been calling 911 when they cannot drive the distance to a local clinic or doctor’s office, he said. 

“What if the paramedics are answering those calls and someone else has a heart attack?” he said. 

“There is a perception the county is fast-tracking proposals from developers, while at the same time discounting the concerns of residents,” Fleming said at an April meeting. 

Cullinan has been updating commissioners on changes and studies being made along the corridor, and commissioners are reviewing the 2005 Burnt Store Master Plan. 

In addition to other concerns Burnt Store corridor residents have expressed, the preservation of green spaces, the amount of roadkill on Burnt Store Road and drainage and traffic issues remain. 

A significant amount of land is in preservation and owned by the state, county, city and privately owned, and almost half of Heritage Landing and Heritage Station lands are preserved. No building can ever occur in those areas, Cullinan said at the April meeting.  

He said wildlife signs were installed with additional signs and crossings to possibly be added later. A transportation study also was completed. 

Shao said that while there would not be a traffic problem having a shopping center on Heritage Landing property, other commercial areas could present a problem, as Burnt Store Road would have to be widened to as many as eight lanes in some areas. 

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