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If land-use and zoning changes are approved by Charlotte County commissioners, 1,188 multifamily units will be built off U.S. Highway 17 near the Peace River Shores community in Punta Gorda. 

Applicant Tag Lakeside LLC, represented by attorney Robert Berntsson of the Big W Law Firm in Englewood, applied to the county’s Planning and Zoning Board for his client to increase density from 135 units to 1,188 units, requiring a transfer of 1,053 density units to reach the maximum number of 1,188. 

The 139.88-acre property is located north of Turbak Drive, south of Peace River Shores Boulevard, east of Cobalt Boulevard and west of Duncan Road/U.S. 17 in Punta Gorda. 

Jie Shao, principal planner for the county, presented the board with details about the project. 

She said it is located within the boundary of U.S. 17an area “where the Board of County Commissioners encourage developers and property owners to preserve and enhance the natural environment and to promote mixed-use development.” 

She said although the proposed residential multifamily development is not mixed use, it will preserve approximately 48.9 acres of scrubjay habitat and preserve approximately 11.77 acres of creek preservation area. 

Staff’s opinion is the development abides by the county’s future landuse policy, she told the Planning and Zoning Board. 

There are numerous waterways, creeks mostly, in the area of the proposed development. 

Displaying numerous slides of the project, Shao said the buildings will be outside of the Coastal High Hazard area “except for a small portion including the creeks and its upland, which is located inside the urban services area.” 

To proceed with the project, the developer must abide by certain conditions, Shao said. 

The land set aside for preservation is “double the amount of preserve area, and multifamily housing is needed in the community,” Berntsson said. 

Shao said current zoning calls for 25.35 acres be reserved for preservation. 

Shao said other conditions the county mandates are the color of the buildings to be consistent with the development, an advanced buffer zone and landscaping with accent and canopy trees and hedges along U.S. 17. 

One member of the public voiced concerns over the proposed project, however, and how it might affect wildlife. 

Courtney Mason and her husband Ryan live in the Peace River Shores community. They moved to Punta Gorda in 2019 when Ryan received a promotion from the Florida Forest Service. 

Her concern was for the 254 “potentially active gopher tortoise burrows” on the project’s proposed site totaling nearly 139 acres. 

She cited a study conducted last year and said the 48 acres set aside for wildlife “is not enough.” 

Although the tortoises will be removed and placed in another habitat by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Mason said they need “one over 100 acres due to available foraging foods, male territorial behaviors, burrows and protection for predators and human interaction.” 

She identified herself as the granddaughter of late renowned herpetologist Walter Auffenberg, an American biologist who spent decades traveling the world studying numerous reptiles. 

Mason said she’s never come before a board before, but that she was speaking on behalf “of the tortoises.” 

The board voted 3-0 to forward their recommendation to county commissioners for approval of the project. 

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