There are 14 individual developments in various stages of planning, design and construction along Burnt Store Road. Charlotte County Commissioners, planning officials and engineers are grappling with ways to deal with the burst of growth.
The county is revising its Burnt Store Area Plan, which was finalized in 2005. Since then, the county has grown significantly, and many of the county’s new planned developments are along the Burnt Store Corridor.
Providing input and support is a citizens group of property owners, who formed the Burnt Store Corridor Coalition and, in partnership, created the Burnt Store Improvement Initiative.
At the top of the commissioners’ workshop meeting Sept. 19, Commissioner Chris
Constance read a letter from the group, which is working in partnership with the county to devise solutions.
The growth has created numerous challenges, including environmental, transportation, infrastructure and the need to create wildlife corridors.
Planning and zoning official Shaun Cullinan presented the forecast of what life will look like along the Burnt Store Corridor in the future. The presentation took into consideration all communities currently planned and looked at the years 2023, 2035 and 2045, when most of the communities will be built out.
The 14 developments will eventually bring 13,000 housing units and some 1,100 employees along the stretch of road that extends from Punta Gorda to the Cape Coral-Lee County line.
In 2005, after input from the public, county and experts in the private sector, a plan was developed to deal with the growth.
“2005 was a long time ago,” Commissioner and retired engineer Ken Doherty said, adding that now the county is looking at primary infrastructure needs.
Constance questioned Cullinan on whether plans included having a wildlife corridor. “[Animals] should be able to move north to south or east to west, but when they get to the road, they are sunk,” he said.
After Cullinan pointed out that the Eagle Creek community has a slough and an animal corridor, Constance said if the wildlife corridor is disjointed and if the animals walk up to houses, “it means nothing,” and a designated area is needed.
Constance suggested planning for wildlife corridors should begin immediately.
The subject of wildlife came up recently when the founder of the Burnt Store Corridor Coalition, John Fleming, asked the county to prepare an environmental study.
The group’s email, read by Constance, asked the county to examine the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center study on roadkill along a 12-mile stretch of Burnt Store Road. “We’re really not paying attention to nature and making sure that what we’re doing is fitting,” Constance said.
In addition, the length of Burnt Store Road was discussed, with Commissioner Joe Tiseo noting residents have to drive long distances for services. The nearest supermarkets are in Punta Gorda and Cape Coral for residents living in communities along the corridor.
“Folks want a supermarket and a gas station, and it’s not there. They’ve got to drive 10 miles when they want to get services or medical urgent care,” Tiseo said.
Cullinan said developers usually don’t build to their allowable maximums. In the case of the Heritage Landing and Heritage Station communities, 50% of their land has been set aside for green space.
Also, all projects require a minimum 20% of open space under their planned development, and Burnt Store Village residential developments allow for commercial entitlements up to 10% per project.
Doherty said a new water reclamation plant being constructed between 2024 and 2026 will meet the corridor residents’ needs. Also, only 22% of potable water is being utilized, he said.
Traffic was another issue that was tackled, as Robert Fakhri, transportation engineer for the county, provided a few recommendations, including extending Tuckers Grade by constructing a two-lane roadway between 2030 and 2035 and widening the road to four lanes by 2045.
For Burnt Store Road, one of the considerations is to widen the road to six lanes after the construction of the two-lane Tuckers Grade extension.
“Six lanes are needed by the year 2045 or sooner,” Fakhri said.
The county will continue to revise its new Burnt Store Area Plan and progress reports will be made at future meetings.