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Residents along the Burnt Store Corridor in Charlotte County are closer to having at least some of their needs for nearby services and amenities. 

After hearing concerns from numerous residents of the corridor communities, county staff members were instructed by the Board of County Commissioners to hire a consultant to coordinate a workshop that will be open to the public. In addition, Charlotte County Community Development launched a new webpage dedicated to the Burnt Store Area Plan. 

Members of the Burnt Store Corridor Coalition are urging commissioners to revamp the 2005 master plan for the corridor, claiming it was designed by developers with only their own interests in mind, and that it is outdated now that the population has grown significantly over the last two decades. 

At a June 11 meeting, numerous members of the BSCC spoke, including Chairman John Fleming, of Burnt Store Lakes. 

“This is not a Charlotte County issue, it’s a regional issue,” he told commissioners. 

The coalition began when Mary Ellen Kiss hosted Zoom meetings during the pandemic with officials from Charlotte and Lee counties, city of Cape Coral and city of Punta Gorda to evaluate common issues. 

“Lee County has already set aside someone in their jurisdiction to work with [Charlotte County Planning and Zoning Official] Shaun Cullinan and [Charlotte County Administrator] Hector Flores,” Fleming said. 

Among BSCC’s concerns are traffic and traffic lights, lack of wildlife corridors, drainage and the need for a hydrology study. 

Later in the meeting, Cullinan showed that the hydrology and watershed studies were completed and a study for traffic lights and signaling is underway.  

However, he said that commercial development will occur when there are enough rooftops: “It’s market-driven by the private sector, we can’t make them come,” he said. 

One of the speakers during the public portion of the meeting was Frank Vitale, a New York developer who disagreed with the county’s assessment regarding the timeline for commercial development along the Burnt Store Corridor. 

He said he is part of an investment partnership that manages properties throughout Southwest Florida, including holdings along the Burnt Store Corridor zoned for commercial development. 

“I consider it ripe for development of commercial retail space,” he said of the corridor of nearly 6,000 people with many homes and communities still being built. 

Most corridor residents travel 15 to 20 miles to shop for their basics, medical needs or to refuel their vehicles, he said, adding that most of the commercial activity “winds up taking place south in Cape Coral, leaving Charlotte County residents having to spend their dollars down in Lee.” 

Vitale was unaware of the corridor’s population and residents clamoring for the county to work toward bringing commercial entities to their area until reading Gulfshore Business’ coverage of the issue. 

After meeting with Fleming, Vitale flew from New York to meet with the group. 

He called the area a “slam dunk” for retail development and said he’s already started speaking with a couple of retail chains, names of which Vitale didn’t disclose. 

Stakeholder meetings will begin after a consultant is engaged to coordinate a workshop open to the public in the fall or winter, when staff make presentations about the corridor. 

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