By DANIEL SUTPHIN
Going into the 2019 City Council campaign season, future growth remains the hot-button issue in Punta Gorda.
City Council District 3 candidates Shaune Freeland, 46, and John Miller, 78, will present their platforms Wednesday during the Peace River Federated Republican Woman’s Forum Luncheon at the Isles Yacht Club in Punta Gorda.
The private luncheon will be one of four events currently in the works for the coming months.
• Sept. 11, the two candidates will attend the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce regular 7:15 a.m. breakfast meeting.
• The Charlotte County Republican Club and League of Women Voters have also shown interest in planning similar events, but the details are in the works.
The District 3 seat is currently held by Council Member Gary Wein, who announced in May he would not be seeking a third term.
“Our city is at a pivotal moment in its story,” Freeland said. “We need a City Council member who will promote conscious, sustainable and beneficial development that preserves our community while improving it for residents of all ages and means.”
“The major issue is that the city is at a point where we (can either) sit back and rest on our laurels or continue to grow and grow in a smart way,” Miller said. “We have a Citywide Master Plan that is about finished and I would be very excited to be a part about making sure that it is implemented in the future.”
In March, Punta Gorda held a series of meetings, called charrettes, with city staff, residents and consulting firm Dover, Kohl & Partners to develop the Citywide Master Plan — a guide for future development and growth in the city.
“This is not going to happen overnight,” Miller said. “It’s going to take more years and we have to stick to it (such as) looking at our building regulations and that is going to take time and a lot of talent. The city needs to grow and develop a bigger commercial base.”
Freeland also feels the city relies too heavily on the residential tax base.
“The commercial versus residential real estate is out of balance and has been for quite some time now,” Freeland. “We need to follow best practices in urban design and must champion commercial growth to attract more local entrepreneurs to the area.
Neither candidate wants the city to lose its small-town feel.
“Punta Gorda has a small town charm that everyone has fallen in love with,” Freeland said. “The key is to keep that small town feel during a time of expansion. I do not want Punta Gorda to look like Sarasota, Naples or Miami.”
“I’m in favor of keeping our quaint small town culture and atmosphere,” Miller said. “We don’t want to become a big city like that to the north and south of us. That will take some careful planning.”
District 3 is one of two council seats up for election this year. Mayor Nancy Prafke is running unopposed in the District 5 race.
The mayor position is not up for election because mayors are picked by the City Council.