PUNTA GORDA — The Punta Gorda City Council has made another move toward possible annexation of an area on Jones Loop Road.
In an effort to bring in new businesses, council members approved the first step of a resolution that will eventually provide more flexibility for developers in the Jones Loop Road area.
This resolution, called the Interchange Commercial Zoning District, has been bouncing around the desks of city staff since 2013.
With a location along Interstate 75 and ample space for larger developments, Jones Loop Road has been hot spot for development talk when it comes to new business.
“The city has no jurisdiction over any of the businesses or business tax for properties within the unincorporated portions of Charlotte County,” said Melissa Reichert, city communications manager. “If this zoning district designation is adopted by the City Council, the loop properties inside the city limits still have the zoning designation of Highway Commercial. The city cannot arbitrarily rezone a property without a rezoning request by the property owner.”
The resolution still needs some work. With Wednesday’s approval, it will now go back to the city’s planning commission. There it will be tweaked and fine tuned to be presented again to council members in the new year.
“I think that this is something that’s really needed,” said Council Member Debby Carey. “Let’s say somebody comes tomorrow and says we’d like to do this, we can say this (resolution) is in the works. You’re not going to have to go through quite as many hoops like Aldi’s did ... that was almost a year of issues.”
Aldi opened this fall at 26279 Jones Loop Road next to Walmart. The grocery has been the subject of zoning discussions amid current and former City Council members as well as the community.
It won a controversial zoning variance last year from the Punta Gorda City Council, according to a September Sun report. In granting a variance on building-road setbacks, the City Council rejected advice from the zoning board of appeals. The appeals board said Aldi’s setbacks of 166 and 142 feet far exceed the allowed 25 feet.
Officials have said this decision would fix outdated city codes and is a step in the right direction. The timeline of the resolution, which is still being determined, isn’t holding anything up when it comes to new business development in the Jones Loop area.
“I’m already talking to people that want to annex into the city,” said Mayor Nancy Prafke. “I saw a preliminary copy of this resolution last summer and I’ve already forwarded that on to a couple of businesses that are considering annexing into the city. This resolution is more designed to meet the needs of that specific area and areas that would be along the interstate corridor. We want to retain the historic character of our entire community but there is flexibility (there) that’s not the same as downtown. It’s helping us in that regard.”