A private school for autistic children will go before the Charlotte County Board of Zoning Appeals at 9 a.m. today seeking a special exception to move its Englewood school to the Murdock section of Port Charlotte.

The hearing will be at 18500 Murdock Circle.

The Lotus Center School is currently located at 655 N. Indiana Ave., in the Sarasota County side of Englewood, where they have an anticipated enrollment of 12 students for the coming year.

The school has been looking for a location in Charlotte County since 2016, said School President Tara Cortopassi in a letter to the board.

“Charlotte County is vastly underserved with regards to services for children with autism, and our school provides a much needed service. During the years we have operated our school in Englewood, we have become a beacon of hope and an establishment of goodwill for the community,” she wrote.

A permit, if granted, would allow a maximum of 60 students on site. Cortopassi said the school envisions a maximum of 24-30 students in the next 3-5 years.

The Lotus Center wants to lease a building at 18215 Paulson Drive in an area with a warehouse, auto sales, professional services and a communications utility company, according to the county’s report.

County staff recommended the permit saying the application protects the interest of public health, safety and general welfare without adverse effects on the surrounding neighborhood.

The site is not zoned for schools, however. It was rezoned from Industrial Light to Industrial General in 2014. Staff proposed allowing the special exception permit by linking the current site to previous county zoning codes and rules that did allow schools.

The school could not find a site they liked among those zoned for schools, Cortopassi said.

“In our intense search, we have found the perfect forever home at 18215 Paulson Drive in Port Charlotte,” she wrote. “We hope to become a beacon for other like-minded businesses who may consider making similar moves to this area.”

“Our intention is to provide a stable, long-lasting institution of learning, inclusion and growth in Port Charlotte.”


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