Sunseeker resort officials and Charlotte County commissioners hammered out a deal Tuesday to grant public access to a waterfront walkway at Charlotte Harbor.
About a year in the making, the four-page easement represents a major milestone for the Charlotte Harbor redevelopment zone. It is among the last steps before the $240 million resort can actually rise after years of planning.
Without the public easement, Sunseeker could not proceed with the first phase of construction of 680 hotel and condominiums units along with the first restaurants and retail stores.
“This is an exciting day,” said Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch. “It’s a good day for Sunseeker. It’s a good day for Charlotte County.”
The zoning for this blighted zone says a developer cannot build above 35 feet without building and maintaining a public waterfront walkway. Sunseeker’s proposed condominium towers are 90 feet on top of parking garages.
The agreement did not come easily for at least two commissioners. Commissioners Joe Tiseo and Christopher Constance fought for adding language that would guarantee that the walkway would remain open at least as long as the neighboring county parks, which are open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. In the end, they settled for wording that guaranteed 6 a.m. opening.
“There should be a minimum open so that the public can do their walks,” Constance said.
At the 22-acre site, all signs are of construction poised to begin. The many small businesses bought out by Allegiant Travel Company are finally leveled including a mini-golf course. Huge potted palms lie on their sides, waiting to be planted.
“It’s moving very quickly,” Sunseeker’s local lawyer, Darol Carr, said of the construction project. Any delay is a substantial concern for Sunseeker, he said.
“I just find the language at this point so vague,” Tiseo said of the original wording. “It does open up the possibility for the public to have issues down the road.”
Carr expressed frustration that the commission would introduce a last-minute demand.
“It’s somewhat of a surprise to me that someone lays down an edict...We want to make sure all those other citizens are safe, because we are there.”
Tiseo said he’s been trying to get this addressed for a year, but did not get the feedback he needed from former Economic Development Director Lucienne Pears.
Other restrictions on the easements include: no bicycles, skateboards, skates, political rallies, picnicking, dogs off leash, portable chairs, loitering, sales, drunkeness, aggressive behavior, or fishing.
Sunseeker must now submit a site plan for the first two condominium towers and a hotel and some restaurants along the harborwalk. Its full plan is for nine towers.
The county has approved plans for road, water and sewer lines, environmental mitigation, storm water systems, a retaining wall and landscaping.
Sunseeker also committed to rebuilding the county’s Main Street, which is just beyond its property. That work is well underway.
A preview center already constructed on site is expected to open for visitors in February.