A small crowd of neighbors are objecting to a proposed hotel in Englewood on State Road 776. They say it will bring crime and disruption to their piece of old Florida.

After hearing their arguments, a divided Planning and Zoning Advisory Board voted 3-2 Tuesday to recommend the project to the Charlotte County Commission. Commissioners will consider the rezoning on Feb. 26 at 2 p.m.

Property owner Kees Streuding is asking for the zone change from residential to commercial so he can build a 76-unit hotel on S.R. 776 and Strawberry Street. The lots that would be rezoned are on Burlington Avenue. The site is surrounded by many empty lots with single-family homes located several lots away.

“These people are dumbfounded,” said neighbor James DeGore. “Seventy to 60 percent of the neighborhood says, ‘We don’t want this.’”

Several neighbors described their peaceful neighborhood that they want to keep off the radar to developers.

“We don’t want Naples here, and that’s where we’re getting to,” DeGore said.

Neighbor Pat Coe said she believes having a hotel in the neighborhood will bring crime including drugs and prostitution, as she saw when she lived in Anaheim, California.

“It brought nothing but destruction to the neighborhood,” she said of her experience in California.

Planning board member Paul Bigness voted against recommending the rezoning, saying he could see both sides of the case. Those sides are property rights for the owner who seeks to develop, he said, and the desire of residents to keep the feel of the neighborhood that they bought into.

Board member Kenneth Chandler also voted against recommending the project. Members Don McCormick, Michael Graveson and Stephen Vieira voted in favor.

Graveson said the old commercial lots, from 1959, are only 150 feet deep, and that’s not enough for modern requirements of parking, storm water management and visual buffers.

“This is why the economic corridor has been put in the comprehensive plan, to be able to go one lot back,” Graveson said.

Streuding’s lawyer, Robert Berntsson, said Englewood needs more hotels that are not just on the beaches.

“People have relatives coming down that don’t have places to stay,” he said.

Streuding wants to build the hotel on a square, empty site of 1.5 acres made up of six adjoining lots. Three of the lots are zoned commercial and along the major thoroughfare of S.R. 776 or South McCall Road. But the three lots behind the commercial lots are zoned multi-family residential.

The county’s Community Development Department is recommending the zone change due to its alignment with the comprehensive plan. Part of the plan is the goal of reducing high density residential development in the county’s high-risk coastal evacuation regions.

If approved, the owner would then have to submit a site plan with more detail for a hotel. That site plan would also require approval.

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