OUR POSITION: Could incorporation be used to clean up areas in Port Charlotte and Englewood, or is there a better avenue to address what borders on blight?
Someone asked if Port Charlotte and Englewood were incorporated, would it make a difference in the appearance of the two non-cities.
The answer is complicated.
More than once, a group has looked at the possibility of incorporating the two areas that many people often mistake for cities, although they are not. Port Charlotte was targeted about six years ago by a citizens group with the backing of this newspaper. Englewood was also considered for incorporation, but that movement never went far.
Incorporation requires jumping through a lot of hoops. But the most challenging, as Charlotte County Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch pointed out, is fiscal.
“If you incorporated Port Charlotte, where is your commercial and industrial base?” he asked. “People at one time looked at South Gulf Cove for incorporation but they had no retail or base of income.”
Deutsch concludes that without that base of industry or commercial, the tax base just will not support a city.
He makes a good point, although if you move the borders for a city of Port Charlotte to take in Veterans Boulevard businesses and the Town Center mall, there is significant commercial. The hospitals in Parkland, the Ford dealership and other businesses could arguably offer as much, of maybe even a little more, commercial base than Punta Gorda can boast of.
The former movement for incorporation determined that a city of Port Charlotte that took in all that territory, plus Kings Highway and its Sandhill development of regional impact property could see about $66 million in annual tax dollars. State and county revenue sharing would be a key prize to make it all work.
Englewood is a whole other issue. What could be the city’s boundaries is split between Sarasota and Charlotte counties. While that would not prevent incorporation, it is not an ideal situation as far as collecting taxes and planning.
Deutsch said incorporating Englewood makes the most sense to him. “Why couldn’t Dearborn Street secede from Sarasota County?” he asked before giving an answer. “Sarasota County would never give up that tax revenue from (the businesses and the mansions along the beach).”
One of the biggest drawbacks to trying to engineer incorporation, however, is the fact most people who live in Port Charlotte and Englewood feel they are getting all the services they need now. In a survey taken during the last incorporation movement in Port Charlotte, people said the police protection, garbage pick up, and utility services were fine.
There were some, however, who liked the idea of incorporation. Comments included: “The appearance along U.S. 41 is an eyesore ... Port Charlotte looks like a slum.” And, “I think we’ve outgrown the little hamlet we once were.”
From comments we hear, the biggest reason to consider incorporation is appearances — specifically U.S. 41 in Port Charlotte and State Road 776 in Englewood. Inconsistencies with signage is especially offensive and overall aesthetics are a major complaint.
Years ago, the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce and the county took on a project to redo a block in Port Charlotte on U.S. 41. The result was indeed an improvement. But, for lack of money or a lack of motivation, that block now stands alone as a symbol of what could be.
Maybe, instead of talking incorporation again, we need to attempt more reconstruction projects and tighten and strictly enforce our county ordinances on signage? Fewer flags, LED signs and more consistency might make a difference.
What do you think?