ROTONDA WEST — Diane Shaw was not happy when the Rotonda West taxing unit advisory board decided to keep $275,000 in its budget for the design of future sidewalks.

“Once anything gets into the budget as a ‘place holder,’ that puts sidewalks in the budget for the next two years,” Shaw said. “There’s no way to limit what is spent on sidewalks as long as that ($275,000) is in there.”

The street and drainage advisory voted 1-3 against a motion Monday that would have removed a funding recommendation from the budget. The advisory board is recommending a $300 increase to the existing $100 tax assessment for properties within the Rotonda West district.

The bulk of the assessment will go to pay for the repaving of roads and for maintenance on 21 bridges over the community’s extensive canal system. The total costs for bridge work could take another year to determine.

The portion of the assessment designated for sidewalks is $25.

The recommended increase, however, needs the approval of Charlotte County commissioners when they meet to set the taxing unit rate at a public hearing, scheduled for 5 p.m. July 18, at the Tringali Community Center, 3460 N. Access Road, Englewood.

Shaw isn’t alone in her opposition to the money for sidewalks.

Shaw headed up a petition drive against the construction of additional sidewalks, gathering nearly 900 signatures as of Monday and expecting to have more than 1,000.

Many of those who oppose the sidewalks turned out for the advisory board meeting, which was held in the conference room of the West County Annex on San Casa Drive. So many came, in fact, that the room filled its capacity of 70 people, and at least another 70 people stood outside of the conference room. A good number of the opponents wore red shirts and blouses to express their solidarity.

“I admit I love the attendance,” said Tara Musselman, Public Works operations supervisor for Charlotte County. She said few people — sometimes no one — will normally turn out for advisory board meetings.

Due to the public outcry, Musselman said she asked that sidewalks be discussed by the advisory board, but also stressed that no sidewalks could be built until after the county’s fiscal year begin in October, if the money stays in the budget.

“It wasn’t even our intention to discuss anything until (the advisory board’s) meeting in November,” Musselman said. Several times, she reiterated, “There’s no location set. There’s none of that done.”

A group of Boundary Boulevard residents triggered the tempest when they asked the advisory board at its last meeting in March to consider building sidewalks from Cape Haze Drive to Rotonda Boulevard West, then from Rotonda Boulevard West to Rebel Court.

Rossie Conklin was one of the few who braved the opposition Monday by voicing her support for sidewalks on Boundary.

“I find it interesting that those of you who live on (Rotonda) Boulevard East and Boulevard West — where sidewalks were built with my money — we didn’t complain about that, but yet you all are all complaining about Boundary Boulevard,” Conklin said.

Discussion veered off into several other directions, including speeding motorists in Rotonda West.

Musselman said the advisory board could consider purchasing mobile, electronic flashing speed signs to try to slow down motorists and track their speeds. The signs cost $4,000, but the information then could be sent to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, she suggested.

The advisory board could recommend the county develop a sidewalk master plan for Rotonda West, as well as surveying all Rotonda West property owners whether or not the majority want or do not want sidewalks. But of that will be consider until its next meeting in November, after budget hearings this summer the new county budget cycle begins Oct. 1.

For more information, call Kimberly Lewis-Tison at 941-575-3613 or email her at Kimberly.Lewis-Tison@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.

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