NORTH PORT — Confusing, at best, described the final minutes of a daylong North Port City Commission hearing Monday on a virtual platform that included technical glitches and other gaffes.
Ultimately, after nearly 10 hours of debate and a few contentious moments, city commissioners gutted a developer’s plan for a retail project at Cranberry and West Price boulevards. The Tampa developer’s requests for waivers or special exceptions were voted down. The holdout on a pair of 4-1 votes was Commissioner Vanessa Carusone. Another measure that would allow a 7-Eleven to operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week was clustered amid a Development Master Plan. The city had recommended against the 24/7 hours, so when the master plan was approved, the full hours died, as well.
“We won,” said Stacy Tracy, the project’s most vocal opponent and an “aggrieved” party who provided testimony Monday. “That was rough. I tried to stick to the facts. The neighborhood is safer and we are better for it.”
Tracy cited the project’s overall impact on surrounding neighbors as its greatest drawback.
Monday’s meeting, which had been delayed from May 26, was held to decide whether the special exceptions or waivers would be granted that allowed for 16 fuel pumps, a car wash and to operate 24/7 at the busy intersection.
Through a series of motions, countermotions and other confusion, the one-item agenda boiled down to granting or denying Tampa-based Weedon-North Port LLC the ability to build its project at West Price and Cranberry.
Venice lawyers Jeff Boone and Jackson Boone, on behalf of Weedon, presented arguments favoring waivers. Tracy and Maria Leslie, who both live near the parcel, presented counter-arguments.
The long meeting was punctuated by technical problems, breaks and other delays. The most emotional response came when two city clerks read a series of emails, each writer opposed to the 7-Eleven. That 30-minute period ended with a 10-minute break, with Mayor Debbie McDowell exclaiming a soft expletive with her microphone left unmuted.
“Oh, s---,” she said, “that was 45,” meaning the number of emails.