Her first topic was the special place the old Station 10 had in the community. Past uses for all Islanders included:
These uses came to an end after the building was remodeled for paid firefighter coverage approx. 10 years ago.
Next came the question of why PIE was not seeking ownership of the property.
Question: Does the use of the property as a community hub violate any zoning restrictions?
Answer: Linda Cotherman told the group that the County modified zoning regulations in 2014 and established the BBI (bridgeless barrier island) designation for our Islands and Little Gasparilla. There are no special exemptions needed at this time for using the property as proposed for the community.
Comment: An audience member expressed concern that removing the property from the tax rolls might impact other Island owners’ taxes and deprive a future owner of an Island home.
Response: Robin Madden said that the loss of one property will not impact the County as they bring in a large volume of tourism taxes from the Island. Linda Cotherman explained that it will not impact other Island owners since our property taxes are County-wide which will minimize the impact to the tax rolls.
Comment: An audience member pointed out that the last-minute notice by the County was not by deliberate design.
Response: Correct. BICI and PIE were initially told that the sale of the fire house was a low priority, which was true. However, when the estimates for the 2024 Fire & EMS taxes were released Charlotte County got a lot of pushback from property owners. Their response was to try to reduce the $54/year tax increase by selling off the excess fire house properties. That is what speeded things up. In addition, the Fire Advisory Committee is restricted to quarterly meetings which slowed down the process.
Question: What is the Island Fellowship Church’s involvement with the property?
Answer: This was addressed by Pastor Sammie Brooks of the Island Fellowship Church.
the long and costly process to build the new firehouse. He indicated that he had no objection to negotiating with BICI but expressed that he wished to "backfill some of the cost with the sale of the old property". He mentioned that, while the residents paid for a large portion of the new firehouse there was also sales tax money applied to the land purchase and building. The key for the Commissioners is to find the "right number" so that they are not underselling the old Station 10 property. The Conservancy is also looking for the right number so they are not overpaying for the property, so it seems there should be room for negotiation.