Photo: Conservation Easement Palm Drive
Open letter to friends of the Bocilla Islands Conservancy.
Proposal for the old Station 10 Fire House on Don Pedro Island
We are writing to you today to formally request that you pause the Sale of the County-Owned Building - Fire Station #10 (File No 23-627) and open discussions with the Bocilla Islands Conservancy, Inc. [BICI]. A successful negotiation will allow the old firehouse property to continue to serve the Island community.
On May 23, 2023, we provided an initial offer of $19,800 to purchase the property, which constitutes a figure roughly equal to the County’s initial purchase price. In 1989 the property was purchased by Island Residents and sold to the County one year later at cost.
Why putting this property out for bid is premature.
While a quick sale might seem attractive to the County in the short term, this solution does not consider the wider view of what is potentially involved with the sale of this specific property.
We acknowledge that the cash proceeds of a quick sale to a private buyer would on its face be equitable, in that it would return cash dollars to the broader community. However, the ultimate buy price may not compare to the potential value to be gained by the County by pursuing an offer from the conservancy.
There are several factors that are likely to reduce the bids for this acquisition. For example,
The property has been advertised as a 3,220 sq. ft. building. However, the building is unsafe and has been designated by the County itself as a total loss. It is currently sealed off with police tape for safety purposes and to prevent further vandalism.
Bidders will reduce their offers for the property by the future cost to the buyer for the demolition and debris removal, inclusive of the pilings and the slab.
The water provision for the old firehouse property would need to be addressed. The large size of the inflow pipe puts the monthly base cost for water provision substantially higher than a residential connection. it’s an unknown factor how the private water utility will handle the conversion from a firehouse to a residential unit.
The bid has been advertised as including a 120 sq. ft. shed on the property, which the County does not own. This is private property, owned by Palm Island Estates Association, Inc., which has been sited on this property with the permission of Charlotte County for the past nearly 20 years.
All of the above will serve to reduce the ultimate buy price for the property. What remains of the cash will be further diminished by the complications that will invariably arise related to the sale of this property. One of these is the lack of a guarantee that the new owner will raze the building in a timely manner. Surrounding properties are in jeopardy from large wind-borne debris. And public safety is compromised until this building is gone.
How returning the property to the community benefits the stakeholders.
While the County may consider the sale of the property “fiscally responsible” in that the proceeds will go back to the County, the acquisition of the property by a land conservancy is inarguably of public benefit. The Bocilla Islands Conservancy Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(C)3 public charity whose purpose is consistent with land preservation goals for the bridgeless barrier Islands as outlined in Smart Charlotte 2050.
BICI’s intentions for the old firehouse property dovetails with the Charlotte County Parks and Recreation Master Plan. From 1991 to the present, the old Station 10 has been the Island’s de facto community center, used for meetings, classes, demonstration gardens, memorial gardens, environmental education, and more. These are essentially the same uses described in the Parks & Rec. Master Plan under the description of “mini-parks.”
BICI wants to continue the traditional use of the old firehouse property as our community gathering area. If the pilings and slab remain, a covered area could be created that meets the criteria for a mini-park as outlined in the Parks plan. It would be far less costly to work with the existing remains of the old firehouse property than to establish a new mini-park and community area in the future. And one of the primary permitted principal uses in the BBI special zoning district is for “non-profit parks and playgrounds”.
BICI is working in cooperation with the 225-member Palm Island Estates Association, Inc. PIE supports this proposal, as it would provide a conveniently located site for the many Island social and educational gatherings in the community.
How returning the property to the community benefits the public.
This “mini-park” would serve many more people than other comparably sized park in other neighborhoods because both visitors and renters attend these events. Our Islands are home to hundreds of rental units, and in any given season thousands of visitors and residents would potentially use this interactive space.
Instead of placing what will amount to a fraction of a cent in the pocket of each Charlotte County taxpayer, the County has the opportunity to provide great benefit to the ongoing tourist industry on these Barrier Islands. This potentially translates into future bed tax improvement for the County’s taxpayers.
We, therefore, urge you to stop the bid and open negotiations with BICI to determine the future disposition of this property. We believe that there is a solution that will provide the community with the continued use of the property while providing the County with a fiscally responsible way to provide public benefit.
Gopher Tortoise Forage Garden Certification
HAVE FUN! BE RECOGNIZED FOR YOUR EFFORTS AND SUPPORT OF OUR CRITTER FRIENDS!!!
Go to this website: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/yard-recognition/
Once you are on the site, there is an embedded link in blue that asks you to apply for recognition. Click on the link and complete the form to register your yard for the FWC Gopher Tortoise Yard Recognition Program. It will take you less than 10 minutes …honest!
You will need to designate three tortoise friendly forage plants in your yard, from a drop-down menu of plants. Simply click on the plants you have. For your own reference, included below is a list of the plants you likely have. If you need help identifying any of them, call Kjell Plotkin at (941) 456-5252. The site also asks what invasive plants you have removed. Those invasive plants are also listed on the bottom of the attachment.
Click here for list of gopher tortoise friendly plants and invasive plants.
BECOME A SUPER CITIZEN!! APPLY TODAY!!
Currently there are 17 registered Gopher Tortoise Friendly Yards on the islands.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recently instituted a
Gopher Tortoise Friendly Recognition Program. There are a few yards on the island that have already been registered and recognized. We are waiting for the official FWC recognition signs to arrive to place in those yards. We’d like to get as many of our island properties recognized as possible. Please consider becoming one of those recognized properties.
Have you ever wondered about the wildlife you might see on our islands?
Thank you to Buzz Mallett for capturing these images of a coyote and a bobcat on our Conservancy property at 26 Palm Drive.
This project is a non-profit effort and all funds go to the purchase and installations of the Mini Reefs.
HELP US ACHIEVE 1000 REEFS
Be a part of this amazing challenge. Have a reef (or a few) installed under your dock.
Don’t have a dock, no problem. you can still participate by sponsoring a reef!
Each reef can support reef life that is capable of filtering over 30,000 gallons of water per day and provides nursery habitats to help hundreds of native fish and crabs grow.
Reefs can be ordered for $297 each plus installation of $97 for the first one and $40 installation for additional reefs at the same dock plus tax. Installations of 10 or more on a dock could be free.
Reefs can be ordered through the Oceans Habitat, Inc. website.
For more information:
Call Linda Cotherman (941) 276-1140
Or Barbara DeYulio (941) 830-4179
Did You Know?
Bocilla Islands Conservancy has
published its own children's book,
How the No, No, Gnome Forest Came to Be.
The book in an introduction to
invasive plant species that change the
ecosystem and harm the environment.
It was written and illustrated by children
who love the island.
If you haven't purchased your copy,
or if you would like additional copies,
you can email your order to:
Books are $10 each.