Construction could begin in early 2022
It has been a long, strange, expensive trip for a Boca Grande couple since the day they purchased the property on Gasparilla Road known as “The Fishery.” What started out as a plan to create a bridge club venue has turned into something much more, and this week progress was once again made in bringing it to fruition after almost a year-and-a-half wait.
On Monday Charlotte County Planning and Zoning voted unanimously to rezone two outparcels that were recently purchased by Cookie Potter and Jay Feinberg to complement the 13 acres that were purchased previously, which were zoned as planned development.
The two properties are located on the larger parcel but had been zoned multi-family. The planning and zoning board agreed to rezone them to planned development in order to achieve continuity.
The plan in its entirety includes 99 condominium units, a 155-room hotel (which includes five bungalows), a large restaurant and meeting room, space for shops, a pool and a new expanded marina with public access. None of the proposed buildings exceed the Charlotte County height requirement; Feinberg said the tallest one is three stories.
Feinberg has been in real estate for 54 years, with much of his experience in California. While he said the regulations there are far worse than they are here, he explained the struggle they have had for many months to get the project going again … and how the hiatus actually proved to be beneficial in one way.
“When COVID hit, everything stopped for a year and a half,” he said. “Hotel occupancies went to five percent, planes stopped flying, the whole world stopped. No one wanted to do anything. During that time, we used the opportunity to buy the two parcels we didn’t own, adding about 2.5 acres. Charlotte County wanted those two parcels rezoned to planned development, so they all had the same PD zoning. We went back to them, gave them the revised master plan that included the parcels and on Monday they rezoned those two parcels to PD like the rest of the site.”
One of the parcels included a small yellow house. It sat in the middle of the property, and Feinberg said it belonged to some of the heirs who owned it before. The other one is on the point of the property, by the water. There was a lot of rubbish and scrap metal there, he said, that they cleaned up.
When demolition began in late 2018, two of the original cottages that sat on the property were able to be moved to another location because they were wood-framed homes. The others are masonry structures, which means it would be very difficult – if not impossible – to move. Feinberg said all of the cottages were in pretty bad shape. Some had mold problems and the septic system didn’t work in some of them.
It’s obvious that this project means a lot to Jay and Cookie. Their tenacity is admirable, considering some of the sticking points they have been faced with. For instance, the sheer amount of junk that was pulled from the property could be weighed in tons, not pounds. Truck axles, truck bed toppers and other large pieces of metal were hauled out and there were many old boats that had to be salvaged … including a large steel trawler that had been sunk for some time. That alone cost Feinberg and Potter more than $200,000 to raise. The 80-year-old marina docks had to be removed as they were unsafe, but the couple has been told that they shouldn’t have an issue getting the new dock approved.
And there’s the matter of the cultural resource assessment.
One of the squatters who had been living in derelict boats on the property contacted several county agencies when he found out that the couple purchased the property and were cleaning it up. Even though Feinberg showed photographs to county officials that Edith Albritton had shown him of her father bulldozing and placing fill on the property decades ago, they still wanted him to pay for the assessment. That meant an architect and a historian had to be hired to come out and dig holes – 51 holes, to be exact – to make sure nothing of archeological importance was found. While a few pieces were exhumed that looked to be from midden mounds, there were no finds that would be considered culturally significant or of human burial grounds. Midden mounds are found all over the Cape Haze Peninsula. Also known as “kitchen mounds,” they contain charred remains of fires, kitchen utensils, bones of animals and the like.
While there are some who have contested the project, as well as the demolition of the old cottages and restaurant, Feinberg said they have had an overwhelming amount of positive comments, too.
“The last time we did our rezoning no one showed up to complain,” he said. “I’ve met with the board of the GICIA and with the Friends of Cape Haze, and once they understood the project they were optimistic.”
County commissioners will be making their final decision on the planning and zoning board’s ruling at their meeting in December. As of now it appears everything is a “go,” and the project that started off as a place to play bridge will actually come to fruition.