Punta Gorda creates 15-year plan, locals want to keep small-town feel

Reporter: Erika Jackson
Published: Updated:

Fifteen years ago, Hurricane Charley ripped Punta Gorda to shreds, wrecking homes and toppling trees. Leaders worked quickly to come up with a plan to help the city rebuild. But the clock is ticking to come up with a plan for the next 15 years.

Miranda Mullins said she loves the charm and everything about Punta Gorda.

“It is perfect!” she said.

But, preserving the city’s beauty is a never-ending process, especially after Hurricane Charley made landfall in 2004.

Mitchell Austin, the chief planner for the City of Punta Gorda, said it has more leeway to think critically about what things work.

Fifteen years after putting its citizens master plan into action, Punta Gorda leaders are creating a new one, which is designed to keep up with the city’s change and growth.

They are looking at ways to make the city more vibrant with different types of housing and to celebrate Charlotte Harbors’ natural beauty and boating.

“We are a boating community,” Austin said, “and to keep that attractiveness to our community.”

Price of progress

Some locals, like Ryan Sharp, moved to Punta Gorda for its small-town feel. Sharp worries progress will transform the city into the next Fort Myers or Naples.

“I know the benefits of having a small-town feel and community,” Sharp said.

Sharp wants to protect his lifestyle. He said it is safer, healthier and people are more connected.

But the city said its charm would never change and that preserving its appeal is priority one.

“If you look at Punta Gorda,” Austin said, “it has a very small town, traditional core.”

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