Public input sought for Murdock Village
Charlotte County commissioners want public input on how the county should proceed with Murdock Village, so they’ve agreed to allow citizens to comment next Tuesday during a workshop devoted to discussing the future of the community redevelopment area. But commissioners want to make one thing very clear: It’s not going to be a bash session.
“I think it’s about time that we realize that Murdock Village can certainly be a substantial asset to Charlotte County, and I think we have to take a positive and proactive approach,” said Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch. “It’s not my thought in any way that this is going to be a negative thing. I don’t want to see us talking about, did it cost us $118 million or $138 million? That’s irrelevant.”
At a commission meeting Tuesday, commissioners voted to break from the norm by allowing citizen input during the workshop. Typically, the public is not allowed to comment during such sessions.
But Deutsch lobbied for public participation, saying he wanted to hear new ideas about how to turn around the beleaguered CRA. Deutsch said he plans make a presentation in which he’ll offer some ideas of his own.
“The thought and the intent here is that this is an opportunity for us to open up a dialogue and to get some feedback from the community,” Deutsch said. “We do have a brief presentation, and make some suggestions, however I don’t expect we’re going to come to any decisions.”
Commissioner Ken Doherty wanted staff to give commissioners an update on where things stand with regard to zoning, easements and environmental issues that have created roadblocks to finalizing the land-swap deal between the county and Southwest Land Developers, a company in which local businessmen Bruce Laishley and Rick Treworgy are partners.
In addition, Doherty wants commissioners to get clear on the direction they want Murdock Village to move toward.
“I would like to see as a deliverable for us to zero in on some sort of theme, a general strategy outline, for Murdock Village,” Doherty said.
But Commissioner Tricia Duffy worried the workshop might turn into “a zoo.”
“When we try to come up with solutions or our staff does a great job, we don’t hear much about that, but, boy, when people are mad about something, they come out and then they want to tell us off,” Duffy said. “It makes me feel like: Why isn’t anyone ever in favor of anything? They’re only against things. So I hope maybe this will be different.”
Duffy said she hopes to get “a lot of people who have great vision, ideas and maybe this will be the first step to solving a problem that we’ve had for 10 years.”
Among the main issues that need to be worked out is who will be responsible for developing Murdock Village, a large tract of raw land the county acquired nearly 10 years ago that so far has cost taxpayers more than $110 million. Economic-development experts said the county needs to decide whether to sell the land to a master developer at today’s market prices, or to spend public funds to build infrastructure to make the property more marketable.
“Commissioners need to make a commitment to Murdock Village, and a commitment means spending money,” Laishley said. “So the question is, do they want to fire-sell the property? Or do they want to invest in infrastructure? Either way, they are going to have to commit something.”
The workshop is set for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Murdock Administration Center, 18500 Murdock Circle, Room 119.