Here comes development, and complaints

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NORTH PORT - Proposals for commercial development near some North Port neighborhoods have those who live nearby upset. City planners say the pieces of land have been zoned commercial for years, and there are many more which could be seeing construction in other areas of the city.

"We want to save what we have here. We have a lot of nice things. A lot of natural environment." Edie Driest and more than 300 of her neighbors have signed a petition to keep a Dollar General store from being built where they live, near the intersection of W. Price Boulevard and Cranberry Boulevard. With nothing but homes in the area, they say it simply doesn't fit. "The sound of traffic and all the noise it would bring. It would definitely effect my quality of life."

Across the street a gas station and car wash have been mentioned. This neighborhood isn't alone. Nearby, an assisted living facility has been proposed on a few acres surrounded by homes.

"Things are definitely picking up." City planner Michele Norton says those property owners have rights. "There is a land use and a zoning in place, and everyone inherently has a right to develop and improve their property."

There are at least of dozen other areas of the city where small undeveloped commercially zoned lots sit right in the middle of residential properties. "Shopping or veterinary office, dentist office, places they can go to get some small goods and services."

Those like Edie say there are already commercial areas nearby where they should be. "Why do we need this every inch of the way in our neighborhood?" She says there has to be something which fits better where people live. "Something that would have a lot less noise or a lot less traffic."

Perhaps sensing there might be a problem, Norton says about a decade ago city planners actually put more restrictions on the neighborhood commercial lots -- requiring things like buffers, low impact signage and lighting, landscaping and architectural standards too.  She says it's possible more could be done. "Perhaps maybe we just need to look at going in and putting some tighter constraints or perhaps addressing the retail component."

That's what some who already live here are hoping for. "Definitely something more subtle so we don't change the complexion of this community."

Some of these proposals are coming before commissioners in the coming weeks.

After collecting hundreds of signed petitions in person, those opposed to the Dollar General store have started an electronic one.