Luke, Bartolotta Offer Different Visions for Growth



In Southwest Florida’s most populous municipality, the question isn’t whether growth comes but how to make the most of it. North Port City Commissioner Jill Luke feels the city has policies in place to be welcoming, but also logical, in preparing the community. But Peter Bartolotta, a long-time business leader in the region, says the city needs to get aggressive about its economic development before opportunity flies by.

Bartolotta previously played a role in the Vision North Port plan, and he served as founding president of the North Port Economic Development Corporation. He feels it's time for the city to get in the driver’s seat when it comes to growth. “I see an economic engine at Warm Mineral Springs with a boutique resort and utilizing environmentally sensitive lands in a positive way with eco-tourism,” he says. Likewise, he sees a hospital serving the city in the next 20 years.

And if the city turns its attention the right way, he sees North Port becoming an entertainment hub attracting people from Tampa to Naples.

Luke, first elected to the commission a year and a half ago, certainly has played a role in drawing business. She served as tie-breaking vote on a deal to bring Atlanta Braves spring training to the city, for example, but she also feels proud of valuing the land. She supported a green corridor connecting Little Salt Spring to Myakkahatchee Creek. “Time will tell and show 50 years from now how important that decision was, just like how Central Park was for New York City,” she says.

And as for Warm Mineral Springs? She’s on board with the more conservation-focused plan at the city now, which involves restoring the historic buildings on site now, not developing the park with massive hotels.

Bartolotta wants the city to embrace an economic development plan that could bring $250 million in new construction and 1,700 new jobs, and fresh business investments to the city that will grow the tax base and diversify it as well. His plans include getting hi-speed internet at every home in the city. Along with cutting wasteful spending at City Hall, Bartolotta sees a way to boost the economy and keep taxes low.

“I see us participating in an industrious future. We have to bring business to North Port,” he says. “If you want government to be pretty much like it has been, you can go look at my opponent’s website.”

Luke, though, says the city will welcome economic development, but in a timely fashion. Bartolotta’s plans require private investment, something he can’t guarantee will come on its own. What the city needs to do is be prepared to work with new companies by providing the proper infrastructure at the right time.

“Our strategic planning and ideas are what is logical and what is natural growth to come,” she says.

Bartolotta and Luke are running for Seat 5 on the North Port City Commission on Nov. 6. All city voters may vote in the election.

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