June 15, 2017

Babcock development gets green light in Lee County

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

TRICIA BORNS , Published 4:22 p.m. ET June 7, 2017 | Updated 9:11 a.m. ET June 8, 2017

Syd Kitson discusses his vision for the future Babcock community. Ricardo Rolon /

A concept drawing envisions the build out of the Timber Lake neighborhood of Babcock Ranch

A concept drawing envisions the build out of the Timber Lake neighborhood of Babcock Ranch, a new solar city coming out of the ground in south Charlotte County. On Wednesday Babcock won the first of two approvals it needs to expand into Lee County.(Photo: Special to The News-Press)

Make that a yellow-green light. From here, the development goes to a zoning hearing in late summer.

Babcock, the new solar city rising in south Charlotte County, has won the first of two approvals it needs to expand into northern Lee.

From April last year, when Syd Kitson’s eco-friendly ideas excited international attention – especially a solar field capable of supporting the city by day – the developer plowed into stiff opposition from his rural Lee neighbors, who objected to a proposed sports tourism mega-complex in their midst.

The plan blessed Wednesday erases that idea but sets the stage for something just as intense.

The details won’t be revealed until a zoning hearing to come in August or early fall, however.

Asked if Babcock’s new commercial plan will have the regional impact of the sports tourism idea, “I hope so,” Kitson said. ”We’re working on that right now.”

A concept plan of Table and Tap

A concept plan of Table and Tap, a lakeside restaurant planned for Babcock’s town center in south Charlotte County, is now serving local patrons. Babcock developer Syd Kitson on Wednesday won the first approval needed to expand the town’s footprint into Lee. (Photo: Special to The News-Press)

Here’s what Lee commissioners approved Wednesday, with the exception of Commissioner Frank Mann, the lone vote on the board for preserving the county’s last rural outpost in his district:

  •  All Babcock uplands, about 3,400 acres, will be removed from the protective area known as the DR/GR (Density Reduction/Groundwater Recharge) and designated ‘New Community;’ the same designation used for the development of the Gateway community just north of Southwest Florida International Airport.
  •  The Lee part of Babcock will have 1,630 dwelling units – one dwelling per 2.5 acres – and 1.2 million square feet of non-residential development, including 600 hotel rooms.
  •  Fifty percent of Babcock’s lands – a gross area of about 2,079 acres – will remain undeveloped and protected under a conservation easement.
  •  Although removed from the DR/GR, the development will replant old agricultural fields and wetlands with native vegetation to slow the flow of surface runoff and allow it to be cleansed before it reaches the Caloosahatchee River.
  •  Babcock previously agreed to maintain regional wildlife corridors through its properties in both counties to the river, a plan that continues.