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Push made to strike Edison Farms as site for Red Sox stadium

By Staff | Mar 18, 2009

If the new Red Sox stadium is built at Edison Farms, it will undoubtedly incur the wrath of South Lee County residents, not to mention a half dozen or so environmental watchdog groups like the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Edison Farms is one of four proposed locations for the new stadium and public comment Tuesday overwhelmingly leaned toward taking the site off the list.
During the nearly two hours spent taking public comments at their meeting, Lee County commissioners were asked to instead focus on the other three locations, all of which are also located in various points throughout south Lee.
The advantage of the Edison Farms property is that it will not cost the county a dime. Edison Farms officials are willing to donate the acreage, along with the estimated $14 million in infrastructure costs, and additional acreage for water storage.
The other three properties — located off Daniels Parkway near the airport, on Alico Road west of Interstate 75 and east of I-75 near FGCU — would all come at a price, though the costs are undetermined.
Comment after comment denounced the Edison Farms location as a viable option, citing a potential “environmental nightmare” if breached.
Edison Farms, part of the DRGR or Density Reduction Groundwater Resource Area, is home to a variety of native flora and fauna, some even endangered, such as the Florida panther.
Board Chairman Ray Judah insisted that the county is not yet sold on the Edison Farms location, and that the county is still placing priority on ground water and open spaces.
“It may sound like I’m touting Edison Farms. I’m not,” he said. “It’s about what’s best for the community. We need to keep the options open, it allows for good discussion.”
The ball now moves to county staff, which is going to meet with members from each proposed site and bring back a recommendation for commissioners. Time is of the essence in the process.
The mitigating factor in making a quick decision is the contract Lee County has with the Red Sox, which stipulates certain dates by which the construction process must meet.
Commissioner Frank Mann questioned the projected time frame of making the Edison Farms location work, taking into account the extensive permitting process which would undoubtedly occur.
Yet Mann was quick to point out that by keeping Edison Farms as one of the potential sites, the other proposals might be willing to keep their prices low if a free option is available to the county.
“Though they have some serious environmental obstacles, I want Edison to stay in the mix. It will keep the process competitive,” he said.
The Edison Farms issue met with the some opposition on the board, as Bob Janes and Brian Bigelow both questioned the validity of using what is supposed to be protected land for baseball.
“I am opposed to Edison Farms,” Janes said. “I have yet to hear a convincing reason as to why they remain in consideration.”
The motion passed 3-2, with Janes and Bigelow dissenting, to allow county staff to determine which location is the best.