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Edison Farms appraisals: Here’s hoping
February 1, 2017

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Residents who think elected officials don't always listen to voter mandates have good reason to cheer this week.

Mere weeks after nearly 84 percent of those casting a ballot lent overwhelming support for the continuation of the Conservation 20/20 program, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners has unanimously agreed to have another go at a long-coveted land buy.

Brought forward this week by Commissioner Larry Kiker in the wake of a "call for offers" by representatives for Edison Farms, the board agreed to seek the appraisals necessary to start the process to possibly submit an offer for "one of the most important 4,000 acres" Lee County is "ever likely to purchase."

County staff asked that it be allowed to go back to the firms that did two previous appraisals, have those findings updated, and then add, a third "fresh" appraisal as part of the due diligence process.

Once the numbers come back, hopefully in the next month, the county can decide whether to submit an offer by the call-for-offers deadline of March 13.

The land has long been on the county's Conservation 20/20 wish list, and it tops the most-wanted lists of various environmental groups including the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the CREW Land &Water Trust.

Count us among those who are excited about the prospect of a Conservation 20/20 purchase of the key watershed east of I-75 between Bonita Beach Road and Corkscrew Road.

A Conservancy of Southwest Florida presentation best outlines why public acquisition and preservation of the multi-parcel site is so important to residents countywide. According to that Conservancy report:

n The 4,000-acre site includes more than 3,500 acres of wetlands, most of it cypress.

n Approximately 425 acres are "undisturbed, native uplands," mostly prairies and pine flatwoods.

n Edison Farms is a significant wildlife habitat and corridor providing wood stork protection as well as large mammal protection for rare, endangered and threatened species, including the Florida panther.

n The acreage is an integral part of the Lee County's Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource initiative. Edison Farms is integral to restoring flowways and preserving wetlands to "naturally filter nutrient pollution" and is a key aquifer recharge area.

Simply put, the Edison Farms properties would be a very appropriate addition to the near 25,000-acre conservation and preservation program Lee County taxpayers have twice agreed to fund for the betterment of not only the environment, but our community as a whole.

That is, if the price is right.

Cost is key - and, unfortunately, it has been the primary reason acquisition attempts have failed thus far.

We look forward perusing the appraisals.

And we thank our elected officials for taking this first step.

-Neighbor editorial

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