First published in The Guardian, 25/12/16
Find the following information in the text as quickly as possible.
1. How far is Babcock Ranch from the centre of Fort Myers?
2. How much did Syd Kitson pay for the estate?
3. How much parkland will there be in the new development?
4. How many homes will Babcock have?
5. By how much will the population of Florida increase by 2030?
6. How high above sea level is the new town of Babcock Ranch?
The solar-powered town: a dream for the environment – or a wildlife nightmare?
25 December, 2016
1 Babcock Ranch is a new town opening in early 2017. It will be the world’s first solar-powered town. The man behind the project is Syd Kitson, a property developer, who hopes it will become Florida’s model for sustainable living.
2 Next to a 65,000-acre wildlife management area, Babcock Ranch is just 20 minutes east of the centre of Fort Myers. Kitson bought the estate for more than $500 million in 2006. He sold 73,000 acres to the state, allowed 18,000 acres for the development and 9,000 acres for parkland.
3 When it is finished, Babcock Ranch will have 19,500 homes and a town centre with commercial space and infrastructure, including a 75-megawatt solar facility that will generate electricity for the town, self-driving cars, natural plants for landscaping, community and kitchen gardens, a school, and a network of lakes and waterways designed to reduce the development’s environmental impact.
4 “I want to prove that development and preservation can work together,” says Kitson. “Other new developments are careless with energy consumption and the environment. We have thought about energy, technology. transportation – we have a responsibility to prove it can be done differently.”
5 But can it? The population of Florida is expected to increase by six million by 2030. Many of the state’s natural resources are under pressure from rising sea levels and overuse of water. Babcock Ranch is 20 feet above sea level and built on land that had been disturbed by mining.
6 Houses in Bacock Ranch will be smaller than normal, with no dining rooms. Kitson says that surveys show that people “want to be part of something that is sustainable and want to know that where they’re going to live is not harmful to the environment but actually helps it”. He says he wants to create a sustainable community that works as a complete community.
7 But how much of that is possible? The ten-year delay in starting the development has been good for indigenous species. Kitson’s environmental projects include a garden around the solar field to attract bees and beetles to help the environme the Babcock plans include landscaping “that be beautiful but not thirsty”. In addition, usin 2 network of driverless cars will reduce car ownership.
8 But the development of land in south-west Florida is controversial. Babcock lies close to one of the last habitats of Florida’s panthers. Wildlife groups say the Babcock development might stop the big cat from moving between the two areas of land large enough to support a population.
9 “The Florida panther is an endangered species and this development is locking them into al small area,” says Matthew Schwartz of the South Florida Wildlands Association. Schwartz says the town of Babcock Ranch is in the middle of a possible expansion area. “That’s tragic not only for the panther but for a whole range of species.”
10 “They say they’re only using land that was already disturbed but other private lands nearby will also be developed once people start moving in. People will want cinemas and shopping centres.”
11 When Babcock Ranch opens to the public in early 2017, people will say it is a new model town. But it is still uncertain whether it can be a model for a more sustainable future. It’s an experiment, says Kitson. “I’ve spent half my life hiking, camping, being part of nature. A lot more people are thinking about how they’re living and how they’re affecting their environment. We have a unique opportunity to create a new kind of place. If we can get it right, we think it’s going to set a standard.”
Guardian News and Media 2016