Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Power Turmoil Ends at Babcock

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Power Turmoil Ends at Babcock

Article excerpt

CHARLOTTE COUNTY

The developers of Babcock Ranch have reached a settlement with two utility providers, lifting one of the last roadblocks to breaking ground on the massive development.

The settlement allows Florida Power & Light to serve the new city, which its developers still plan on powering largely with the sun.

The deal ends months of squabbling before the Florida Public Service Commission over a proposal by the Babcock Ranch Community Independent Special District to create its own power utility for the planned development in rural eastern Charlotte County.

Kitson & Partners, the Palm Beach developer behind the Babcock Ranch project, had intended to create a separate utility franchise to serve the community through unique approvals Florida lawmakers granted amid the Great Recession.

But the Lee County Electric Cooperative, which also had been slated to sell power in the area, challenged Babcock's plan, saying the new utility would cost it revenue and make it raise rates for its members.

FPL -- the state's largest utility provider, which also sells energy to the Lee County utility -- will now serve the area under the franchise agreement announced Thursday. FPL will also continue negotiations with Kitson to build a 75-megawatt solar farm at the development.

The deal clears the way for Kitson & Partners to break ground on the development, slated for as many as 19,500 homes and roughly 6 million square feet of office and retail space, Syd Kitson, the company's chief executive, said Thursday.

"This is a really big deal for us," Kitson said. "It paves the way for the solar, smart grid, smart homes and all of the things we have been talking about for the past seven years."

Kitson now plans to break ground on the roads and utility systems by the middle of next year. The first phase of homes and offices would follow about 18 months later.

Kitson made national headlines in 2006 with his purchase of Babcock Ranch, about 91,000 acres bordered by eastern Charlotte and Lee counties. …

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