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CONSERVATION OR CONSTRUCTION? Kingston continues with strong opposition

Posted at 8:51 PM, Jun 05, 2024

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Cameratta Companies built several neighborhoods along Corkscrew Road, and they're hoping their next neighborhood, Kingston, will be between State Road 82 and Corkscrew Road.

Find previous reporting on the development here.

In January, several environment groups rallied against the development and the required permit outside a town hall hosted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Julianne Thomas spoke with Fox 4 back then and recently on the development.

Thomas said, "I think there are ways to develop in Lee County to support the growth that is coming in without damaging the future of the Florida panther."

She worries about the three to 23 panthers that Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation said could die every year from this project.

When a federal court ruled that the DEP couldn't issue the necessary permit, Thomas thought the conservancy got a win.

"You can never replace panthers themselves if they're driven to extinction through ill-planned developments," Thomas added.

Until the developer, Cameratta Companies chose to apply for the permit from the Army Corp of Engineers.

The developer said the panthers will still have a place to call home with 3,300 acres preserved for wildlife on the 6,676-acre project.

"Panthers will be through wildlife corridors, wildlife crossings that we are going to install those type of features that don't exist today," Cameratta Companies Chief Operating Officer Nick Cameratta said.

He said the 10,000 homes planned for Kingston could take the next 20 to 25 years to build, and they understand the environmental impacts.

Cameratta Companies said the property is currently an old citrus farm wiped out by Irma and Ian. Since then, they said it's not in the best shape for animal habitat.

"We're very proud of the restoration projects we've done in Lee County and Southwest Florida. We take a lot of pride in the environmental efforts we've been able to achieve," Cameratta said.

They said the plans for Kingston include saving 3.6 billion gallons of water a year since they'll have no wells or septic tanks for the homes.

FWC's website shows a panther hasn't died in Lee County since 2022,but with only 230 panthers left, The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is determined to protect the endangered species.

Cameratta Companies hopes to hear about the status of their new permit in the next few months.