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NEW DEVELOPMENT, SAME WORRIES: More time to comment on Kingston project and wildlife concerns

Posted at 9:36 PM, Jan 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-17 21:36:56-05

LEHIGH ACRES — Along Corkscrew Road, Cameratta Companies constructed several neighborhoods, and they're in line to build another that would back into State Road 82. The group needs a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to receive the final go ahead on the project.

But, many people made it clear, they don't want to see the area developed.

"This project is bad for the panther. It's bad for rural Florida, and they shouldn't give them the 404 permit," Julianne Thomas said in an opinion about the Kingston development.

The company's plan covers 6, 676 acres Southwest Florida wildlife calls home, including the endangered Florida panther.

The DEP held a town hall to answer questions on the project at the East County Regional Library in Lehigh Acres.

However, right outside the meeting residents like Marsha Ellis and others got fired up about the potential project and said the panthers need their home.

"We have to allow for the core panther and breeding area for the continuation of this species," Marsha Ellis said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife claims the project could potentially kill three to 23 panther deaths a year due to more traffic in the area.

The potential 10,000 residential units cause other concerns for Ellis such as water access and waste removal.

Ellis added, "The impacts of the development of this size don't just stop on the effects on water or wildlife. They extend to the community that's assembled here."

Camaretta Companies CEO Raymond Blacksmith said they understand the environmental aspect, and the plan will secure 3,250 acres of conservation.

Blacksmith said, "We live here too. Everybody in our company lives in a project along Corkscrew Road. It's an environmentally sensitive location. I love the panthers. I love the wetlands, and we're not here to destroy any of that."

It's conservation, he said, they've done with other developments along Corkscrew Road.

"What we do best is environmentally sensitive restoration with a residential component," Blacksmith said.

The Florida DEP extended the public comment deadline until January 23 at 11:59 p.m., so they can hear from the community before they make the final decision about Kingston development's permit. Email to submit comments.