Lee County conservation program buys 293 acres
BUYER: Lee County, Fort Myers
SELLER: Watermen at Bonita LLC
PROPERTY: East of Interstate 75 and north of Liberty Youth Ranch, Bonita Springs
PRICE: $4.44 million
PREVIOUS PRICE: $4.18 million, February 2005
LAW FIRM ON DEED: Henderson Franklin Starnes & Holt PA, Fort Myers
PLANS, DESCRIPTION: Lee County government purchased 293 acres of vacant land and wetlands north of Liberty Youth Ranch for $4.44 million.
The purchase price equated to $15,137 per acre.
The county purchased the property though its Conservation 20/20 Program because the property was in an area designated for density reduction near where the county collects its drinking water from underground aquifers.
“About 80% of the land is wetlands,” says Lynda Thompson, Conservation 20/20 Program coordinator. “We have been working to acquire it since it was seller nominated to us on Oct. 28, 2003. The holdup for us was that there was no legal access to the site.”
The delay in acquiring the property turned out to be beneficial for the program's coffers. The seller originally proposed a total sale price of $17.14 million or $40,000 an acre.
The county plans to keep the property as open space to protect the groundwater recharge area, enhance the existing wetland system and to maintain flood protection for an upstream drainage area. It also gives the county the possibility of reconnecting Spring Creek, which was cut off in the 1970s by Interstate 75. The property will also likely serve as a habitat for several native plant species, exotic birds, black bears and panthers.
The Conservation 20/20 program buys environmentally important lands for preservation. It is funded by a property tax. Since 1997, the program has made 103 land purchases, and its land inventory stands at 22,820 acres.