Lee County commissioners finalized the $42.4 million dollar purchase of Edison Farms during their meeting Tuesday.
After months of negotiation, the county completed the final closing process on the 4,000 acre piece of Estero wetlands. Buying the property has been on the commission’s priority list for years as part of the county’s conservation Conservation 20/20 program, which was reaffirmed by voters last year.
“This is the kind of purchase people were thinking about when they went to the voting booths last year, in 2016, and supported 20/20 with an 84 percent majority,” County Commissioner Brian Hamman said.
In addition to hosting a variety of wildlife, the property is located inside the Density Reduction Groundwater Resource category, which is an area the county often leaves undeveloped to help recharge the aquifer. It also borders Hidden Cypress Preserve and Flint Pen Strand Preserve, both of which the county has already purchased.
“With this purchase, the current commissioners have preserved our most sensitive environmental lands in the DRGR, essentially going from zero to now having 80 percent in conservation,” Hamman said.
The county is also hoping the property will help facilitate the restoration of previous flow-ways to provide flood relief, something that became a more obvious priority after the effects of Hurricane Irma in September.
When negotiations to purchase the parcel began in June, a number of commissioners expressed enthusiasm for acquiring the property, but were concerned that the asking price was above the average appraisal of $38 million.
“I’ve supported this for nine years or whenever it was first brought up, I still support it,” said Commissioner Frank Mann during the meeting in June. “Price is the issue here, I’m hung up on paying substantially more than the average appraisal, which is generally what we let ourselves be guided by.”
But Mann seemed to have come around on the cost, praising the commission’s patience for having not purchased the property before the 2008 recession when he said Edison Farm’s asking price was closer to $170 million.
“I commend the commission then for being able to resist that because we had the money and there was strong political pressure, but they were calm,” said Mann. “I am proud to say it came together like it did. It’s one of the greatest days in Lee County’s history.”
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