Chad Gillis: Hypocrisy raises its funny head at county commission meeting

The county is whittling down the list of potential Red Sox stadium sites. This week’s flavor was the Edison Farms location, 4,000 acres that sits east of Interstate 75 in Estero. The land is relatively remote, is part of the area’s protected aquifer recharge lands and has drawn the ire of civic and environmental groups.

Groups like the East Corkscrew Rural Residents, The Brooks concerned Citizens, the Audubon Society of Florida and of Collier County, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Florida Wildlife Foundation, the Responsible Growth Management Coalition and the Sierra Club trekked to Fort Myers Tuesday for the Lee County commission meeting (see page 6) to battle the Edison Farms site, saying it’s too environmentally sensitive and should removed from consideration.

I agree with the premise: This is how development companies claw their way into areas protected by laws and regulations, gate them off from the public and only allow access to the wealthy few.

One comment, however, made me think the commission meeting was really a staged satirical act.

“If we develop that land with a baseball stadium it’s going to be an environmental nightmare,” Brooks resident Phil Douglas said.

An environmental nightmare? That’s exactly what some people call The Brooks and Coconut Point Mall.

The land those developments were built on were protected wetlands in the mid-1980s. The owner, Edward McCardle, wanted to build there but couldn’t because it was part of a wetlands system flowing into Estero Bay — the state’s oldest aquatic preserve.

So McCardle had the land illegally cleared and burned, and paid the minor fines, figuring his profit would far outweigh any governmental slap on the wrist.

Obviously, he was right. The land was ruined, the environmental integrity destroyed. He and Bonita Bay Group, developer of The Brooks, made lots of money.

That’s how things get done in Southwest Florida. That’s how FGCU, Miromar Lakes and Gulf Coast Town Center were built — by skirting regulations.

We’re all guilty of damaging the environment to some degree. All of our houses were built on lands that would be off-limits today.

And I actually like The Brooks. My in-laws had a condo there years ago. The community is beautiful, and Bonita Bay did a great job with the Three Oaks Parkway extension.

Coconut Point Mall is nice too. I can live with development and adjust to changing landscapes.

I can’t, however, turn from hypocrisy.

I’ll give credit to Mr. Douglas for having the gall to actually say a group at The Brooks was concerned about environmental damage. His statement, however, laughable at best.

Chad Gillis is the editor of The Banner. Reach him at 213-6031.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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