A booming housing market has led Babcock Ranch to open up the next 4,021 acres for development sooner than expected.
Staff from developer Kitson & Partners on Tuesday described to Charlotte County commissioners how the planned community is moving deeper into Charlotte County’s undeveloped eastern landscape.
Located east of Babcock’s current development, the first major expansion already has a signed contract for 3,500 housing units along with six additional land purchases by six builders, John Broderick, Kitson & Partners senior vice president for land development, told commissioners.
Kitson staff said they have been working with county staff on this second increment and will be requesting approval from commissioners in July. The new increment will require entitlements for another 6,457 homes, 1.2 million square feet of non-residential space, parks, 18 holes of golf and other supporting facilities.
Commissioner Chris Constance asked about the 177-bed hospital Babcock is entitled to have and whether it would go in Charlotte County. Kitson’s Legal Counsel vice president, Erica Woods, said it would most likely be in Charlotte County rather than Lee County, even though Lee Health is the current medical provider in Babcock. It will likely be in the first section rather than increment two, she said.
“That’s not yet finalized,” she said.
Lots for the first thousand homes in Lee County are under contract as well, Broderick said. Lee County has its own development entitlement agreement with Babcock for its smaller section.
“We’re moving south as well as east,” he said.
About 350 apartments are expected soon in the current region of Babcock under construction.
Kitson staff also reminded commissioners of the planned expansion of the elementary school and addition of a high school, both to begin in August 2022. A Publix supermarket is expected to open in August.
Construction on Babcock’s first increment, 5,095 acres, began in 2017 with the first residents moving in in 2018. It is allowed up to 5,000 homes and has had over 2,400 lots sold so far, staff said. Babcock passed the milestone of 1,000 home closings awhile ago. Development will continue there.
The full plan for Babcock was approved in 2007, but came to a halt during the great recession. The development was considered a landmark project, because President Syd Kitson first bought 92,000 acres in Charlotte and Lee counties from the Babcock ranching and farming family. Then, he sold all but about 18,000 acres back to the state for preservation. The state had not been able legally to buy from Babcock heirs due to their desire to sell the land as stock shares. The move prevented the fragmented development of eastern Charlotte County that has caused environmental problems in Lee and Collier counties.
While the start was delayed by 10 years, today’s dazzling housing market is allowing Babcock to start in on increment two sooner than expected, Broderick told Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch. Deutsch asked whether the exceptional development pressure in Florida had moved Babcock quicker than expected, and Broderick said not for increment one, because the company was aggressive from the start.
Babcock has entitlements up to 17,870 homes in Charlotte County and 6 million square feet of non-residential space, which includes both retail and light industrial.
A slow down in commercial construction may lead Babcock to request changes in its development agreement for non-residential space, Woods said, but it cannot trade non-residential for residential development. That could mean requested swaps in square footage among office, commercial, retail and industrial, he said.
Kitson & Partners generally sells large chunks of land to a developer, often a home building company. Lennar has built many homes there. Babcock will see new lots coming on line with D.R. Horton, Pulte and Meritage, Broderick said.
Of about 20 current listings for homes in Babcock, prices range from $276,000 to $1.4 million. Future town homes were expected to start in the low $200,000s.
Kitson staff reviewed how Babcock is meeting its requirements to be a self-contained community not imposing a burden on Charlotte County’s distantly located sewers, water, schools and roads. Part of that agreement is to spend $50 million on traffic mitigation. State officials announced earlier that Babcock is spending that on the state project of widening State Road 31, the rural road that runs along Babcock.
“It’s great to see you out there,” said Commission Chairman Bill Truex, himself a home builder. “I’m glad to see the successes that are taking place out there. It’s a beautiful development.”