How A Former Football Star Is Building An All-Solar City

The entire 17,000-acre property promises the kind of ground-up planning that can make suburbia green and sustainable.

Photo courtesy of Kitson Partners.

Just 15 miles northeast of Fort Myers, Florida, a massive array of glinting solar panels — 350,000 of them — stretch across land the size of 200 football fields. This futuristic array heralds the dawn of America’s all solar-powered city: Babcock Ranch. The new planned community, which just began to see residents moving in this year, comes complete with Alexa-powered smart homes offering 1-gigabit fiber internet, 50 miles of nature trails, community gardens, a K-8 charter school, farm-to-table organic food, and electric shuttles. The entire 17,000-acre property promises the kind of ground-up planning that can make suburbia green and sustainable.

This futuristic Eden is the brainchild of football player Syd Kitson, a former NFL lineman with the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, who is now chairman and CEO of his own Florida real estate company, Kitson & Partners. He bought the 91,000-acre ranch in 2006 and then immediately sold 73,000 acres to the state of Florida for preservation — the largest single land acquisition for preservation in Florida history. Kitson also donated 440 acres to Florida Power & Light Company, which spent over 100 million installing their solar farm. He then worked with planners to develop the remaining acres. 500 residents are expected by the end of this year, and a total of 19,500 homes will be built over the next two decades.

Photo courtesy of Kitson Partners.

The ultimate goal, according to Kitson, is a multigenerational town where everything is in walking distance, bolstered by an electric vehicle autonomous transportation system. That system will be accessed through an app, and the vehicles will shuttle residents anywhere in the community. Residents will also have easy access to free wi-fi everywhere, as well as the ability to roam the 73,000 acres of state conservation land that now border Babcock on three sides. All irrigation will use gray water. Residents will be hooked up to FPL grid the way any other utility customer would be. They will also be billed the same rates as other customers. There are currently 10 solar batteries installed to bank excess power, along with solar panels on many roofs and even solar “trees.”

If the community thrives, it’ll be the one of the first truly low-carbon, “new urbanism” community. It could become an effective model for a sustainable future. “This community is a unique opportunity to really implement sustainable technology in a practical way,” says Haris Alibašić, of the University of West Florida, and author of the new book, Sustainability and Resilience Planning for Local Governments. “Cities around the world have started adopting 100% renewable energy targets, but it’s both intriguing and encouraging to see this happening from a developer.”

Photo courtesy of Kitson Partners.

Babcock Ranch is not alone in its emphasis on sustainability and a low-carbon footprint; half a dozen cities have already met their “100% renewable energy” targets using solar, wind, and hydropower, according to the Sierra Club. And many more have made commitments to be fully renewable in the next few decades. But Babcock Ranch is a novel planned community that has built sustainability into its development — unlike other popular Florida “new urbanism” ventures — such as Seaside, a community near Panama City, and Celebration, a Disney-built community near Orlando.

The only caveat, Alibašić says, is that he would like to see such communities include affordable and low-income housing in their sustainable design plans. “I think the ultimate key to long term sustainability is attracting people from diverse incomes and backgrounds,” he says.

Photo courtesy of Kitson Partners.

For now, the first residents have moved in, and early reports are enthusiastic. Retirees Donna and Jim Aveck, report that “we absolutely love it, it’s very peaceful and friendly.” There are lots of surprising innovative technologies, says Jim, that reflect thorough planning.

“When I go to the gym, which is huge, and I get on the treadmill, the energy I generate by running actually feeds back into the electric grid.”

It’s the healthiest way to give back to the community.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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