Interviewing TIME magazine’s Dreamer of the Year: Syd Kitson

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Nicholas Karsen
Published: Updated:

Syd Kitson is the developer and visionary behind Babcock Ranch. He is also the recipient of TIME magazine’s Dreamer of the Year award.

Kitson is responsible for powering up the entirety of Babcock Ranch through solar energy.

WINK News Reporter Justin Case sat down with Kitson to discuss his vision and how he views himself as a “dreamer.”

“We felt that if we focused on the environment, we focused on sustainability and resiliency and innovation, that we could take Babcock to a whole new level,” said Kitson. “The problem is a lot of people just didn’t believe us. There were a lot of doubters, anytime you want to do anything different.”

There’s a marriage here that’s unique between development and nature, answering questions only a few developers are asking.

“There’s over 1,000 people a day moving to the State of Florida, and when, as a developer, you create impacts on that on the environment, we wanted to mitigate those impacts. We wanted to prove that a new town and the environment work hand in hand,” said Kitson.

Florida’s wetlands are essential; they’re a place for all the excess water to go. Much of our region is prone to flooding because we’ve developed right over them. However, at Backbock Ranch, Kitson recognized the importance of keeping the wetlands intact.

Florida wetlands. CREDIT: WINK News

“We’re not trying to compete with Mother Nature. Mother Nature is going to win every time. So all the water flows through these natural areas, and we preserve those. We’re not building on those, so the feeling here is different. You feel more connected to nature because of all that preservation,” said Kitson.

You might ask how that’s worked out for this community. Kitson said not only did this area avoid major flooding during Hurricane Ian, but no one lost power or utilities during the storm either.

“At the end of the day, 90% of this ranch is in preservation forever, so I think that is probably something that we’re as proud of as anything we’ve ever done, and now, as we continue to build on what we’ve done, we’re going to have over 100 miles of trails, and we’re adding a series of parks that I think are going to be very interactive, great for the kids, great for families, great for adults, and we want to celebrate the outdoors,” said Kitson.

The dream behind Babcock Ranch may be unique, but Kitson hopes it doesn’t stay that way.

He actually wants and encourages other developers to build upon his vision. He said that would be the ultimate compliment, all while putting the environment first.

“I hope people take everything that we’re doing, they implement as much as they possibly can. They do it better, and that’s the greatest compliment you could imagine, so yes, I’m open and welcome. Any questions, comments, whatever and people have to be able to take this and spread the word,” said Kitson.

Finally, we had to ask Kitson about being mentioned in the same breath as Taylor Swift. Swift is TIME’s person of the year. Kitson is TIME’s dreamer of the year, and he said the Taylor Swift effect could bring more attention to what’s being accomplished here.

“I’m hoping that they read that very positive article about Taylor Swift and keep turning and then see this really positive article about Babcock Ranch, but it is going to get a lot of people looking at it,” said Kiston.

You may not know this about Kitson, but he played football in the NFL as an offensive lineman, so Kitson went from protecting quarterbacks to protecting the environment.

Kitson was recently at TIME’s award banquet. However, Taylor swift wasn’t there, so he will have to wait until next time to get a selfie with her.

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