ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Plans for construction on a west Orange County sports complex could be further delayed because of lizards.
County officials believe some lizards known as sand skinks live on the 260-acre site where the multi-million dollar Horizon West Sportsplex is to be built.
It is not easy to get rid of the reptiles, because the lizards are on the protected species list.
“They were here first, (and) then we came. That's how I look at it," said Tania Rodier, neighbor to the construction site.
Rodier can sympathize with the sand skinks, tiny lizards barely 5 inches long that could stand in the way of the county's $30 million development of the sports complex near Winter Garden.
Phase one began in December 2010 with horseback riding and hiking trails. But officials have high hopes for a stadium and dozens of baseball, softball and soccer fields; a place to attract national tournaments.
But the skinks are a threatened species. They live only in Central Florida and are protected by federal fish and wildlife laws.
Before moving forward with the Horizon project, the county could be required to conduct surveys to figure out how many lizards live on the site. Too many skinks could force changes to park designs, or taxpayers may have to set aside some land for them.
That is fine with Rodier family, who just bought a house in the neighboring Independence community. She said protect the skinks, but build the park.
"It would be great for the kids, and property values,” said Rodier.
Funding for the sports complex is not on the table yet. For now, the property will continue to be used by hikers, horses and sand skinks.