LAWSUITS FILED TO STOP SCRIPPS CONSTRUCTION-Andrew Stelzer08/27/04
The Scripps research institute, a biotechnology village, is planning on moving from California to the west palm beach area, it was lured to Florida with millions of dollars in tax subsidies. But the issue of where to build Scripps has been contentious from the start, and now the first lawsuits have been filed. The Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition filed a suit yesterday in protest of a drainage permit issued by the South Florida Water Management District. Steven bell represents the Palm Beach county environmental coalition
ACT-bell Ã¢â‚¬Å“From the very beginning the environmental coalition said we wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fight Scripps but Mecca was the worst place they could have chosenÃ¢â‚¬?
ACT Ã¢â‚¬ËœIts completely surrounded by the last of our wildland which are also our aquifers and water retention areas.Ã¢â‚¬?
Mecca is a property on the outskirts of west palm beach, its almost 2000 acres of undeveloped land, surrounded by dirt roads, scrub, and bordered by the Loxahatchee river. Bell says that from an environmental standpoint, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not the place to build such a massive facility.
ACT-bell Ã¢â‚¬Å“Initially we all met up atÃ¢â‚¬Â¦we worked on it until it became clear that this square peg will never fit in this round hole.Ã¢â‚¬?
Today, a second lawsuit was filed by the Florida Wildlife Foundation, both the suits attempt to block the issuance of a permit by the South Florida Water management district, the permit does not call for monitoring of pollutants coming from the biotechnology center which would end up in the Loxahatchee river, but Fuller says thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only a symptom of the problem, which is that Scripps is incompatible with the surrounding environment.
ACT - fuller Ã¢â‚¬ËœThis project on the Mecca site will really promote sprawlÃ¢â‚¬?
Manly Fuller is the executive director of the Florida wildlife federation
ACT Ã¢â‚¬Å“Because of the expedited schedule, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been forced to litigate which we didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to do.Ã¢â‚¬?
ACT Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe infrastructure associated with scripts will result in development..further west that growth management plan calls for Ã¢â‚¬?
Many environmental groups including the Audobon society of the everglades and the Loxahatchee river council have said they would prefer 1 of 2 other recommended sites, which are not in rural areas. But County commissioner Mary McCarty said sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worried that a switch in sites will result in more delays. Both groups say these are just the first of many lawsuits, they intend to try and stop the construction on the current site at every step of the way. The lawsuits could delay construction for between 2 to 6 years. Bell says that the environmental impact of the project has been overlooked, and that government officials have put pressure on permitting agencies to make sure the project happens as planned.
ACT-bell Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe word came down from on high that if anybody in the agencies raised a ruckus they would pay and this came from a high up person in the department environmental protection told me that personally.Ã¢â‚¬?
Calls to county council member were not returned, but we were able to reach Randy Smith, works for the South Florida Water management district. WMNF asked Smith about the permit that is being challenged in court.
Last week, the county commission formally asked the Scripps board of trustees to consider changing sites. Fuller says the commission is worried that the institute could decide not to move, and stay in California. And if the county cannot find a site by March 3rd, Scripps may have the option of canceling the 310 million dollar contract.
ACT -fuller Ã¢â‚¬Å“Theres been some warming towards the idea of alternative sites, people just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to lose scripts, also theres development interests who want to be able to develop adjacent sitesÃ¢â‚¬?
An administrative judge will likely hear the cases in the next couple of months.