Environmentalists win legal victory against Cypress Creek development

07/01/10 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

Environmentalists have scored a victory of sorts in their lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers relating to a Pasco county development. A judge ruled that remediation must occur for some environmental damage that has already occurred in the stalled Cypress Creek Town Center development.

Bev Griffiths is chair of Tampa Bay Sierra Club, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit:

"Yesterday, we received word from our attorney that the judge had ruled a partial ruling in our favor regarding a lawsuit against the United States Army Corps. What it will amount to is the defendant in the case, the developer, and the Army Corps, will be required to redesign the plans for the Cypress Creek Town Center development. The problem with it is that it's too close to the creek, Cypress Creek, and there's way too much aerosols. We had tried to work with them early on, when the plan was first brought to our attention, to get them to fill the parking garage or to reduce the sprawling parking lot. But that didn't happen. They said they couldn't do it from a feasibility stand point. They would need a certain number of spaces and a garage would be too expensive. Had they worked with us in the beginning, they could have saved themselves a lot of money and time."

"Has Construction halted?"

"No, not completely. Well they're not building any of the buildings yet, but they're building one of the roads. Now that this new development has occurred with the court, the future is somewhat uncertain as to whether they should continue working on that road, or hold off until the remediation has been worked out."

"Remind our listeners a little bit about the history of this construction. It had stopped in the past because of actions by environmentalists. But then it was allowed to continue?"

"Right. One of our resident members who worked in the area nearby had discovered that the river was, the creek rather, was being polluted. What had happened is that after one of our usual afternoon thunder showers the dirt started to wash into the creek, and muddying the creek. This had happened on a few occasions and we were careful to videotape it and document it. In doing so, we had proof to submit to the regulatory agencies. The developer was fined by the state, I believe it was. It was quite a substantial find, just a little under $3,000."

"Now what's the next step; what could happen from here? Do you think that it could continue to be built?"

"Our intention has never been to prevent the project from being built. We simply wanted the developer to reduce the size of the footprint, to make it more compatible with that site in a way that would protect the natural resources; the creek and the wildlife corridor that runs along side it."

“I would say it’s a victory for clean water because the Creek is an important tributary to the Hillsborough River,” Griffiths said.

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Cypress Creek still loses

As long as that mall gets built, Cypress Creek still loses, since large amounts of runoff will still somehow affect the creek. I do feel good knowing there is now a chance for SOME restoration of the wetlands that were destroyed near the creek. It's just too bad we can't have them tear down what's already built and let nature take it over again. That's be a dream come true for me. Hey, ACOE-hope you learned a lesson on this one.