Lake Worth environmental activist Panagioti Tsolkas was one of many locals who banded together five years ago to protest the Scripps Biotech development on Mecca Farms.
Some of those same activists, including members the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition and Everglades Earth First, are hoping to use similar tactics to protect the Briger Tract Scripps now has its eye on for its Phase II biotech project in Palm Beach Gardens. Tsolkas calls the plan a "Chamber of Commerce-led Trojan Horse, intended to bust open one of the last, large forested places east of I-95 in South Florida."
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Scripps has proposed "a mixed use development on 681 acres in the northern portion of Palm Beach County," according to the City of Palm Beach Gardens website. The proposed plan calls for 1.6 million square feet of building dedicated for biotechnology research and development.
Activists managed to get the original vote on the project delayed in January, which gave them enough time to put together the report they'll present at tonight's meeting.
The site "represents a habitat type even more threatened than what we fought for on Mecca Farms and its immediate surroundings," Tsolkas says, adding that citizen surveyors have spotted more than 55 examples of the rare and endangered hand fern, pictured above, on the property. Scripps' Phase II plan requires that the city approve a Comprehensive Plan change -- Tsolkas and other environmentalists are arguing that the site should be subject to a full Environmental Impact Statement.
Tonight, environmentalists will rally at 6 p.m. followed by a 7 p.m. Palm Beach Gardens City Council meeting, where residents will be invited to speak and cross-examine presenters. The PBC Environmental Coalition and Earth First plan to present their joint report, which details threatened species and habitat impacted by the Scripps proposal. In addition to the hand fern, those species include royal fern, gopher tortoise, giant wild pine, pawpaw, and ground lichens.