For nearly the last decade, residents up near Boca Raton's Mizner Trail golf course have been fighting a developer's efforts to throw up residential units on a 130-acre swath of green space. These are not your usual NIMBY complaints -- preliminary tests show the ground is possibly soaked through with harsh chemicals, and any type of construction could threaten the ecological health of the area.
Despite that, within the last six months, the city has reversed its previous decision on the matter and pushed through the project. Last night, county commissioners were supposed to vote on the matter. But it looks like the fight will just continue.
Last night commissioners decided to push back a final vote until June, according to the Sun Sentinel. The hope is that a compromise between the developer Compson Mizner Trail Inc. and residents in opposition can be worked out in the interim. Considering how long this tug of war has been going on, that would be a shocker.
There have been multiple attempts, mainly in 2006 and 2011, to get a residential development greenlit on the golf course, which closed down in 2005. Both projects were shot down after residents pushed back and the county eventually rejected the proposals.
But the main concern for residents is a 2011 screening of the property by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The report suggests that the ground isn't exactly clean:
Sampling activities documented low levels of metals, VOCs, pesticides and dioxin, well below regulatory limits, on neighboring residential properties north of the canal. In contrast, sampling activities, conducted south of the canal, revealed arsenic contamination in soil at multiple locations at concentrations that were above the Florida SCTL for direct exposure in residential settings but below the SCTL for industrial use.
While the golf course land is being used as greenspace, it would not be considered residential use, but the condominium property is residential use. And the samples (both surface and subsurface soil) collected on condominium property, within 200 feet of the occupied condominium dwelling, did exceed the applicable residential use SCTLs for arsenic. Further sampling in this area is recommended to see if this is widespread or an isolated occurrence.
This study was limited and no ground water samples were collected, but above-background arsenic concentrations detected in surface and subsurface soil samples, suggests that concomitant ground water contamination is possible. If the concentration is high enough and it migrates to drinking water supply wells this could be a concern.
Uh, drinking water?
So you can see why the residents are a little upset about the idea of construction tearing up the land at Mizner without at least performing the follow-up tests suggested by the EPA. In the last six months, county commissioners have nudged both sides toward an agreement. The developer has knocked some units off the project; the residents have offered to buy the land for $1 million.
Neither side seemed interested in the offer. We'll see if the next two months thaw either.
Send your story tips to the author, Kyle Swenson.