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Sierra Club again takes aim at Cypress Creek Town Center

WESLEY CHAPEL — The Sierra Club, which sued the Army Corps of Engineers for issuing a permit to Cypress Creek Town Center, wants to make sure the permit does not get renewed.

The club said it filed comments with the corps this week, four days before a deadline, to argue against the reinstatement of a permit for the proposed outdoor mall at Interstate 75 and State Road 56. The club said it wants a public hearing before any permit is issued and said the public notice, published on the corps' Web site, was "inadequate."

"Unfortunately, business is still as usual with the Army Corps …finding ways for development to occur instead of protecting the environment and wildlife," representative Denise Layne said Friday in a news release.

The corps said last month it is reconsidering whether to "reinstate, modify, or revoke" the permit and set a Jan. 15 deadline for the public to comment on the matter or request a public hearing.

The corps suspended the proposed mall's development permit Feb. 1 after heavy rain sent muddy water overflowing from a retention pond into Cypress Creek. The creek, which sits on the southern and western borders of the site, feeds Hillsborough County's drinking water supply and is a federally protected waterway.

The Cleveland-based Jacobs Group, developer of the 1-million-square-foot project along with Sierra Properties of Tampa, and its prospective tenants agreed to halt construction. The stoppage came in waves, beginning in mid February when work ceased on an area earmarked for a Target.

The corps said in its notice last month that it would base its decision to reissue the permit on whether the developers could provide reassurances that no more pollution would occur. The new permit also would address minor housekeeping issues that needed to be resolved since the original permit.

The proposed mall has been dogged by controversy since the beginning. The Sierra Club sued the corps over the permit in 2007, saying it didn't adequately assess the environmental impact of the mall. The case remains open.

The Sierra Club said in its comments that the corps has the power to reduce the footprint of the project to minimize the impact on wetlands. A parking garage and additional stormwater ponds and swales would help the creek, the club argued.

It also said the recession has diminished the value of the property and the need for an additional mall. It cites the opening of the Shops at Wiregrass and the Grove at Wesley Chapel as well as the existence of Gulf View Square mall in west Pasco in questioning the need for an extra mall.

"It is in the public interest not to permit malls that will fail," the club said.

It also mentions that Wesley Chapel's SuperTarget store is less than 5 miles from the site of Cypress Creek's proposed SuperTarget and that eliminating that store would help lessen the impact of the development.

"The bottom line is that the need for Cypress Creek Town Center is negligible compared to the potential harm to Cypress Creek, Hillsborough River …and the region's drinking water," the club said. "This permit was revoked due to environmental harm and the turbidity into the creek (with only 3 inches of rain)."

If constructed, the proposed mall would be one of the largest retail projects in the Tampa Bay area. It represents more than $150-million in financial commitments and thousands of promised jobs.

Mall officials had announced 42 tenants, including Target, Kohl's and Books-A-Million. It lost two, Circuit City and Linens-n-Things, to bankruptcy.

Cypress Creek spokeswoman Deanne Roberts had no comment Friday except to say that the mall concurred with the corps' suggested revisions to the permit and the project mitigation plan.

Sierra Club again takes aim at Cypress Creek Town Center 01/16/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 8:48pm]
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