PHOTO: Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post
Bonnie Redding of the Palm Beach County Green Party protests the use of Briger land for Scripps Institute Thursday.
By Bill Dipaolo
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
PALM BEACH GARDENS — Briger is bad.
That was this morning's cold and clear message from about a dozen shivering protesters, calling for city commissioners to vote no in the Jan. 14 scheduled second and final reading to develop about a 1-square mile parcel of vacant land into a bio-tech park with about 4 million square feet of research space for the Scripps Research Institute.
"Scripps is messing with the blueprint of life. That's dangerous," said Russ McSpadden, 31, a chef at a Delray Beach restaurant. Around him, members of Everglades Earth First waved signs reading "Bald Eagles, Not Bio Tech" and "Testing is Torture."
A few drivers at PGA Boulevard and Military Trail smiled behind their closed windows. Most ignored the protesters. There were a few thumbs-up signals.
But soon after the protest, local officials postponed the Jan. 14 meeting. A new meeting is scheduled for April 1.
"A delay won't hurt us. We're busy developing our faculty and staff here (at Florida Atlantic University)," said Harry Orf, vice president for scientific operations for Scripps Research Institute.
The delay was caused by incomplete documentation, said Palm Beach County Assistant County Administrator Shannon LaRocque.
"There are no glaring issues causing the delay. It's pure process," said LaRocque.
Disagreeing with the protestors is Rebel Cook, a local commercial real estate developer.
Scripps would provide a badly needed boost to north county's real estate and job market, she said.
"We need more clean industries like Scripps in north county to bring well-paying jobs," said Cook. "Developing Briger is good."
The 20-year plan for the Briger Tract also calls for the property on the south side of Donald Ross Road to include 500,000 square feet of commercial/retail, 300 hotel rooms, 1.2 million square feet of office and 2,700 residential units.
The property is east and west of I-95, between Donald Ross and Hood roads.
"The retail and housing market is already glutted. We don't need more," said McSpadden.
Everglades Earth members have been knocking on doors in the Briger neighborhood and leaving flyers on doorknobs. They said they face an uphill battle.
"All the best struggles are David and Goliaths. There's plenty of Goliaths to fight," said Ana Rodriguez, 29, a broadcaster at WXEL.
The city council initially was scheduled to vote next Thursday on final reading on the Development of Regional Impact study. State-mandated DRI studies determine how all projects of more than 300,000 square feet will affect local roads, schools and neighborhoods. The council also is scheduled to vote on zoning changes for the project, initiated five years ago by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, to move forward.
The council Dec. 17 approved both on first reading.
Site plans must be approved by city officials at later meetings before construction could begin.
At the proposed 55-foot setback, the buildings could be a maximum 75 feet tall. At 150 feet back from the road, the buildings could be 150 feet tall.
For information about the Briger tract, go to pbgfl.com. For information about Everglades Earth First, go to EvergladesEarthFirst.org.