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PALM BEACH, FL-A ruling by US District Judge Donald Middlebrooks has delivered a setback to the long-panned development of Scripps Research Institute and the surrounding Palm Beach County Bioscience Research Park on the 1,920-acre former Mecca Farms site. Following a harsh criticism of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental impact review, he gave the feuding parties 10 days to file briefs.

His ruling, which followed a hearing, stems from a lawsuit filed against the corps by a coalition of environmental groups. Judge Middlebrooks’ 62-page ruling rebukes the corps for limiting its review to just a 535-acre portion of the village, saying the project was “conceptualized as an integrated whole, progressing in phases,” and that the reviewed parcel “was never intended to stand alone–not, that is, until time came to apply for a clean water permit.” He called the limited review “a post-hoc rationalization to secure a permit as quickly as possible.”

The county acquired the former citrus grove for $60 million and is also providing approximately $200 million in incentives while the state is contributing an additional $310 million in incentives. The county turned a portion of the 535 acres mentioned in the judge’s ruling over to La Jolla, CA-based Scripps for construction of a 364,000-sf biotech research facility that is projected to cost $112 million. Construction, which began on Sept. 27, has drawn to a halt.

“Obviously, we are disappointed that there might be any further delay,” says Richard Lerner, president of Scripps, in a statement. “We remain committed to working with the state of Florida and Palm Beach County to make Scripps Florida an even greater success than it already is,” he adds. A smaller facility is operating from temporary quarters.

In August, the county also awarded marketing of 163 acres of the park to CB Richard Ellis with the objective of recruiting technology-related companies to locating there. One member of the approximately 44-member nationwide CBRE life science group, who spoke to GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the judge’s ruling put a stop to marketing efforts under way. “There are prospects,” he says, “and we’re awaiting the county’s direction on this as we speak. It’s wait-and-see for at least the next week or so,” he said, declining to discuss “legal matters” further.

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