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WESLEY CHAPEL, FL-The US Army Corps of Engineers has settled an enforcement case against the developers of Cypress Creek Town Center over violations of the Clean Water Act at its site along Interstate 75. The 1-million square foot indoor mall has been in the works since 2004 by Tampa-based Sierra Properties and the Richard E. Jacobs Group of Cleveland.

Sierra agreed to pay a $297,000 fine to settle problems involving muddy runoff in a protected creek and clearing a forested wetland area that was supposed to be preserved. The local developer will work with the Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District on sedimentation controls and wetlands restoration.

In the meantime, the developers may have to start from scratch on much of Cypress Creek’s tenant roster. Some proposed anchors went out of business over the past year and a half, namely Circuit City and Linens ‘n Things. Also, one of its contractors, Tampa-based Kearney Construction Co., recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“We will need to rebid the construction contracts,” says Tom Schmitz, vice president with the Jacobs Group. “We also need to again coordinate our plans with the major retailers that had previously committed to the project.”

The Corps of Engineers issued a permit in May 2007 allowing Sierra to fill more than 50 acres of wetlands and other jurisdictional waters for the construction of Cypress Creek. The permit contained a condition requiring the developer to keep the construction site in good operating condition to prevent unauthorized environmental damages.

On Feb. 1, 2008, Sierra’s permit was suspended after the Corps of Engineers documented a series of unauthorized discharges to Cypress Creek and upon learning of the clearing of nearly an acre of wetland. The suspension was issued following the second of three separate discharges from the construction site that sent turbid, silt-laden water billowing far downstream in the protected creek, the Corps of Engineers stated.

Now that the permit has been reinstated, Schmitz notes that a new timeline will have to be set for the completion of Cypress Creek Town Center, which was originally set to open last year. “We remain committed to the project,” he says.

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