In 2004, Scripps ran into a torrent of opposition from environmental groups when it announced plans to build its Florida campus on a 1,900-acre Palm Beach County site called Mecca Farms. Mecca itself was a grove and sand mine of little environmental value. But a Scripps campus there would lead to sprawl, argued 1000 Friends of Florida and other groups. They said Mecca wasn’t a suitable place for the huge biobusiness cluster the state hoped to see created. The battle over the site grew so intense some feared the county would lose Scripps.
Environmental groups argued a superior site for Scripps was in Palm Beach Gardens at a site known as the Briger tract, a 682-acre parcel straddling I-95 that was hemmed in by development. “Environmentalists Back Briger Tract,” read the headline in one south Florida newspaper. Eventually, Scripps opted to put its first buildings in the Abacoa development adjacent to Briger, while Briger was seen as a site for expansion and the bio-cluster. Palm Beach Gardens went on to designate Briger for a bio-science future and entitled the site for 4 million square feet of offices and biotech facilities, plus homes and a hotel. A 1000 Friends of Florida’s press release cheered, “Major Victory for Smart Growth Advocates: Scripps Moved to Abacoa/Briger Site!”
That was then. As Scripps and Kolter Group, a West Palm Beach developer, move to develop their pieces of Briger, a new set of environmental groups has filed a legal challenge to stop them.
South Florida Wildlands Association, Sierra Club, Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition and the Green Party of Palm Beach County filed under the Endangered Species Act to halt development to protect the threatened Eastern Indigo snake. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey in 2011 didn’t see any snakes on the site but said it likely held six.
Charles Pattison, president of 1000 Friends, says his group isn’t involved in the latest stop-Scripps effort. He says it’s always been a challenge for the environmental cause in Florida to “speak with one voice.” The groups that fought against Mecca saw development there as significantly more damaging and championed Briger as a “trade off of sorts,” he says.
Scripps spokeswoman Mika Elizabeth Ono says Scripps is working with the county and Kolter to coordinate development. U. S. Fish and Wildlife’s official opinion on developing Briger is that it would mean an end to Eastern Indigos there but poses no threat to the species’ continued existence.
BOCA RATON — Porn publisher and matchmaking website company FriendFinder Network, which had the worst IPO debut of 2011, filed for Chapter 11 protection.
FORT LAUDERDALE — Robotic-assisted surgery company Mako Surgical was acquired by Michiganbased Stryker for $1.65 billion, or $30 per share, in cash. >> Founder, principal and vice president Steven Steiner, 61, a defendant in the viatical settlements Mutual Benefits Corp. fraud case, received 15 years in prison for money laundering and obstruction of justice in using and concealing more than $15 million derived from the fraud. The MBC fraud involved life insurance policies MBC bought from AIDS patients, the chronically ill and elderly that were then broken up into interests and the death benefits sold to 30,000 investors. Investors lost more than $750 million. Steiner awaits trial on other charges. >> TD Bank agreed to pay $52.5 million to settle federal civil charges that the bank and former TD regional vice president Frank A. Spinosa violated securities laws in the Scott Rothstein billiondollar Ponzi scheme. TD and Spinosa allegedly defrauded Investors in the scheme headed by Rothstein, a since-disbarred lawyer now serving a 50-year prison sentence, by providing misleading documents and false statements about Rothstein accounts at the bank. Spinosa awaits trial. Stonegate Bank acquired Pompano Beach-based Florida Shores Bancorp and its subsidiaries Florida Shores Bank-Southeast and Florida Shores Bank- Southwest in a deal valued at $48.8 million, increasing Stonegate’s assets of $1.7 billion.
PLANTATION — RealAuction.com, a 44-employee company that provides auction services for county court clerks and governments around Florida, filed for Chapter 11 protection after losing an $8.1 million patentinfringement judgment.
RIVIERA BEACH — Environmental products maker RGF Environmental Group acquired the assets of AFL Industries, a maker of wastewater treatment equipment. AFL was founded by June Martino, a former secretary and bookkeeper to McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. She moved AFL from Chicago to Riviera Beach in 1979.
STUART — The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency lifted its enforcement orders against Seacoast National Bank, the subsidiary of Seacoast Banking Corp. of Florida. The company now will better be able to implement its growth strategy and enhance service, the company says.
SUNRISE — New York businessman Vincent Viola purchased the NHL Florida Panthers for $250 million. Mednax acquired its eighth doctor practice last year, an anesthesiology physician group in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
TAMARAC — Furniture retailer City Furniture opened its first central Florida stores in November, two showrooms in The Villages, taking over existing Southern Lifestyles and Showcase Direct furniture stores owned and operated by a company affiliated with The Villages developer.
WESTON — American Express closed its Weston office, laying off 300 and moving 100 others to Plantation.
Dr. Michael Yuz founded teleradiology company USARAD.com in New Jersey in 2008. The company sells 24/7 access to radiologists and cardiologists who interpret MRIs, X-rays, EKGs, sonograms, CT scans, mammography and other tests for imaging centers, hospitals and other care providers. In May in Fort Lauderdale, Yuz launched a business-to-consumer model called SecondOpinions.com, which charges consumers $29 to $99 to have a cardiologist or radiologist review a test. Consumers upload their scans or X-rays to the company’s site. The company then has them read by a radiologist or cardiologist. If a consumer wants to consult with a specialist other than a radiologist, the charge is $49 for five minutes over the phone or internet.
Yuz won’t disclose revenue but says the company is cash-flow positive. Yuz says later this year the New Jersey office will close and the company will consolidate operations, probably in Miami.
Spirit Airlines appointed John Bendoraitis, former president of Comair Airlines, senior vice president and COO.
Riviera Point Development Group hired development and construction executive Noel Epelboim, founding member of Caracas-based Constructora Arquinpro, as COO and vice president as the company looks to expand.