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Order gets ball rolling in mall lawsuit
Both sides in the Cypress Creek fight must file papers for a summary judgment by March 14.
By CHUIN-WEI YAP, Times Staff Writer
Published January 23, 2008
WESLEY CHAPEL - The legal case against Cypress Creek Town Center is going on the fast track.
Last week, the mall's opponents won an order in federal court to have both sides file papers for a summary judgment by March 14, preempting the prospect of a long, drawn out court fight.
Led by the Sierra Club, opponents of the 1-million-square-foot shopping center filed suit last October in Washington, D.C., to stop the Richard E. Jacobs Group from building the megamall at State Road 56 and Interstate 75.
A "summary judgment" means the judge would make a final decision based on evidence already submitted, without going to trial.
"The record itself speaks so plainly that they should not have approved that permit," said Denise Layne, the Tampa-based spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. "We're asking the court to please render its judgment on whether on not, on the record itself, if he permit should be revoked or suspended or if further review should take place."
Led by the Sierra Club, environmentalists charge that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should not have awarded a permit to the Jacobs Group to fill more than 50 acres of wetlands. The lawsuit also accuses the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of illegally supporting the corps by saying that federally protected wildlife, including wood storks, indigo snakes and Florida scrub jay, won't be affected.
Work has been under way for months at the Cypress Creek Town Center site, which totals 500 acres.
But if they win the day, the environmentalists want the Jacobs Group to stop the construction. They want the affected wetlands restored. They want the Army Corps to redo its environmental analysis of the development's impact.
Dan McLean, a spokesman for the mall project, said it is the Jacob Group's policy not to comment on lawsuits to which it is a party.
Layne cautioned that the judgment itself may not be completed on March 14. All the briefs have to be sent in to the judge by that date, but the judge might take weeks or months to reach a decision, she said.
"We're moving forward," Layne said. "We're just going for a conclusion."