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Military Land in Brevard County Set to Become The Vue Hotel at Satellite Beach



The Space Coast of Florida and Department of Defense Activities

Neighborhoods located along the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of Florida in Brevard County are known as beachside communities. Many people refer to the area as the "Space Coast of Florida" because this is where rockets launch into outer space. Some of the most brilliant engineers and scientists in the nation live in this area. Many are proud of the space industry and to be living in paradise. 

Situated along the waterways are NASA, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, and Patrick Space Force Base. In the past few decades, there has been cleanup of harmful contamination on all three active installations. Patrick Space Force Base has made international headlines for cancer cluster concerns and astronomical levels of cancer-causing chemicals detected in their wells. 

Decades ago, the Department of Defense used the area as far as Indian Harbour Beach for military housing and activities. For years there has been military debris uncovered in yards and remnants of the military usage and training on the land from World War II. Hazardous chemicals were tossed into landfills through the early 1980s, open dumpsites were created with no liners, and debris was burned and buried underneath the soil.

Sitting next to Patrick Space Force Base is a small unincorporated community called South Patrick Shores. For decades, residents have been uncovering barrels, transformers, old fridges, plane parts, rounds, practice mortars, and burned military debris from their yards. A thorough investigation in 2019 happened after concerns of high cancer rates made headlines for a second time. Research teams located various letters and memoranda indicating that during the construction of the base, the Navy used the area for disposal activities, and a small area was designated as a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS). 



Concerns of Contamination & Conditions of Privatized Military Housing


In between South Patrick Shores and Satellite Beach was a subdivision called Satellite Shores, where homes were initially built in the 1950s for Patrick Space Force Base (formerly known as Patrick Air Force Base) housing. The site was sold for a new development plan in 2003 to build new residential homes. Before it was demolished, those who lived in the neighborhood may have been exposed to harmful chemicals used at Patrick SFB that seeped into groundwater. 


The highest level of PFAS in Satellite Beach was detected on this property at 130 parts per trillion in the groundwater where housing once sat. There are no enforceable safety regulations set in Florida for these forever chemicals, so the developer is not required to clean up the land before building. While they are not legally liable, there is a moral obligation to educate the community to protect themselves. PFAS exposure causes various health effects such as cancer, thyroid disease, miscarriages, and immune suppression. 


Testing also showed concerning levels of strontium and lead while detecting arsenic and chromium in groundwater. There was also a recognized environmental condition, vinyl chlordane, in a past assessment. There is a lack of testing for documented Department of Defense issues in communities surrounding military bases with legacy pollution.  


Additionally, a Military Family Advisory Network survey found that military families live in dangerous situations with privatized military housing. Families reported the existence of black mold, lead paint, poor water quality, pesticides, and a wide variety of other issues. They are also reporting illnesses with life-long implications caused by poor housing conditions.




Those in the military were likely exposed to asbestos during the time of service. In the 1970s and 1980s, asbestos was still used in construction in floors, ceilings, pipe and wall insulation, drywall, and other areas. Any level of asbestos exposure is unsafe. Older homes commonly contain asbestos material. It's carcinogenic and causes health conditions, including headaches, miscarriages, and respiratory problems.

The health risk is relatively low when asbestos-containing materials are installed and left alone. The problem of asbestos fiber exposure occurs when renovating military bases clouds of airborne asbestos particles. Asbestos fibers attach to the lung linings or mesothelioma when inhaled. There is a latency period for developing mesothelioma,10 to 50 years before malignant lung tumors develop.

Finding a friendly, safe, and fun neighborhood with every duty station move is another challenge that military families endure. Most are unaware of the invisible dangers in their water sources on and off military bases and that old housing can be hazardous. There are thousands of documented asbestos hazards at past and present military bases in the United States and worldwide.


Questions About Military Debris Beneath the Land

Military debris has shown up as far as Indian Harbour Beach, and there is documented debris outside of the designated area mapped out by the Army Corps of Engineers. Knowing that there have been many incidents of uncovered treasure throughout the area leads people to believe that the Navy buried debris much further south. Did Satellite Shores past residents ever dig up unusual debris from the 1940s era? No penetrating radar or metal detecting has been done to scan the land. No comprehensive testing of the soil or air has been done. Vapor intrusion is being investigated by the Corps investigation of the designated site north of this property. 


A Stinky Situation with More Development 

There were concerns over sewage capacity for such a large development project, mainly because the health of the Banana River is essential to residents, and pollution spills have contributed to the decline in seagrass and wildlife. The developer paid impact fees to fix the sewer so that wastewater from the South Housing area is pumped into the City of Cocoa Beach for treatment and disposal. The existing sewer collection system was over 40 years old. 

The wastewater from Patrick SFB and Cocoa Beach is reclaimed, and people use it to water their lawns. One issue is that the wastewater is contaminated with PFAS compounds not taken out during the cleaning process. Cocoa Beach residents are essentially watering their yards with contaminated water. Those chemicals travel up roots and get into vegetables and fruits that are grown in yards. The base also uses the water to irrigate their golf course and the North and Central Housing area.

 
Contrevesary with Updating Shearwater Parkway

The developer is replacing torn-down housing with a hotel and condominium building up to 85 feet high across State Road A1A from Hightower Beach Park. Some residents are not enthusiastic about the new plans and feel that this development would end the nostalgia of the small town they grew up in and affect the preserve on the other side of the highway. 

A few people believe there is collusion with how the land was sold and that the military did it to escape responsibility from cleaning up harmful contamination. Questions surround how the development was approved without going to a voter referendum. The following is a short timeline according to public meetings and records:

1999: Satellite Beach discussed annexing the property for tax revenue. The idea was to limit commercial property south of Shearwater Parkway. 
2003: South Housing was sold to a bankrupt company American Eagle. The property annexation application to the county was all residential south of Shearwater Parkway and said no commercial. 
2004: The development agreement allowed residential homes, zoning regulations for 85 feet in height, and signed by the Air Force. 
2004: The land sold again, and in the sale agreement, the Secretary of the Air Force sent a letter "released obligation under covenants." 
2017: Property was purchased by Woodshire-Brevard, LLC of Memphis, TN for 13.5 million.
2017: The City of Satellite Beach formed a board. Ordinance 1135 was changed to add commercial. 
2019: The City introduced the Vue Hotel.
2021: Construction begins.

Often with new developments, there are community meetings held by the applicant for the new project. Typically these are done in person, and those within the community interested in the project can speak. There were numerous meetings held for public participation in this project. The property was annexed through a vote so that the city could control the development in 2004.

There are also concerns surrounding the wellbeing of sea turtles across the street at Hightower Park Preserve, a conservation land funded in 1999 through the Florida Communities Trust (state funding) and Bureau of Interior Lands (federal funding). The city approved a walkway to go from the preserve to the hotel, but they did not endorse rentals, and there is a city ordinance for lighting. 

The hotel will generate more than $500,000 in annual hotel room bed taxes, and the city would get about $1.6 million in annual property taxes. The city owns more beachfront than any other beachside community in Brevard County. Some people within the community are excited for a new hotel where their family and friends could stay and enjoy the amenities. 


Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable development is when building meets the needs of a growing city without compromising the ecosystem or future generation's needs. Florida is the third most populous state in the country, and high population growth has depleted freshwater resources and affected water quality throughout the state. More pavement means less water will soak into the ground, which affects the underground water table. The runoff goes into storm drains and streams, causing flooding and carrying pollution directing to rivers. Porous pavement materials are available for sidewalks, and mulch can replace high-maintenance grass lawns. Things like composting, planting native flowers, and not fertilizing can make a tremendous difference. Developers need to decrease runoff and protect natural areas to help preserve our environment. What are your thoughts on the new development in Satellite Beach?
















Additional Resources and Information: 

  1. Military Family Advisory Network Research: https://militaryfamilyadvisorynetwork.org/2019/02/mfan-research-privatized-military-housing-survey-executive-summary/ 
  2. Military Privatized Survey: http://militaryfamilyadvisorynetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/Privatized-Military-Housing-Survey-Report_030119.pdf
  3. Universal Engineering Sciences Report: https://www.patrick.spaceforce.mil/Portals/14/UESDOCS-%231855685-v1-ENV_RPTS_Results_of_Soil_%26_GW_Sampling_Pelican_Coast_Final.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0wM2CX4ZBA2XqjE2U4-Ho7T6T1t3246XEVKKtZJdI2ot7wIXmVjEKEViE
  4. Asbestos abatement on 115 Hibiscus Ave number 97024: https://depedms.dep.state.fl.us/Oculus/servlet/shell?command=getEntity&[guid=120.13071.1]&[profile=ASB_Notification]&fbclid=IwAR1fdQUm-AIXgrlAWJqgSgUZxeS7FUvDhNfqbWYWP1oYKKpUYzmSsXSRlpM
  5. Lead-Based Paint: https://www.epa.gov/lead/lead-based-paint-activities-professionals?fbclid=IwAR110XXoo_xvki2yDDcC_WzXfl-opdp4WNkqgfyizb8dZIBVSsNMgXNH5tw
  6. Asbestos abatement permit for 55 homes: https://depedms.dep.state.fl.us/Oculus/servlet/operation...
  7. Turn Your Home into a Stormwater Pollution Solution: www.epa.gov/nps
  8. National Management Measure to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Urban Areas: www.epa.gov/owow/nps/urbanmm
  9. Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Resources: www.epa.gov/owm/onsite
  10. Low Impact Development Center: www.lowimpactdevelopment.org
  11. Stormwater Manager's Resource Center (SMRC): www.stormwatercenter.net
  12. Community Responses to Runoff Pollution: www.nrdc.org/water/polltuion/storm/stoinx.asp
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