Let’s Be Honest about the “Biotech Cluster”

Yesterday, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to void their interest in the deed restriction that would have prevented “Project Diamond”, the UTC techonology showcase proposed within the “biotech campus” on the Briger tract. The other government players – Palm Beach Gardens and the state (represented strangely enough by FDEP), concur. Scripps, while disagreeing that this is an appropriate use, is not strongly objecting. Kolter (of course), the NPBC Chamber and the Economic Council are all strong supporters.

As part of the complex and expensive (to the taxpayer) deal that brought Scripps to Jupiter, 100 acres adjacent to I-95 was set aside for use only by biotech related enterprises, all part of the vision for a “biotech cluster” in Northern Palm Beach County.

It would seem the deed restriction standing in the way of the UTC project has been cleverly sidestepped by the BCC and the other government players. They are not “ending the Biotech era” and blowing up the restriction you see, just making a one-time exception in a way in which Scripps cannot object. In Commissioner Hal Valeche’s words: “You get a bird in the hand like this, it doesn’t come along that often.”

UTC, being an excessively green “smart building”, that “fits the vision of high tech enterprise” may end up being similar to a biotech campus in meeting the 2003 goals, but avoiding the restriction is tacit agreement that the whole vision of the Scripps Project was flawed. “We’re not giving up on bioscience or biotechnology,” said Commissioner Melissa McKinlay. Surely not.

The Scripps Project, by most measures, has been a failure. Although Scripps itself has met their committment in terms of jobs created, the 40,000 related jobs promised when the deal was done have not materialized. The amount of public money that was spent to bring Scripps to Jupiter exceeded $1M for each job actually created.

The UTC HQ project will be a fine addition the county and the city, although the amount of cash and tax avoidance they are being given is distasteful to one who believes in free markets and fiscal responsibility. Clearing the way for them with a deed “exception” though is not being honest. Let’s just acknowledge that the Biotech vision was a failure and move on.

Maybe when Kolter brings their next non-biotech project forward they will finally admit it.

See: County OKs UTC HQ near Scripps