Cocoa Expo Under Investigation By St. Johns Water Management
By Ed Pierce // August 24, 2012
Stormwater Runoff Problems Also A Concern
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The St. Johns River Water Management District is awaiting a response from the owner of the Cocoa Expo Sports Center regarding questions about stormwater runoff problems and destruction of wetlands, according to Hank Largin, St. Johns River Water Management District public communications coordinator.
The proposed $40 million upgrade of the Cocoa Expo facility has been plagued by zoning and permit restrictions since it began last summer, and an investigation was launched in July by the water management district following complaints that workers at the facility destroyed wetlands by filling them in.
Construction at the Cocoa Expo, located on approximately 48 acres at 500 Friday Road in Cocoa, includes redeveloping a multi-purpose gym at the facility, upgrading baseball fields, creation of parking lots and renovating a dormitory.
“The District’s investigation began soon after we received an application for the Cocoa Expo west parking lot. Staff conducted a site inspection and found that construction had begun on the west parking lot without a District permit having been issued,” said Largin.
“Some wetlands had been filled, but how much was not known at the time because of the nature of the area.”
Largin said results of the investigation have been shared with Cocoa Expo owner Jeff Unnerstall and his staff.
“The District has completed an investigation of the amount of wetlands on site, and what might have been filled by the owner,” Largin said.
“Staff has met with the owner and the engineering consultant, and provided them with the District’s findings. The owner has not yet responded as to whether or not they agree with the District findings. The District continues to work with the landowner and his consultant on these issues.”
He sent the District out a Request for Additional Information (RAI) letter early in the process that included questions about stormwater.
“Those questions still need to be answered,” Largin said. “The wetland map compiled by District staff is being reviewed by the applicant and we are waiting to hear if they agree with our findings.”
He said the District could impose a fine upon the Cocoa Expo owner for wetland destiuction.
“A penalty or fine has not been discussed as yet, we are too early in the process,” Largin said.
“Penalties could be monetary, but there are alternatives such as restoration work, or a combination. They have 120 days to respond to the RAI but could request additional time with good cause.”
Tuesday morning the Brevard County Commission approved a series of zoning changes 4-1 as requested by Unnerstall, who is from Kissimmee, to help speed construction.
Commissioner Chuck Nelson cast the lone dissenting vote for the zoning changes, saying he thought there were too many loose ends to tie up regarding drainage, parking and traffic concerns.
Last October county fire crews responded to a 3-alarm fire of burning construction material at Cocoa Expo.