The Vue at Satellite Beach Homes Developed on Former Military Grounds

Build on Land with a Rich Military History

SATELLITE BEACH, FL., July 28, 2021 - The Brevard County neighborhoods on the east coast of Florida, facing the Atlantic Ocean, are commonly known as beachside communities. This region is famously called the "Space Coast of Florida" as it is where rockets are launched into outer space. The area is home to some of the nation's most skilled engineers and scientists who take pride in the space industry and enjoy living in a paradise-like setting.

Aerospace and military industries have set up near the coast's waterways. In recent years, there have been efforts to remove harmful pollutants from these active sites. Patrick Space Force Base has garnered global attention due to concerns about cancer clusters and the extremely high levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the groundwater.

In the past, the Department of Defense utilized land as far as Indian Harbour Beach for military purposes, including housing and training. However, this has led to the discovery of military debris in yards and remnants of activity and usage from World War II. Unfortunately, hazardous chemicals were disposed of in landfills without proper measures until the early 1980s. Additionally, open dumpsites were created without liners, and debris was burned and buried beneath the soil.

South Patrick Shores is a small unincorporated community adjacent to Patrick Space Force Base. For many years, residents have reported discovering discarded items in their yards, including barrels, transformers, old refrigerators, plane parts, rounds, practice mortars, and burned military debris. In 2019, a comprehensive investigation was conducted due to concerns over elevated cancer rates, previously reported in the news. Research teams discovered letters and memoranda that revealed the Navy used the construction area for disposal activities and designated a small portion as a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS).

Concerns of Contamination & Conditions of Privatized Military Housing

Satellite Shores is a housing subdivision constructed in the 1950s to accommodate the Patrick Space Force Base (formerly known as Patrick Air Force Base). However, the site was sold for new residential development in 2003. Unfortunately, before the demolition, neighborhood residents may have been exposed to hazardous chemicals that infiltrated the groundwater due to the proximity of Patrick SFB.

It has been discovered that the groundwater on a property in Satellite Beach has the highest level of PFAS at 130 parts per trillion. This property used to have housing on it, but the developer is not obligated to clean up the land before building since there are no enforceable safety regulations in Florida for these chemicals. However, educating the community about protecting themselves from PFAS exposure is crucial as it can cause serious health issues like cancer, thyroid disease, miscarriages, and immune suppression.

Tests revealed the presence of strontium, lead, arsenic, and chromium in the groundwater. A previous evaluation identified vinyl chlordane as an environmental concern. However, there has been a failure to conduct sufficient testing for documented Department of Defense problems in the neighborhoods surrounding military installations with historical pollution.

According to a Military Family Advisory Network survey, military families live in unsafe conditions in privatized military housing. The families have reported issues such as black mold, lead paint, low-quality water, pesticides, and other concerns. Additionally, they are experiencing illnesses that have long-lasting effects due to poor housing conditions.

Those who served in the military were probably exposed to asbestos. During the 1970s and 1980s, asbestos was still utilized in construction for floors, ceilings, pipe and wall insulation, drywall, and other areas. Any asbestos exposure is hazardous, as it is a carcinogen and can cause health problems such as headaches, respiratory issues, and even miscarriages. Furthermore, asbestos is commonly found in older homes.

When asbestos-containing materials are installed and left alone, the risk to one's health is relatively low. However, renovating older military bases can cause airborne asbestos particle clouds, leading to asbestos fiber exposure. When inhaled, this exposure can result in asbestos fibers attaching to the lung lining or mesothelioma. It is important to note that there is a latency period of 10 to 50 years before malignant lung tumors develop.

Military families face the challenge of finding a friendly, safe, and enjoyable neighborhood whenever they relocate to a new duty station. However, many are unaware of potential dangers in their water sources or older housing, both on and off military bases. Sadly, numerous documented cases of asbestos hazards exist at current and past military bases worldwide.

Questions Regarding Military Waste Buried in the Ground

Debris from the military has been found as far as Indian Harbour Beach, beyond the South Patrick Shores neighborhood, where the Army Corps of Engineers designated an area as a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) in 2019. Some community members speculate that the Navy may have buried debris further south due to previous discoveries of uncovered treasure. It is unknown if past residents of Satellite Shores discovered unusual debris from the 1940s, as no penetrating radar or metal detecting has been conducted on the land. Additionally, there has been no comprehensive testing of the soil or air. The Corps is investigating vapor intrusion at the designated site north of this property.

A Stinky Situation with More Development

There were worries about whether the sewage system could handle the waste from a big development project. This was a concern because the health of the Banana River is important to the people who live nearby. Pollution spills have already caused damage to seagrass and wildlife in the area. To address this issue, the developer paid fees to improve the sewer system. Now, wastewater from the South Housing area is sent to the City of Cocoa Beach for proper treatment and disposal. The old sewer collection system was over 40 years old and needed an upgrade.

The wastewater from Patrick Space Force Base and Cocoa Beach is reused to irrigate lawns, but unfortunately, it contains PFAS compounds that are not removed during the cleaning process. The water used to saturate lawns is contaminated, and the chemicals can travel up the roots of plants, including fruits and vegetables. The base's golf course and housing areas also use this contaminated water for irrigation.


Contrevesary with Updating Shearwater Parkway

A developer is building a hotel and condominium building up to 85 feet high across State Road A1A from Hightower Beach Park. This development will replace old torn-down housing in the area. However, some residents are unhappy about the plans since they feel it will affect the preserve on the other side of the highway and end the nostalgia of the small town they grew up in.

Residents suspect collusion in the sale of land, with the military allegedly attempting to avoid responsibility for cleaning up harmful contamination. There are concerns over the approval of the development without a voter referendum. Here is a brief timeline based on 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 was signed by the Air Force.
  • 2004: The land was sold again, and in the sale agreement, the Secretary of the Air Force sent a letter "released obligation under covenants."
  • 2017: The 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, the applicant holds community meetings 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 well-being 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 from the preserve to the hotel, but they did not endorse rentals, and there is a city ordinance for lighting.

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

Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable development involves constructing buildings that cater to the needs of a growing city while preserving the ecosystem and safeguarding the needs of future generations. In Florida, population growth has led to the depletion of freshwater resources and a decline in water quality. An increase in pavement results in less water being absorbed into the ground, affecting the underground water table, and runoff goes into storm drains and streams, causing flooding and polluting rivers.

Porous pavement materials are available for sidewalks, and mulch can replace high-maintenance grass lawns. 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:

Stel Bailey

Stel Bailey, a cancer cluster survivor and environmental health advocate, is a researcher and journalist with more than two decades of multimedia experience, having been published globally.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form