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City of Sunrise, Florida Considering Approval of 350-room Marriott
to be Built on Edge of Everglades Amid Objections from Environmentalists

By Susannah Bryan, Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 11, 2010--City commissioners plan to take up two controversial issues Tuesday, including whether they should allow an 11-story hotel on sensitive land bordering the Everglades.

If the 350-room Marriott hotel wins approval, it will be the first commercial development on the west side of the Sawgrass Expressway.

"The whole idea is bad," said Phil Busey, chairman of the Sierra Club's Broward Group. "The entire Everglades is under threat from development around the edges, which is what this would be. Any pollutants would go into the conservation area."

The developer eventually plans to put three office towers on the same 22-acre parcel, which extends north and south of Sunrise Boulevard. The Everglades Corporate Park project would have nearly 650,000 square feet of office space and 30,000 square feet of commercial space.

Despite the downturn, there is a market for more office space in South Florida. "This is planning for the long term, not just tomorrow," said attorney Dennis Mele, who represents the two property owners.

Construction of the proposed Marriott Residence Inn & Courtyard would take 15 months, Mele said.

The Sunrise City Commission agreed last year to create a special zoning district for the project, with Commissioner Sheila Alu casting the only dissenting vote.

On Tuesday, commissioners will also take steps to hire a consulting company to oversee a proposed $450 million overhaul of the city's water and sewer system that will take a decade to finish.

The New Orleans inspector general has accused one of the three engineering companies up for consideration, MWH Americas Inc., of overbilling the city for work after Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans hired MWH in December 2007 to oversee the reconstruction of public buildings and infrastructure damaged by the 2005 storm.

A spokeswoman for the Colorado-based company said Monday it did nothing wrong.

"There was no overcharging," Meg VanderLaan said. She said the allegations were based on a draft review by the inspector general that did not specify an overbilling amount.

Sunrise commissioners are expected to rank MWH and two other companies: Brown and Caldwell, and Malcolm Pirnie Inc. Staff will try to negotiate a contract with the top-ranked company. If negotiations fail, they will start talks with the second–ranked firm, and so on.

Mayor Roger Wishner said he has heard about the allegations against MWH.

"It wouldn't be fair to them to be [excluded] based on allegations," Wishner said. "But it needs to be looked into a little more for us to make an objective decision."

Susannah Bryan can be reached at or 954-572-2077.


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Copyright (c) 2010, Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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