Scripps should not make money on county-owned land, PBC commissioner says

Cross posted from Post on Politics

by Jennifer Sorentrue | August 27th, 2013

The Scripps Research Institute should not be allowed to make money on land it leases from Palm Beach County without approval from the county’s seven-member commission, Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said Tuesday.

The Palm Beach Post reported in April that Scripps Florida could collect as much as $170 million by subleasing the county-owned site to Tenet Healthcare, which has proposed an 80-bed research hospital on the property.

Scripps pays Palm Beach County $1 a year to lease vacant land at the southeast corner of Interstate 95 and Donald Ross Road in Palm Beach Gardens.

During a presentation on Scripps’ 2012 annual report on Tuesday, Taylor said that taxpayers footed the bill to purchase the property. The commission should have a say before Scripps is allowed to make money off the land, she said.

“We own land,” Taylor said. “Our taxpayers are paying for this land. Scripps is a business. We have taxpayers who are paying their dollars. How do we let them realize an income from land which the taxpayers have paid for?”

County administrators said the lease agreement with Scripps, which was approved before Taylor was elected to the commission, allows the biotech giant to sublease the property for biotech uses.

“The ground lease envisioned that Scripps would enter into third-party collaborations,” Assistant County Administrator Shannon LaRocque said. “They are allowed to sub lease that property if it fits into a confined use.”

In June, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration denied Scripps and Tenet Healthcare Corp.’s bid to build the hospital.

LaRocque said the sublease agreement was never drafted, but would have been placed on the commission’s agenda and discussed at a public meeting.