State college expansion into Wickham Park delayed

By Greg Pallone, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 11:21 AM EDT

A controversial purchase delayed by Brevard County Commissioners Tuesday.

It has to do with a local college campus expansion and taking over part of a popular park.

Eastern Florida State College is growing. Now offering four-year degrees, leaders want to expand its Melbourne campus by buying 77 acres of the 391-acre Wickham Park, a natural setting in an urban area next door.

Asking price is $50,000 an acre, or $3.8 million. The money would be paid back to the county over the next seven years, interest free.

On the site one day could be dorms and other buildings.

"We have 2,500 homes in that community, and we don't want a bunch of frat houses there," resident Greg Howard told commissioners at their meeting.

"What part of Wickham Park is going to be left in its natural state?" wondered Jason McCuen, a fellow resident who also lives near the park.

McCuen said he and his son use the park often, enjoying the wildlife.

Howard walks his dog there daily.

He's also concerned about traffic increasing dramatically.

College leaders said expansion is essential to the school, and the logical place in the centrally located Melbourne campus.

They said their four campuses account for $1 billion in economic impact each year, and will continue to grow.

Commissioners were divided on giving the project the go-ahead Tuesday.

"I think there are other areas that they could expand to without putting out a great deal of the community," said Commissioner Trudie Infantini of District 3.

"They need a core location, and that's the prime and best location I believe to use," countered District 4 Commissioner Mary Bolin.

"They have benevolent reasons, but what is that 30 pieces of silver costing you?" said McCuen.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to table the discussion.

They will likely decide on the issue at their next meeting on Oct. 8.