Miami Beach’s overhauled convention center district won’t include apartment buildings in the near term.
Commissioners on Friday approved the ballot language for a public referendum that’s required for the convention center project to move forward. The ballot question, to appear on the November ballot, does not ask voters to approve leases for residential development.
Miami Beach recently chose a development team to renovate its convention center, create public parks, build a new 800-room hotel, and add shops and restaurants to the 52-acre site. The development team had proposed building apartments on the site, but Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales had recommended against that, citing increased density and traffic. The majority of the commissioners, in nixing the housing component of the package, agreed with him.
To help pay for the billion-dollar deal, Miami Beach proposes to lease the surrounding public land to South Beach ACE, a team of developers and architects that commissioners picked late Wednesday on a 5-2 vote. (Commissioners Jonah Wolfson and Ed Tobin dissented.)
According to the Beach’s charter, the document that lays out the city’s rules for governing, leasing certain land within the convention center site requires voter approval.
Voters in November will be asked to approve 99-year leases for:
* The parking lots surrounding the convention center
* Convention Center Drive
* Air rights (ACE proposes to build its hotel atop the convention center)
* The ground floor of the 17th Street Garage (ACE proposes to build retail there.)
Wolfson pushed to include the public cost of the project on the ballot, but the other commissioners did not agree. The public cost is projected to be in the half-billion dollar range.
If Miami Beach wants to add housing to the project or change certain aspects, another referendum would be needed.
Also on Friday, commissioners decided to go to court to decide whether a proposed charter amendment applies to the current convention center project.
With the help of paid petition gatherers, Wolfson collected enough signatures to land a charter amendment on the city’s next ballot. The proposed amendment would make it more difficult for the convention center project to pass by requiring a super-majority to approve the lease of any land within the convention center district. Currently, only a simple-majority is needed, and only for certain land within the district.
City Attorney Jose Smith wrote in a lengthy legal opinion that Wolfson’s proposed charter amendment probably doesn’t apply to the current project because “it would impact vested rights and impose new duties and conditions” on ACE. However, Smith asked commissioners to allow him to go to court to seek confirmation on the issue because “there is no case directly on point.”
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