Miami activist moves to halt Tuesday vote on Coconut Grove waterfront

Lining the Coconut Grove waterfront are Key Grove Marina, far left, Scotty's Landing, center, and the Chart House on April 20, 2012.
Lining the Coconut Grove waterfront are Key Grove Marina, far left, Scotty's Landing, center, and the Chart House on April 20, 2012.

Miami activist Grace Solares is asking a judge to remove a question from the Nov. 5 ballot that asks voters if they favor redeveloping a chunk of the Coconut Grove waterfront.

Alleging the ballot language is misleading, Solares filed an emergency motion on Tuesday asking Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley to stop the vote. The motion came a week after Solares filed a lawsuit to stop the city-backed plan that would replace the Scotty’s Landing and Chart House restaurants with three new dining spots and revamp an adjacent marina.

The plan by Grove Bay Investment Group, the sole bidder for the project after a rival withdrew, covers seven acres of public waterfront just north of Miami City Hall, and would also create a public pier and pedestrian promenades and rehabilitate two historic Pan American Airways hangars.

Solares and a group of Coconut Grove residents oppose the plan, arguing it’s too large, blocks public views of the water and was the result of a flawed selection process.

In a 21-page motion filed Tuesday, Solares argues the city is ignoring its charter, which calls for three written proposals, a lease contract for city-owned land of no more than five years and a fair-market value return to the city for any waterfront lease agreement. The city flouted all three conditions, her suit , which names the city and Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley, contends.

The city received two proposals, but one bidder dropped out with no explanation. The proposed lease agreement is for 50 years with two 15-year options to renew. The city is expected to receive a minimum rent of $1.4 million a year.

City attorneys say they believe the bidding process and the referendum question are fair and will oppose the motion to kill the referendum. The judge has scheduled a hearing for Thursday afternoon.

The filings by Solares contend the referendum question voters will be asked to approve doesn’t offer enough information to those not familiar with the plan. Her motion argues the judge should not wait until after the vote to strike the measure down.

“Unless enjoined, the proposed referendum special ballot will result in the city being left in a state of hopeless, confusing morass, with a spate of pending legal challenges,” the motion says.

Miami commissioners approved the ballot measure at the end of July.

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