On Tuesday, Homestead City Council members voted to help developer Wayne Rosen get a $3.5 million low-interest loan to restore his golf course and country club, shuttered and going to seed in the Keys Gate section of the city.
On Thursday, an angry Rosen told the city to forget about it.
He doesn’t want the money anymore. He doesn’t want to fix up the golf course.
“I’m out of the picture. Zip. I’m out,” he said.
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Rosen blamed bad publicity, and specifically the Miami Herald. On Monday the Herald reported that the money for the project, if approved by the city, was to come from Homestead’s community development block grant allotment, federal dollars that are earmarked to eliminate slums or blight, recover from tragic events or spur job creation.
Homestead would have served as the pass-through.
In the past, such funds have gone to nonprofits, housing rehabilitation programs, community centers, parks and infrastructure projects.
While Keys Gate Golf and Country Club is in the more prosperous part of Homestead, Rosen had said the project qualified for the loan because the rejuvenated business would provide jobs. It also would have helped Keys Gate homeowners, whose property values aren’t helped by the golf course-turned-eyesore.
City council members, all of whom have received campaign contributions from Rosen or his associates, liked the idea. The vote was 4-2 in favor of the loan, with Mayor Jeff Porter and council members Patricia Fairclough, Elvis Maldonado and Larry Roth in support, and Jon Burgess and Stephen Shelley dissenting.
I’m not stealing from the poor, I am giving back. I decided I don't need this aggravation.
Developer Wayne Rosen
Jimmie Williams, who received a six-figure loan from Rosen to open a fish restaurant that failed, declared a conflict of interest at the beginning of the meeting.
For years, Rosen has enjoyed unparalleled influence in the city, where he is responsible for huge swaths of residential construction as well as charter schools.
The developer, though, did not like how he was portrayed in the article and in a subsequent piece on the Daily Beast website.
“My eyes opened. How do I answer that?” Rosen said. “I’m not stealing from the poor. I am giving back. I decided I don’t need this aggravation.”
He called City Manager George Gretsas and told him to inform the council he is no longer interested in the money. Gretsas sent out an email delivering the news.
The vote by the city council was just one step in the process of getting the loan. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also had to approve the use of the money. A HUD spokesman quoted in the original story said that projects, to be eligible, must “benefit low- to moderate-income residents, eliminate slum or blight, or respond to some type of urgent need, such as a hurricane.”
Miami-Dade County considered a similar arrangement 10 years ago to help a struggling Jungle Island attraction.
Rosen promised at least 43 of 85 jobs created by the restoration would go to Homestead residents if the deal went through.
He said he would have used $10 million of his own and his brother’s money, but said he needed the HUD money to mitigate the risk.
“I can't do it myself. I'm not going to risk all my own money,” he explained, after pulling the plug on the course restoration. “I'm just not going to be the bad guy. I don’t need the bad reputation when I feel I’m doing the right thing. Homestead is the only city I know that is dying. They needed those jobs. They needed economic development from somewhere. It’s not about me, it’s about Homestead.”
He added he wasn’t sure HUD would have approved the application anyway, then said to a reporter: “Tell me what I'm doing that would hurt this community?”
Now, Rosen said: “It's going to be a brown golf course. People can’t sell their houses. This deal is over. … It will remain closed.”
Miami Herald staff writer Doug Hanks contributed to this report.