Miami-Dade County

Environmental permit for Miami Boat Show upheld by Third DCA

A drone's view of the Miami International Boat Show on Virginia Key, Feb. 12, 2016.
A drone's view of the Miami International Boat Show on Virginia Key, Feb. 12, 2016.

The Miami International Boat Show scored a win in its long-running legal saga with the Village of Key Biscayne Wednesday when the Third District Court of Appeal upheld a state environmental permit allowing the construction of a massive temporary marina at Virginia Key.

Village officials challenged the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s five-year permit for a temporary 830-slip marina issued ahead of last February’s inaugural boat show at the Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key. Their request for an administrative hearing was dismissed by a lawyer for the state on the grounds that the Village, which neighbors Virginia Key but is not a party to the permit, had no standing to challenge the permit.

The village appealed the lawyer’s decision, arguing that the state was conflicted in dismissing its appeal, a decision they said was properly made by an administrative law judge. A Third District Court of Appeal panel agreed that the process presented a possible conflict, but said it nevertheless jived with Florida law and the Village had failed to argue that point at the agency level or call for recusal.

“We find no fundamental error in the conduct of the agency in this case,” stated the opinion, written by Judge Frank A. Shepherd. “However, as we have noted in the past, ‘the system,’ as it presently exists, ‘is hazardous to those who want to request an administrative hearing.’”

The ruling comes as the boat show prepares for its return to Virginia Key in 2017. Settlement talks continue between the city of Miami, which spent millions to create an outdoor event space for the boat show, and Key Biscayne, which filed multiple legal challenges to stop the massive tourist and trade event.

“This ruling will have an ongoing impact it because it affirms a five-year permit, which solidifies the Miami International Boat Show’s presence going forward as an economic engine for the South Florida community,” said Kerri Barsh, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig who represented the boat show.