Miami-Dade County

Trump’s bid for Crandon golf hits a rough patch at County Commission

One of the few breaks in the mangroves at the Crandon Park golf course, as shown in this 2008 file photo. Donald Trump wants to clear out and trim many of the trees to open up view corridors of Biscayne Bay as part of a plan to upgrade the county-owned course.
One of the few breaks in the mangroves at the Crandon Park golf course, as shown in this 2008 file photo. Donald Trump wants to clear out and trim many of the trees to open up view corridors of Biscayne Bay as part of a plan to upgrade the county-owned course. Miami Herald

Donald Trump’s bid to take over Miami-Dade’s Crandon golf course failed to win a key endorsement this week, with the County Commission chairman coming out against private management of the “treasured, public golf course.”

A county-charter provision but Chairman Jean Monestime in the pivotal position to issue a formal recommendation on Trump’s proposal after Mayor Carlos Gimenez recused himself from the matter over lobbying work on of his son’s performs for Trump at the municipal level. Late Tuesday, Monestime released a proposed resolution rejecting Trump’s proposal, and it is expected to pass easily at next week’s commission meeting, according to sources on both sides of the issue.

Ed Russo, the Trump aide spearheading the effort, said he did not plan to attend Tuesday’s commission meeting and instead would wait for Miami-Dade to start fresh at some point with its own exploration of a management company for the Crandon course.

“Crandon Golf has the potential to be restored to what it was in the 70s, which was a beautiful, efficiently [operated] golf course in great condition,” Russo said. “Donald Trump offered to make the necessary capital improvements. And to make it to match it to the high standards that are exemplified by all of his golf courses — at no cost to taxpayers.”

At the heart of Trump’s proposal was his argument that Crandon deserved better than what Miami-Dade’s Parks department was providing for the waterfront course. Opponents questioned the need for a bailout of Crandon, which was recently ranked Florida’s best municipal course by Golfweek.

Monestime’s resolution said: “Crandon Park Golf Course is a treasured, public golf course in Miami-Dade County and is consistently ranked as one of the top public golf courses in the nation.” Monestime’s office declined to comment beyond the resolution on Wednesday, including on an assertion by on Russo that the chairman planned to explore a request for management proposals at Crandon once Trump’s offer was formally rejected.

Gimenez and Trump first had discussed the management idea over a round of golf at Crandon in late 2013, and they exchanged letters last spring on a possible proposal. But when the proposal became public earlier this year, Gimenez said he wasn’t aware a formal document had been received and that he would be recusing himself.

Submitted last summer but made public by the Miami Herald in February, Trump’s proposal includes $1 million in design fees to create a new layout for the 1972 course. Over 18 months, his team would spend $9 million replacing all bunkers, tees, greens, fairways and the clubhouse. His plan includes drastic trimming of the mangroves that currently block the course’s view of Biscayne Bay, transforming a sleepy restaurant into a thriving hospitality operation, and returning Crandon to the circuit of professional golf tournaments.

In exchange for the upgrades, Trump proposed a 99-year management agreement. Crandon would remain a public course within the county’s parks system, but with Trump’s company serving as the operator. Under the plan, Miami-Dade would first invite other bidders to match Trump’s offer.

The television star and possible GOP presidential candidate owns the Doral golf resort that bears his name, along with a portfolio of similar vacation spots around the world. In proposing a Crandon deal, he described the course as tired and neglected, while opponents called it a popular public course that did not need a rescue.

If Monestime’s resolution is approved Tuesday, Trump would receive a refund on any unspent dollars from a $25,000 deposit he paid the county last year to consider what was considered an “unsolicited” proposal. Rules governing proposals not sought by a formal request from the government require the proposer to file a deposit.

Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernández said in a statement: “The process is moving forward as it should with the Chairman making his recommendation and the item is now moving to the Commission.”

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