A Florida appeals court on Wednesday sided with Miami-Dade in a no-bid deal with David Beckham and partners to buy county land for an Overtown stadium the retired soccer star no longer wants.
The Third District Court of Appeal ruled against Bruce Matheson, a wealthy landowner near the former stadium site who last year sued the county over the legality of selling public real estate without inviting other bids.
At the time, the Matheson suit was considered the last big hurdle for Beckham finally securing a Major League Soccer stadium. But by the end of 2017, Beckham had new partners in Jorge and Jose Mas, Miami executives who were against the Overtown site and quickly engineered a deal with Miami for a stadium, mall and office park at the city-owned Melreese golf course. City voters are being asked to authorize the agreement in a November referendum.
In its unanimous decision, the appeals court ruled state law allows county governments to award no-bid land deals in the interest of economic development. Miami-Dade cited the state’s economic-development statute in justifying the $9 million sales contract, which was based on appraisals commissioned by the county. “We adopt the trial court’s reasoning that the county had no clear legal duty to offer the 2.79 acres for competitive bid,” the opinion reads.
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While the lawsuit was at first a hurdle for the Beckham group, it shifted to helpful mode once the push began for Melreese. The original 2017 deal with Miami-Dade only required the partnership to make a $450,000 down payment on the county land. Another $901,500 was due in June, but the county agreed to delay that deadline until the litigation was over.
Wednesday’s unanimous ruling starts the clock on that moment, but legal technicalities should let the Beckham group delay the payment requirement until after Election Day on Nov. 6. In June, the county agreed to give the Beckham group 10 days after a final order on the Matheson case to decide whether to give up the land or pay the $901,500 to keep it under the partnership’s control.
The appeals court’s 24-page decision can be appealed to the state Supreme Court, and Matheson has up to 30 days to decide whether to take that step or seek another hearing at the appellate level. That window would expire after Election Day, when the Beckham group will know whether it needs a fallback plan.
The Beckham group hasn’t officially given up on Overtown — Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who negotiated the initial $9 million deal to purchase the three-acre site off Northwest Sixth Avenue, calls the parcel the soccer group’s Plan B if voters reject the Melreese plan.
Should the Beckham group seek more time to decide on the Overtown purchase, the county will have the chance to either play hardball or find a way to extend the deadlines without going back to the County Commission for another vote. The Beckham group hired one of the mayor’s sons, C.J. Gimenez, as a lobbyist in the city talks. Gimenez has not recused himself from decisions involving the Beckham land.
Currently used as a truck depot by the county’s Water and Sewer Department, the three-acre site is no longer needed by Miami-Dade, Gimenez has said, and should be sold to the private sector. The Beckham group also owns outright another six acres next to the county site that it could either sell or develop.