Miami-Dade County

Court endorses 2012 vote to expand Key Biscayne tennis center

Andy Murray returns to Novak Djokovic during the men's final at Miami Open tennis tournament at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne on Sunday, April 5, 2015. Djokovic won 7 (7)-6(3), 4-6, 6-0.
Andy Murray returns to Novak Djokovic during the men's final at Miami Open tennis tournament at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne on Sunday, April 5, 2015. Djokovic won 7 (7)-6(3), 4-6, 6-0. El Nuevo Herald

A Florida appeals court on Wednesday sided with Key Biscayne’s annual pro tennis tournament by ruling that Miami-Dade voters properly endorsed an expansion of the county’s tennis center at Crandon Park.

Bruce Matheson, whose family used to own Crandon, is suing to block the Miami Open tennis tournament’s expansion plans at the center, and claimed the 2012 referendum left out too many details of the $50 million project to be considered valid.

On Wednesday, a panel of the Third District Court of Appeal ruled against him in a 2-to-1 decision, saying the language of the ballot item complied with laws governing how much information voters need to approve projects. The ruling upheld a similar decision by a Circuit Court judge.

The larger legal battle remains: whether deed restrictions give Matheson, an heir to the family that once owned the land housing the park, virtual veto power over growth decisions at Crandon. The Third District Court of Appeal is expected to decide the Matheson question separately later this year.

“The decision says the voters have weighed in,” said Gene Stearns, an attorney for International Players Championship, the tournament owner. “Now the question is can [Matheson] veto it?”

At issue is a 1993 settlement between the county and Matheson’s family that gave Matheson and an allied nonprofit the two votes needed on a four-person committee to block any changes to Crandon’s growth restrictions. The arrangement was a significant hurdle for Donald Trump during his brief bid to win a management contract for Crandon’s golf course, an effort he abandoned earlier this month.

Richard Ovelmen, a lawyer for Matheson, said he plans to ask for a rehearing before the full appeal court. “We believe the decision is not consistent with other decisions of the Third District,” he said. Matheson declined to comment.

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