Miami-Dade County

Medical emergency delays vote on Museum Park Conservancy

A rendering of a new grand entryway to Museum Park
A rendering of a new grand entryway to Museum Park

A medical emergency delayed a vote Thursday on a proposal that would see Miami cede control of 19 acres of waterfront park space to a private nonprofit in order to hopefully raise millions in donations for an extreme makeover.

Miami Foundation President Javier Soto was expected to present the plan for a Museum Park conservancy to commissioners. But Soto couldn’t make it to City Hall because he was admitted to the emergency room, according to Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, an active supporter and booster of the plan.

Members of the Miami Foundation, the organization pushing the conservancy, said Wednesday that Soto had been suffering from kidney stones. In his absence, the commission deferred a vote two weeks until Oct. 22.

As proposed, the city would sign a 10-year operating agreement with an independent conservancy run by a board with a minority of members appointed by the city. The conservancy, which Sarnoff says has already secured $7.5 million in commitments, is pushing a $50 million design of the park that was pared way down by the city when it built the park on the location of former Bicentennial Park.

The conservancy hopes to raise half the funds for the redesign. A development plan would require city approval.

Soto’s absence staved off an expected showdown over the conservancy pitch, with Commissioner Frank Carollo, the chairman of the quasi-independent agency that currently manages the park, questioning why the city should turn operations and park design over to a private group. But the delay inadvertently give Mayor Tomás Regalado what he said he wanted: more time to digest the details and inform the public.

Also on Thursday, commissioners withdrew a proposed settlement with the village of Key Biscayne after a 90-minute closed-door meeting on the deal. The move was expected after Key Biscayne’s mayor pulled out of the deal Wednesday. The two sides could end up in court fighting two lawsuits filed against the city by the village, which hopes to stop the ongoing construction of an event space outside Marine Stadium, where the Miami International Boat Show would be held in February.

Sarnoff, who negotiated the agreement, said he’s hopeful that a settlement can still be reached.

“Although we had an agreement at the mediation, it appears we no longer have that agreement,” he said. “But it may very well be that in the future Key Biscayne or ourselves will be forced to go into a further resolution process, or they may wish to revisit their position.”

David Smiley: 305-376-2284, @newsbysmiley