Miami-Dade County

Death of the Beckham tax: Miami-Dade won't use the money for soccer site

A deal that’s been a long time coming: this file photo from Feb. 5, 2014 shows Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, David Beckham and Miami-Dade Carlos Gimenez celebrating Beckham’s selection of Miami as the home to his future soccer team. There still is no agreement to build a stadium for the team.
A deal that’s been a long time coming: this file photo from Feb. 5, 2014 shows Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, David Beckham and Miami-Dade Carlos Gimenez celebrating Beckham’s selection of Miami as the home to his future soccer team. There still is no agreement to build a stadium for the team. El Nuevo Herald

A Miami-Dade commissioner on Thursday backed off the idea of using property taxes to purchase David Beckham a stadium site, saying land acquisition for soccer shouldn’t be eligible for a new taxing district he wants to create in Little Havana.

Commissioner Bruno Barreiro stripped the stadium language from a resolution that, if passed, would fund a study to determine whether the Little Havana area around Marlins Park should be eligible for special funding to boost economic activity. The original legislation listed both a Metromover station and stadium land as potential uses for the money, but Barreiro told lawyers to strip the language about site acquisition.

“To make it ultimately clear, the stadium [site] will have to be purchased privately and built privately,” Barreiro said at the afternoon meeting of the commission’s Economic Prosperity committee.

The rewrite of Barreiro’s resolution captures the dicey politics involved in Beckham’s bid to build a soccer stadium next to Marlins Park, where the Orange Bowl used to stand. The soccer star’s business partners are in negotiations with Miami to secure a mix of privately owned and city land next to the baseball park, and then use the site to construct a privately funded soccer stadium.

We have said all along that our stadium will be world-class and privately funded, and that remains the case.

David Beckham’s group statement

“Miami Beckham United shares Commissioner Barreiro’s desire to bring additional infrastructure and investment to Little Havana … however we were not involved with today’s proposed legislation,” Beckham’s group said in a statement. “We have said all along that our stadium will be world-class and privately funded, and that remains the case.”

While public dollars to build the stadium aren’t on the table, the parameters for the site acquisition haven’t been as clear. The plan is for Miami to secure the site, including the possibility of eminent domain to acquire the private parcels. Then Miami-Dade County would take ownership of the stadium property in order to spare the Beckham group from having to pay county property taxes each year.

Have we done a study to see if the first stadium has generated economic activity before we get into the second stadium?

County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava

Frank Carollo, the city commissioner representing the stadium site, told panel members Thursday that Miami would not need tax dollars for a soccer site since the Beckham group would be paying for it. “It is my opinion that the city will not be gifting any land for a stadium,” Carollo said. “We are looking at fair-market value to see what would be fair if the city decides to sell [land] for a stadium.”

The use of property taxes for a stadium site is particularly sensitive for the Beckham group, which is gearing up for a March referendum in the city to endorse the soccer plan. No deal has been negotiated but city officials and soccer executives privately say they’re making progress.

Barreiro’s study would determine whether the heart of Little Havana around Marlins Park should be declared a slum. That designation is central to creating a special taxing district known as a community redevelopment agency, which siphons property taxes from general government funds in order to pay for projects within the CRA boundaries.

Even as he touted the study proposal, which passed unanimously and now heads to the full 13-member commission, Barreiro said he doubted Little Havana should be considered a blighted area. The real estate website Zillow said values in Little Havana are up 7.4 percent this year, and grew an average of nearly 13 percent since 2012. “In my opinion, it’s not slum and blight,” Barreiro said. “It’s a low-income, hard-working community.”

CRAs have been criticized for robbing local governments of general tax dollars that fund police, road maintenance and other core functions in order to give certain neighborhoods and areas extra dollars for local projects. The CRA only receives dollars generated by rising property values, with the idea that economic-redevelopment projects increase the tax base. For areas on the upswing with increasing property values, CRAs can count on a steady stream of dollars to spend.

Miami-Dade expects to commit about $34 million this year to CRAs — roughly equal to the $17 million budget for Animal Services and the $16 million set aside for charity grants.

Miami-Dade expects to commit about $34 million this year to CRAs — roughly equal to the $17 million budget for Animal Services and the $16 million set aside for charity grants.

Barreiro wants to extend the county’s Metromover system to the Marlins Park area as part of a new soccer stadium in order to make the venues more accessible to fans. The proposed Orange Sports Complex CRA could be used for a range of projects, and Barreiro added affordable housing and economic development as possibilities in his resolution. It would keep 50 percent of the new taxes generated in the district, with the other half going to Miami and Miami-Dade’s general funds. No cost estimates were offered for extending Metromover into Little Havana.

Miami and Miami-Dade used hotel taxes to fund the bulk of the $640 million construction tab for Marlins Park and its garages, but the stadium hasn’t delivered the kind of economic revival some predicted for Little Havana.

“We have a stadium right there,” Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava said. “Have we done a study to see if the first stadium has generated economic activity before we get into the second stadium?”

Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed to this report.

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