Miami Beach

Petition to stymie Bal Harbour Shops expansion stalls in court

This rendering shows the front of an expanded Bal Harbour Shops from Collins Avenue.
This rendering shows the front of an expanded Bal Harbour Shops from Collins Avenue. Whitman Family Development

An effort to block the expansion of the Bal Harbour Shops suffered a legal blow this week when a Miami-Dade circuit judge ruled against residents who want to put the expansion to a referendum.

Good Government for Bal Harbour, a resident group, submitted signatures in November to amend the village charter in two ways that would make it more difficult for the Shops to expand. One would raise the threshold needed in a public referendum to approve the sale of public land. The other would require 60 percent approval for the expansion, regardless of whether it involves the sale of public land.

The signatures were not accepted by Dwight Danie, the village’s clerk, because they did not include an affidavit signed by the person collecting signatures. Such a form is not required by law, but considered a best practice that has been used in the past in Bal Harbour, according to memos from Danie.

Asked to rule on whether Danie could reject the petitions on those grounds, Circuit Court Judge Rosa Rodriguez wrote that the court has the right to determine the legality of the petition itself, and she found that the petition was illegal because state law prohibits referendums on specific developments.

J.C. Planas, attorney for Good Government for Bal Harbour, said on Friday that the group is considering appealing the judge’s ruling.

Danie said, “I believe the judge made the right decision. I am disappointed that the committee members that spearheaded this effort did not seek our professional assistance before initiating the petition process, but I feel confident that the integrity of an election process has been maintained.”

Meanwhile, the expansion appears to be heading toward approval. The plan cleared an initial vote of the village council on April 25. The council will consider a final approval Tuesday evening.