Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Miami Gardens sues county over authority in stadium area

Miami Gardens has filed a lawsuit against Miami-Dade County claiming that the county is preventing them from building and developing in the area around Sun Life Stadium.

The city filed suit July 2 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, asking for a section of the City Charter to be removed because Miami Gardens and the county never reached an agreement on the specifics of that section of the charter.

Assistant County Attorney Craig Coller said he hadn’t seen the complaint yet, and said at one point he thought the city was planning to resolve the issue on its own.

“At one time I thought they were going to take action to modify their charter, but apparently that’s not the route they’re taking,” Coller said.

Section 9.6 of the City Charter states that the stadium properties and the Dolphin Center Development of Regional Impact and all zoning and building approvals, street maintenance and other regulations would all fall under the county’s jurisdiction.

“We’re not seeking money damages, we’re just asking for the authority to do building and zoning for that property,” said City Attorney Sonja Knighton-Dickens.

The charter also states that within the first six months of Miami Gardens’ incorporation, the city and the county were supposed to sign an agreement with reference to that section of the charter.

Miami Gardens said that agreement was never reached and the charter provision is now keeping the city from doing any building or zoning work in the area.

Knighton-Dickens said the city and the county have attempted to resolve the issue in the past, but reached a standstill.

“At one point the county told us to draft an interlocal agreement, but then they took the position that we can’t do an agreement,” Knighton-Dickens said.

Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, who is also a lawyer, said that the county attorney’s office has taken a “ridiculous position” in its interpretation of the City Charter.

“They’re not only enforcing our charter, they’re interpreting it for us,” Gilbert said. “We think it’s wrong as a matter of law, and it hasn’t been able to be corrected. ... What they’ve essentially created is a city with lesser or diminished powers. We were denied the powers and abilities that every other city in Dade County has.”

The Dolphin Center DRI contains the area surrounding the stadium on Northwest 199th Street and Northwest 27th Avenue and farther east closer to the turnpike.

The area around the DRI and the 27th Avenue corridor often have been discussed as a potential center for development in the city and as a part of a proposed community redevelopment area. Residents and city leaders often have lamented the lack of business that stays in Miami Gardens despite the stadium hosting major sporting events and concerts.