Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

City, county near a deal on stadium development area

Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. Miami Herald Staff

Miami Gardens and Miami-Dade County have moved closer to agreeing on who will control building and zoning at Sun Life Stadium and the surrounding area.

It’s an area in which the city hopes to encourage development of a hotel, restaurants and other businesses that might encourage football fans to stay in Miami Gardens before or after the big game.

The Miami-Dade County Commission agreed in principle on Sept.3 to allow Miami Gardens to control building and zoning in the stadium area — with the possible exception of the stadium itself.

The compromise was reached after a long discussion at the meeting and following input from representatives from the stadium’s marquee tenant — the Miami Dolphins.

The sides decided to wait to determine who will ultimately control the building and zoning permits for the stadium property; currently the county is poised to maintain control.

Attorneys from both sides will finalize an agreement to bring back for the City Council and County Commission’s approval.

Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert said that the city does not intend to interfere with the stadium modernization plan that the County Commission agreed to in June. He said the city wants the right to develop and bring in businesses that impact the city more directly.

“The residents feel its elected officials have made enough concessions at this point,” Gilbert said. “We will compromise but it has to be something that benefits the city and its residents.”

The discussion began when the city sued the county in July, seeking the rights for building and zoning and in an attempt to reach an agreement, have a section of the city’s charter removed.

Section 9.6 of the city’s 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 and includes the date Dec. 31, 2012.

That is also part of the division between the groups as they have different opinions on what that date means.

County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, whose district includes Miami Gardens, said that the city is asking for similar rights to Homestead, which has the Homestead-Miami Speedway that hosts NASCAR events, and Miami, which has both Marlins Park and the AmericanAirlines Arena.

County Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Sosa, who eventually supported the item, pointed out that those cities were already incorporated when those facilities were built.

Sun Life Stadium was built in unincorporated Miami-Dade decades before Miami Gardens was incorporated in 2003.

“It was unincorporated Dade before the city was created. The residents of unincorporated Dade own that piece of land,” Sosa said at the commission meeting.

The city said it plans to work on the agreement, but, Gilbert said, the city will proceed with the lawsuit if the negotiations don’t work out.

“We are willing to compromise and work things out, and if we can’t work things out, then a judge will have to tell us that,” Gilbert said.

City Attorney Sonja Dickens also said that a potential charter amendment for the city’s November special election has been taken off the table.

The resolution, which was passed by the City Council in July, would have asked Miami Gardens residents to vote on removing Section 9.6 of the charter to grant the city authority over the property.

The Dolphin Center DRI contains the area surrounding the stadium on Northwest 199th Street and Northwest 27th Avenue, and farther east toward the Florida’s Turnpike.