Try this: One, done, then move boat show

Earlier this year, dozens of people gathered to protest the Miami International Boat Show’s move to Virginia Key.
Earlier this year, dozens of people gathered to protest the Miami International Boat Show’s move to Virginia Key. MIAMI HERALD

When they vote on Tuesday, Miami-Dade commissioners likely will set the future course of the popular Miami International Boat Show, whose search for a new home after 74 years on Miami Beach has placed it at odds with the residents of the Key Biscayne and a coalition of local environmentalists. They should vote with care.

At issue is the plan by the National Marine Manufacturers Association to stage the massive trade show at the Miami Marine Stadium site on environmentally sensitive Virginia Key in February.

County regulators have recommended that commissioners grant the boat show the permit for an 830-slip docking facility at the stadium site and in the basin over a 90-day period and also permission to operate water taxis — an uncommon on Biscayne Bay.

Environmentalists and others are right to be concerned, though boat show operators say there’s no reason to worry. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has signed off on the scope and scale of the boat show. But, years ago, the Corps also gave the thumbs-up to the deep dredge at the port, saying damage to the environment would be minimal, even with the explosives used. The damage was far greater than advertised. The Corps credibility was also a casualty.

That the boat show ended up on Miami-owned waterfront property — without a voter referendum or recognition of the master plan — shows the city’s irresponsibility, which the Editorial Board has already criticized.

On Tuesday, the commission can grant the boat show the crucial environmental permit allowing it to move ahead full throttle. The commission deferred this issue last month, delaying preparations; or it can deny the permit, highly unlikely since the show brings $595 million in economic impact to the area.

But Commissioner Xavier Suarez told the Editorial Board Monday that he has been exploring another location for the boat show — inside PortMiami, the same site initially coveted by David Beckham for his Major League Soccer stadium. It’s worth considering — it’s a start.

But there’s a catch: The boat show would be allowed to go on at the Marine Stadium this year and then move to a new site next year. The county would only issue a one-year permit, not a three-year permit as the boat show requested. Mr. Suarez’s colleagues should support this third way, giving all time to correct the slipshod approach that has gotten us to this point.

“I think if we can get all parties together to work on this compromise, we might find a solution,” Commissioner Suarez said. The commissioner vowed, though, that he’ll first listen to both sides on Tuesday.

Mr. Suarez said he’ll likely request a reduction in the number of boat slips. That’s just what he should do to mitigate environmental damage — yes, there will be damage — especially from the pilings that will be driven into the basin floor.

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, who represents the area, told the Editorial Board that Commissioner Suarez’s compromise sounds promising. “Whatever creates the least impact on Virginia Key, I support,” he said.

Community activist Blanca Mesa, among those leading the opposition camp, commended Mr. Suarez for speaking up for waterfront land that belongs to residents.“This is the first step in the right direction,” she said.

And the first step toward instilling some missing accountability.