Written by Miami Today on May 13, 2004
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PLANE PETITION: Supporters of an independent aviation authority for Miami-Dade County have 58 days to collect signatures to put the proposal to a public referendum. County commissioners approved the petition’s wording 7-3 on Tuesday in what should have been a rubberstamp barring illegal language. Natacha Seijas, Rebeca Sosa and Dennis Moss voted against allowing the plan to go to voters.
INDEPENDENT BOARD: The plan is to let voters decide Nov. 2 if Miami International Airport and the county’s four general-aviation airports should remain under county control or be turned over to an independent board to administer. Mario Artecona, director of the Miami Business Forum, a group of civic leaders, is spearheading the campaign, which needs signatures of at least 4% of the county’s 950,000 registered voters within 60 days of the petition’s approval to get the issue on the ballot.
FLAGSTONE AT CROSSROADS: A state trust that oversees public land may decide next month whether to allow Flagstone Development’s Island Gardens project on Watson Island to proceed. The state gave the manmade isle to the City of Miami as parkland in 1949. For allowing commercial development, the state has asked for 15% of the rent the city collects from the project. Under terms of the lease, the city could collect $1 million a year during construction and $2 million a year once it is done. City commissioners approved the 15% share last week in exchange for the OK. Officials expect the issue to go before the trust – composed of Gov. Jeb Bush, Attorney General Charlie Crist, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson – in June.
IN THE WIND: Settlement of an Overtown property dispute might go before the Miami City Commission on May 27, said Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Frank Rollason. Once longstanding legal action between Ted Weitzel’s Sawyer’s Walk Ltd. and the city and the redevelopment agency is resolved, Crosswinds Community of Michigan may move ahead on mixed-income units, he said. Crosswind’s plans for Overtown could reach 1,500 units centered on the historic Lyric Theater, with a first phase of 1,000 units plus commercial space.
WISH LIST DUE: Miami-Dade County officials plan to list by May 30 projects they hope to finance with a general obligation bond. If voters authorize the bond Nov. 2, the county would issue $1.6 billion to $2 billion in bonds to finance projects. Among recommendations are improvements to prisons and water and sewer systems, County Manager George Burgess told Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce trustees May 5. "It’s a comprehensive slate of projects, and it’s a slate I will share with you in the coming weeks," he said. The proposals are to go before the county commission in July for approval.
BEACH CONTRACT: Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau Chairman Don Peebles said last week that he wants to lock Miami Beach officials into a five-year agreement to fund the bureau as the region’s tourism marketing arm instead of haggling every two years. The bureau is locked into a five-year lease at its 701 Brickell Ave. offices, said Mr. Peebles, a deal that saved the organization $3.5 million. The bureau’s plan to build a Watson Island headquarters fell apart and an on-again, off-again flirtation with Miami Beach has not been consummated.
MIAMI CONVENTION CENTER: Mr. Peebles told Miami city commissioners he sees no future for the current use of the Coconut Grove Convention Center but said the city could benefit from another convention center to handle the groups that aren’t big enough for Miami Beach’s facility.
GOLF’S BONANZA: The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau this month raised $85,000 for the Visitor Industry Council’s African American Scholarship Fund. The bureau raised the money through a May 7 golf tournament that attracted more than 100 industry and civic leaders. The money supports African-American students studying hospitality management at Johnson & Wales University, Florida International University’s School of Hospitality Management and Miami Dade College.
LAND FOR HOMELESS: Miami officials and representatives of Camillus House have met this month, City Manager Joe Arriola said. It’s the first time the parties have met since the departure of Camillus executive director Dale Simpson, accused of misusing the homeless shelter’s resources. Camillus House needs zoning approval from commissioners to move to Northwest 17th Street and Seventh Avenue, and the city needs the shelter to swap land so the Miami Police Department has a bigger site to build a training center. The meeting was so-so, if Mr. Arriola’s seesaw hand gesture can be interpreted properly. He said his concern wasn’t so much the swap but the management of the facility.
IN THE MEANTIME: Paul R. Ahr has stepped in as interim executive director of Camillus House. The president of Miami management consulting firm Altenahr Group is to lead the shelter though transition as it searches nationally for a director, the charity announced. Mr. Ahr developed Camillus House’s long-term strategic plan and has "an intimate understanding of the organization and the community that it serves," according to a statement from Bob Dickinson, chairman of the Camillus House board.
NO NEWS IS …: Three months after a self-imposed deadline, the University of Miami and California think tank RAND Corp. have yet to announce an agreement to reopen the Dante B. Fascell North-South Center. UM Executive Vice President Luis Glaser said March 1 that a deal was due by mid-March to restructure the 20-year-old center the university shut down in December with the discharge of its 13 staffers. In November, when the partnership was announced, the two groups said they would hammer out the center’s organization by February. This week, a spokesman with RAND said "there’s nothing new to report." No confirmation could be given when asked if there was any kind of written agreement.
MORE COMMERCE: A near sevenfold expansion in the population of Doral has led Coral Gables-based Commercebank to open its second branch there in two years. Since 1990, Doral’s population has grown from 3,100 to more than 24,000. "This is unprecedented growth even by Miami-Dade standards," said Tere Benach, senior vice president of sales and marketing. "We needed to have a second branch." The new operation, Galloway Banking Center, opened last week at 8726 NW 26th St.
DOUGLAS ROAD CONDOS: H&H Development Co. is razing a five-story building at 60 NW Douglas Road to start work on Douglas Place, an 83-unit condominium project in Coral Gables. The company is to start construction next month on the 14-story residential building with retail on its ground floor and condos priced from $182,000 to $272,950. H&H has scheduled completion for the end of next year.
JAPAN HONORS LANDY: Japan Emperor Akihito has awarded Miami attorney Burton Landy the Medal of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, one of the highest honors the country bestows on non-citizens. The award recognizes Mr. Landy’s efforts to promote economic, cultural and educational relationships between Florida and Japan. The Akerman Senterfitt chairman emeritus is former head of the Florida delegation of the Southeast US/Japan Association. Ko Kodaira, Japan’s consul general in Miami, is to present the medal and a certificate bearing the emperor’s stamp to Mr. Landy next month.