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Front Page » Top Stories » Miami Restores Agreement On Parrot Jungle Debt

Miami Restores Agreement On Parrot Jungle Debt

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Written by on August 10, 2006

By Deserae del Campo
Miami city commissioners have agreed to take back responsibility for 80% of a loan to Parrot Jungle Island that former city manager Joe Arriola had insisted the county cover.

A resolution approved by commissioners last week assigns the county a 20% share of the loan repayment to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for Parrot Jungle Island. County commissioners approved a similar resolution during a meeting two weeks earlier.

The relationship between county and city officials turned sour in March when Mr. Arriola revoked an agreement made with County Manager George Burgess for the city to pay off 70% of the HUD loan. An earlier agreement had Miami paying off 80% of the loan.

Now that former Miami-Dade deputy county manager Pete Hernandez is city manager, he is trying to get both parties "on the same page."

"My job now is to complete the negotiations," Mr. Hernandez said. "Both governing bodies are negotiating in good faith."

Miami commissioners approved a loan payment of $1.35 million to the county, 80% of a $1.7 million payment to HUD that was due Aug. 1. The money came from the city’s general fund. The next HUD loan payment is due in February.

The Parrot Jungle loan originally was for $25 million. It was secured by the county to help move Parrot Jungle from its previous home in Pinecrest to Watson Island.

Parrot Jungle Island has been unable to pay its share of the loan and has missed payments of $4.7 million since August 2004. The county commission granted a new loan to Parrot Jungle for $4.7 million, which isn’t due until 2012.

There is still $17.2 million left to pay down on the HUD loan.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hernandez said he needs to work with the county to extend the lives of the Omni and Overtown redevelopment agencies. After Mr. Arriola backed out of the Parrot Jungle agreement, Mr. Burgess blocked a bid to extend the terms of the Omni and Southeast Overtown/Parkwest community redevelopment agencies to 2027.

The extension of the Omni agency was to release millions of tax increment dollars that would benefit the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts.

Also in jeopardy was an extension of a reverter clause for the planned 1,050-unit Crosswinds housing development in Overtown from 2007 to 2017. Under the clause, the county would regain ownership of the land if there is no development at the site. The county commission voted in March to direct Mr. Burgess to take back the land if development work doesn’t start by Aug. 1, 2007.

The Crosswinds development is awaiting a major use special permit from the city, expected by the end of next month.

"It’s important that I have a sit-down with both commissions and develop a dialogue to develop a win/win situation," Mr. Hernandez said.