Written by Miami Today on July 17, 2008
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
BALLPARK STALL: Marlins ballpark documents meant to be in place by July may have to wait until September as Miami-Dade County and auto-magnate Norman Braman continue to tangle in court. Mr. Braman is suing over the county and City of Miami’s so-called global agreement, a $3 billion package of major projects including a stadium for the Florida Marlins. The ballpark is targeted to be complete by April 2011, in time for the team to kick off its first season after its lease at Dolphin Stadium expires in 2010. Holding onto construction, management and other documents until September "wouldn’t be an issue that would affect the critical path" of the ballpark project, County Manager George Burgess said. In light of the ongoing trial, which began this week, he said he "wouldn’t be surprised" if the county held off until September to ask commissioners’ approval on the contracts, though the county’s initial agreement with the team set a July 1 deadline. "A lot of the preparation for the trial has affected everybody."
TRANSIT TRANSITION: Metrorail and Metrobus fares could rise 50 cents should Miami-Dade commissioners approve today (7/17) the fare hike proposed by the county’s Transit Committee. Commissioner Barbara Jordan is proposing also establishing a distance-based or peak-hour fee schedule; studying restoring two cents to a 1993 local option gas tax levied on local fuel; and charging $10 for a Metrorail monthly parking permit — up $3.75. Commissioners have grappled recently with how to bridge an expected $20 million transit deficit while also maintaining services and planning expansions.
GAMBLING GIGS: Training for casino-related jobs could be on the horizon in Miami-Dade. The county could pair with Miami Dade College to offer classes, workshops and certification programs depending on the costs and benefits of doing so. The county’s Economic Development and Human Services Committee voted last week to study the feasibility of collaborating with Miami Dade College to offer such training. Only Katy Sorenson opposed the measure. "I don’t want to be associated with anything to do with casinos and gambling," she said. It’s unclear whether the plan will be affected by last week’s Florida Supreme Court ruling that Gov. Charlie Crist overstepped authority in allowing the Seminole Tribe to offer table games and Las Vegas-style slots.
MIDTOWN MONEY: Developers of Midtown Miami are to cash in early on redevelopment agency funds earmarked for payments on the $73.6 million bond used to finance the project’s garage. The project hasn’t quite hit its required 90% completion, but county commissioners last week — following city commissioners in May — agreed that, in light of the faltering realty market, as well as the complex’s success to date, it could access the money early. At the county Economic Development and Human Services Committee meeting last week, Commissioner Dennis Moss asked for a full report on Midtown’s progress, observing, "it really seems to be going quite well."
BUDGET WARNING: The Miami City Commission got a warning last week from the lips of Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez. Mr. Gimenez, vice chair of the budget and finance committee, asked city officials to get residents to oppose county Mayor Carlos Alvarez’s countywide millage increase. Mayor Alvarez plans to raise the tax rate on the larger tax rolls and reduce the rate on the lower tax rolls will earn the county more money. Miami, Key Biscayne, Coral Gables and Miami Beach are expected to be the biggest losers, Mr. Gimenez said. He urged Miami property owners to call their county commissioners and ask them to reject the mayor’s proposal. "I think we should write to Mayor Alvarez and call his office and express that he should be fair to all the residents of the county," City Commissioner Tomás Regalado said.
KUBIK REVOTE DIES: Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff uttered the word Kubik at Thursday’s commission meeting and a heated discussion ignited on the pocket item. He asked commissioners to bring the condo project back for revote July 24. But a tied vote killed his request. The commission agreed to shrink Kubik at Morningside’s mixed-use project at 5600-5780 Biscayne Blvd. to 120 feet, but commissioners Sarnoff and Tomás Regalado thought it was too high. Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones said it was best to wait for Chairman Joe Sanchez, who was out of town, to return before making new decisions on passed votes. "I think it’s unfair for you to do that when all five commissioners are not here. I wouldn’t do that to you."
BOWL COLLECTIBLES: Miami commissioners agreed to buy a trailer to store memorabilia from the former Orange Bowl stadium. The items were left unsold following an earlier auction from the now-demolished landmark. The city is trying to sell the "sentimental" items, said Ola Aluko, director of Miami’s capital improvements program. Mounted Memories Inc., a memorabilia company, has the contract to sell the memorabilia but in the meantime the items are to be stored in the trailer.
CLOSER SCREENING: Miami-Dade County townhouse dwellers are now allowed more space in their backyards to build patios and screen enclosures. Commissioners approved the zoning change this month. Townhouses built before 1982 are to benefit most. The zoning code once required structures be at least 20 feet from the rear property line, but the new law allows enclosed additions up to 10 feet from the line. In new homes, open-sided patios with solid roofs may be built up to five feet from the rear property line. Property owners must still get approval from neighbors and homeowners’ associations as well as through county permitting. Owners who added on illegally in the past may now be able to legalize their additions.
POPULAR DESTINATION: Miami International Airport passenger arrivals were up 2.3% in May from May 2007. The bulk of the growth came from international passengers, where 624,233 arrived in May 2008 compared with 597,965 in May 2007 — a 4.4% increase. Domestic arrivals increased 0.7%, with 769,041 passengers arriving, up from 763,604.
AIRPORT PARTNERS: Investors and developers interested in financing, designing, constructing, renovating, managing or operating projects near Miami International Airport’s Central Boulevard, get ready. Miami-Dade may soon begin seeking partners to develop four sites around the airport should commissioners agree to the solicitation today (7/17). The properties consist of "a hotel, existing structures and underutilized land," county documents say. This would mark the second phase of county efforts to generate revenue through under-producing assets near the airport. Developing the first phase of sites with potential for public/private partnership is underway, with top-ranked developers in negotiations.
GIVE US CREDIT: Community Redevelopment Agency projects won’t get Miami-Dade County support unless the agency promises to recognize the county for its funding. Commissioners on the Economic Development and Human Services Committee voted last week to allocate county funds to redevelopment projects on the condition the agency credits the county. Redevelopment agencies, designed to revitalize slums or blighted areas, are backed by both city and county taxes, yet "there’s no recognition of that," said Dennis Moss, the measure’s sponsor. He proposed it "to make sure there is ample recognition of the county’s contribution to those CRA projects that do so much for the community." Audrey Edmonson asked to co-sponsor. "I come against the same situation in my city," she said. County money contributes to redevelopment projects, "yet the county commissioner is not getting any type of recognition, nor the county."
WANT WATER?: If you’re at a restaurant, you’ll have to ask for it. Restaurants won’t be allowed to serve water to patrons unless they specifically request it, should a measure proposed by Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman pass today (7/17). The rule is now in effect due to a water shortage, but the new legislation would make it permanent.
CHANGE OF COMMAND: Capt. Richard M. Kenin is to replace Capt. Stephen E. Mehling as commanding officer of the Miami US Coast Guard Air Station. The Change of Command Ceremony is to be at 10 a.m. July 25 at the Air Station, 14750 NW 44th Court in Opa-locka.