Written by Miami Today on August 20, 2009
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TICK TOCK: Would-be Watson Island developer Flagstone Property Group has until Monday to pay up three months in back rent to Miami totaling $183,000. Flagstone was tapped in 2001 to build a voter-approved luxury marina and hotel project on the island, but the $640 million development has faced delay after delay since — first attributed to slow permitting processes and a lawsuit, then to difficulty securing financing — and commissioners have granted several extensions over the years. They can choose to extend again if the developer doesn’t make good, or decide beginning Monday to kill the agreement with Flagstone and seek the $500,000 set aside for security, now held in escrow, according to a memo from City Attorney Julie O. Bru to Commissioner Tomás Regalado. In working on the agreement, lease and other documents, the city has paid $507,985 in unrecoverable legal fees to law firm Gunster.
BUILDING BREAKS: Since agreeing early this year to give builders a break during a down market, Miami-Dade has issued 24 stop-work orders. The orders allow builders holding permits issued after Jan. 1, 2007, to leave sites dormant — but secured — without the worry of having a permit revoked. To qualify, builders must demonstrate "economic hardship," such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, absence of credit or slow sales. "At the point that they’re ready to proceed, then we go ahead and we lift the stop-work order and we extend the permit to them so they can continue their work," said Donna Romito, information and permit support division director. Of the 24 stop-work orders issued, 14 have already been lifted.
WHEELS STILL TURNING: Though Miami-Dade’s budget is his main focus now, Commissioner Carlos Gimenez has not given up his plan to allow voters to weigh in again on paying a half-penny sales surtax for transit. His research shows it would cost about $200,000 to hire a company to help get signatures for a petition to put a repeal on the ballot. "Now the question is the funding," he said. Following budget season — after September — Mr. Gimenez said he plans to seek backers in earnest. His move comes after the majority of the commission voted to allow the bulk of surtax revenue to be used for transit operations and maintenance rather than exclusively new projects, and after three different commissioners attempted to get the commission to amend the surtax program to no avail.