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Front Page » Communities » Pleas to Army fail to shift boat show

Pleas to Army fail to shift boat show

Written by on December 8, 2015
Pleas to Army fail to shift boat show

Key Biscayne residents who packed the village hall Dec. 2 begged the US Army Corps of Engineers to put a stop to plans for the 2016 Miami International Boat Show on Virginia Key. Representatives of the corps were there to answer questions about the permit application process for the show.

Time and again, corps representatives said the agency must follow strict regulations and focus on water navigation and cannot consider traffic on roads or other concerns raised by opponents of the boat show at that location.

The meeting started later than anticipated, with village Mayor Mayra Peña Lindsay opening by saying “I think there’s been a miscommunication” after she spoke with the corps representatives on the nature of the meeting.

It was standing room only in the council chambers. More than 100 people filled chairs, some sitting on the floor and others spilling into a hallway.

Many people filled out forms to ask questions or make statements, but several didn’t get a chance to speak as the meeting ended at 7:30 p.m. A corps representative said that was the scheduled adjournment.

Village officials have been at odds with the City of Miami for months over plans to relocate the boat show to city-owned land on Virginia Key, a barrier island linking Key Biscayne to the mainland via the Rickenbacker Causeway.

The city made a license agreement with the National Marine Manufacturers Association, producer of the annual show, to stage the 2016 event on land and water surrounding Miami Marine Stadium.

The city is spending more than $20 million to improve the area around the long-idle stadium into a flex park for multiple uses after the boat show.

Village officials and residents don’t want the boat show on Virginia Key, saying it will choke traffic on the causeway, the only access to the village, and endanger wildlife and the environment. Opponents also voice concerns about the city’s future use of the property and waterfront stadium, saying the changes are too intensive.

The city and the marine manufacturers association defend the plan for bringing the boat show to Virginia Key and the basin, and the association says it is working closely with all governing agencies to secure the needed permits and has devised a parking and transportation plan to ease traffic congestion.

No one from the National Marine Manufacturers Association spoke during the Dec. 2 meeting.

Mayor Lindsay pointed out that City of Miami officials were invited but it appeared none attended.

Some residents present asked the corps to outright deny the permit to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Even village elected officials were trying their best to sway corps members.

“We need you on our side,” Councilmember Michael Kelly told the corps representatives.

Ingrid Gilbert, with the corps of engineers, said she didn’t want to sound like the typical bureaucrat but “we have to stick to the regulations.”

Resident David Rocker asked if so-called temporary docks installed in the basin for the boat show would be fully removed after the show.

“Yes, they are temporary marine structures,” responded Albert Gonzalez, with the corps.

Mr. Rocker asked about the removal of inland structures after the show ends.

Mr. Gonzales said inland structures are “outside of our jurisdiction,” noting that the corps’ focus is navigable waterways.

Mr. Rocker said the boat show will be a massive undertaking and is “entirely too large for this site.”

Mayor Lindsay said the city recently changed a request for proposals for an enlarged marina on Virginia Key to take the place of Rickenbacker Marina, and village officials are concerned the additional dockage will adjoin the temporary dockage for the show.

“We can’t consider speculative proposals,” said Ms. Gilbert.

If the city plans an expanded wet slip marina on Virginia Key, Ms. Gilbert said, that would come to the corps in a separate permit application and be viewed on its own merits.

John Shubin, an attorney representing the village, argued that the city’s plan for a marina should be evaluated along with the temporary dockage for the boat show. He said the city ought not to piecemeal plans in the basin to restrict the corps’ review – “That’s exactly what the city is trying to do – piecemeal it.”

Mr. Shubin asked if the permit request from the association was for multiple years.

Ms. Gilbert said it is for five years.

In regard to the effect of increased activity in Biscayne Bay and the basin, Ms. Gilbert said it is typical for the corps to require pre and post resource surveys in order to measure any impact from a use or event.

“We can modify any permit if there is an issue,” she said.

Mr. Kelly spoke of the special nature of Key Biscayne and the worries island residents have about anything endangering their home.

“This is why we live here,” Mr. Kelly said. “We view the [Virginia Key] basin as part of our island.”

“What worries us is the environmental impact,” said Mr. Kelly, as he identified himself to the corps representatives as a member on the village council.

“We’re here, really, pleading,” he said.

The massive boat show will hurt the environment – “take that into consideration,” Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Gonzales pointed out that the boat show will require permits from the state and from Miami-Dade County.

A decision on the county permit was postponed last month. County commissioners unanimously voted to defer a permit vote until Dec. 15.

Some residents worried that the installation and removal of the dockage for the boat show would stir up the bottomlands and impact the bay.

Village Vice Mayor James Taintor drew on a large pad of paper to illustrate what he called the three “choke points” in Biscayne Bay and how they may be impacted by the boat show and added vessels on the water.

The boat show organizers plan to use a fleet of water taxis during the show to shuttle attendees in and out of the venue.

Mr. Taintor said the added vessels on the water during the boat show will be “a safety and navigational nightmare.”

The vice mayor suggested restricting the number of water taxis, restricting the routes they can use, not allowing any water travel after dark and making the entire area a no-wake zone.

Mr. Taintor said he fears the bay bottom will look like Swiss cheese if the boat show is allowed to use the venue on Virginia Key for years.

“It is going to destroy that basin,” said Mr. Taintor, asking the corps to not allow the boat show at that location, or take measures to limit it.

His request was met with loud applause from the crowd.

Mr. Garcia said state officials are the ones tasked with water quality matters, and the corps along with other agencies coordinates with the state.

Gregory W. Bush, University of Miami associate professor of history, said the boat show on Virginia Key will deny public access and be a disservice to the public. He said it goes against deed restrictions.

Mr. Bush told the corps representatives about a 2010 master plan for Virginia Key that called for a planning oversight board for the entire island. He said the Miami City Commission approved the master plan but has not followed it.

Don Elisburg said he’s on a condo council that represents more than 4,000 Key Biscayne condo owners and that fully supports the village council in fighting the boat show. He pointed to the packed room as evidence of the importance of the issue to residents.

“You’ve got a bear by the tail here,” said Mr. Elisburg, looking at the corps representatives.

“You got caught up in stealth project,” he said, as he scolded the corps representatives. “You’ve simply not done your homework.”

“There are 12,000 people here worried about how they’ll get to the hospital” through the traffic jams created by the boat show, said Mr. Elisburg.

“The city decided to fast-track this,” he said, without studies on its potential impact. “Shame on you… this thing just isn’t right,” he concluded to robust applause.

Earlier that day, a circuit court judge had dismissed a lawsuit the village filed against the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The village government had demanded that the association produce all of its records related to its license with the city, citing Florida’s Public Records Act. The association rejected the request, saying it is not subject to the act.

The village sued April 22 to compel disclosure. The association later asked the court to throw out the case.

The court said the village failed to prove the association was subject to the records act and granted the request for dismissal. The village has the right to appeal the decision.

A separate lawsuit the village filed against the City of Miami over the boat show remains unresolved.

8 Responses to Pleas to Army fail to shift boat show

  1. John

    December 9, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    The residents of the Village of Key Biscayne need to realize how foolish they are being made to look. They have absolutely no claim here – no legal claim, no rhetorical claim. They are embarrassing themselves, and they are being played by a few local politicians who want to make a name for themselves.

    It’s not too late to turn it around though – tell your mayor and council to stop making the key look foolish, and to get on board with the boat show.

  2. Amanda

    December 9, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    I am disgusted by the argument about “making it to the hospital.” Not only is this blatant deception, but it is heartless. If you want to play the sympathy card, why don’t you take a moment to look at the hundreds of thousands of workers who will lose money or even jobs without the boat show. Are the citizens of Key Biscayne so selfish that they think their “peace and quite” is worth the livelihoods of others (people much poorer than they?). What an embarrassment…

  3. Sydney

    December 10, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    It’s funny how this is now an “environmentally sensitive area” when just a couple decades ago it was used for BOAT RACING!!! The idea that residents of Biscayne Bay had an “expectation” of lower traffic and noise volume is laughable as a legal argument – there would never be any development anywhere in the US if you had to ask permission from neighboring residents before moving forward. There is no precedent for a principality to tell a completely separate principality that they are not allowed to do something because the latter’s plans are not part of what the former originally expected.

    I don’t think the residents of Key Biscayne are aware of how silly (and selfish) they look to the rest of the country. For your own sake, please give it a rest!

  4. Miami-Dade Resident

    December 10, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    It is an environmentally sensitive area home to crocodiles (federally endangered), migrating birds, manatees, dolphins, stingrays, schools of fish, seagrass beds, mangroves and more. It may have been used for boat racing in the PAST, but now it is a beautiful area for passive water sports. I get it, there is a lot of money to be made and people need to make a living, however, this was shoved on the Citizens of Miami without any public meetings, and has already impacted the environment, and many athletes who use the area on a daily and weekly basis. What did boat show and City folks think was going to happen? The Citizens of Miami-Dade want to protect this area and the City knows this from past experience! This impacts all residents that frequent VA Key. This boat show could have gone to another area.

  5. Valerie

    December 10, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    In answer to Amanda. No one is against having the Boat Show in Miami.
    Virginia Key is not the right place for it. There are other choices even though the Boat Show wants us to believe that is not true.
    There is now a Wildlife Preserve in the area. There are manatee at risk of being struck by constant traffic from water taxis. And sea grass that will be damaged by even a temporary dock. Because that dock will be there a few months. Not just a week for the show. Enough time for sea grass to die from lack of sun. There are many varieties of fish now living in that basin.
    Putting in as many pilings as the Boat Show is requesting will disturb the sea bottom and the estuary for fish in the sea grass.
    It’s taken all these years for the basin to recoup after having boat races in the basin. The mangroves have a part in protecting the seashore and many were destroyed illegally when construction started.
    As far as people losing their jobs if the show doesn’t go in this locale,it’s a supposedly temporary show. The kind that moves all around the country to different sites. Just as when they temporarily housed the show at the Miami Beach Convention Center. A place that did not harm the environment.

  6. Mindy

    December 10, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    This is not the 80’s anymore where we can continue to bombard the environment by continuing to take and take, then take some more. Certain habitats, like mangrove estuaries, need to be protected for future generations to enjoy. Yes, the 80’s were great, a person didn’t have to worry about their choices affecting so much, but this is a new era and people are ready to care for themselves, others, and nature. Everyone can win. The boat show will simply and easily be moved to an area that is not protected, and life will be good for everyone. Now that the city is aware of the problems, they can easily say, ok, let’s think big thoughts, with big solutions for everyone. Happy holidays to everyone.

  7. Sean O'Hanlon

    December 12, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    “The boat show organizers plan to use a fleet of water taxis during the show to shuttle attendees in and out of the venue.

    Mr. Taintor said the added vessels on the water during the boat show will be “a safety and navigational nightmare.”

    The vice mayor suggested restricting the number of water taxis, restricting the routes they can use, not allowing any water travel after dark and making the entire area a no-wake zone.”

    Every other major city by the bay or with a port has ferries and/or water taxis (NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Sydney, Venice, etc.) as a transit option. These are options that should have been available to Miami, Miami Beach, and Key Biscayne residents 15 years ago, especially during major events such as Art Basel, the boat show, and tennis tournament. These options would alleviate traffic and parking concerns for locals and tourists alike. Mr. Taintor’s argument is specious at best and it seems that Key Biscayne residents simply don’t want Miami Marine Stadium reopened ever.

  8. Eli Mayer

    February 14, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    I have been working the show, and I can tell you a few things:

    -The floating docks are well out of the sea grass beds and are attracting more baitfish than the basin has seen.

    – A pod of Porpoises were feeding in the basin undisturbed during one of the show days.

    – The basin has been repeatedly cleaned every day by the show. As a boater and visitor to the area for years, I can say it has never been this clean.

    – A group of manatees moved through the entrance channel during a show as DERM watched, and all a traffic maintained a no wake zone. The show enforced it and even threw out a show boat for not complying.

    – Key Biscayne police and DERM with their photographers have commented on the cleanliness and order of the show.

    In my opinion:

    Miami needs the Marine Stadium as a venue, and not a derelict parcel for mooring and later condo development.