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Front Page » Opinion » If Melreese lease goes ahead, more voices must be heard

If Melreese lease goes ahead, more voices must be heard

Written by on November 19, 2019
If Melreese lease goes ahead, more voices must be heard

Miami commissioners wisely delayed a vote last week to lease the city’s golf course for a century to a massive shopping-office-hotel complex with a soccer stadium until they get all details.

Waiting was an easy choice. An even better option was to say “no thanks” to the unsolicited offer for Miami’s largest green space, but it might be too far down the road to say no without seeing the full deal.

When the Mas brothers, their partners and former soccer star David Beckham first asked for Melreese because they wanted a stadium site, the city shouldn’t have asked voters for an OK to cut a no-bid deal, first because the land should remain open and second because no-bid deals give governments the short end.

With an OK to negotiate, the Mas team can now claim a mandate that never was. Permission to talk does not require a deal – especially when the city last week got a swiss cheese agreement with a slew of holes. So the commission didn’t OK it by vote and pushed any action to Dec 12 or later.

By then, commissioners want big gaps filled. One is exactly what green space the city would get in return from a developer who would lease more than 70 acres of the golf course at below-market rates.

They also asked to know the land’s appraised value before setting lease rates. That’s basic. But when they met last week they had no idea of the appraised value or the standard upon which an appraisal will be based. If you don’t know what your property is worth, how can you possibly agree to a price?

Commissioners need all of those facts before considering a contract.

They also must know how much it will cost to remediate the former dump that became a golf course decades ago. The site is laced with all sorts of pollutants.

The community also must know where developers plan to build exactly what at exactly what height. The partners have talked in generalities, but not exactly where buildings would sit at what size. The deal went into negotiation listing the minimum developers could build, not the maximum – no ceiling. The city should never approve that.

Once all details are in hand, a contract could be studied but wouldn’t yet be ready for a vote.

Typically once a large deal with government is unveiled a developer rushes a vote. The claim this time is likely to be that the league requires approval, even though team owners are now building a stadium in Broward County and the need for a soccer stadium was the driving sales pitch for the city to yield its golf course.

In this case in particular, other stakeholders should vet the lease. Those include transportation and environmental interests as well as neighbors, all of which would have to be consulted if the vast project were totally private.

The largest stakeholder isn’t yet at the table at all. It’s next door neighbor Miami International Airport, this county’s largest economic engine with 46 million passengers a year.

Aviation Director Lester Sola was at city hall last week for the vote but didn’t weigh in because the project is still like a bowl of Jello – so slippery that you can’t grip it.

What the county and the Federal Aviation Administration must know is what buildings of what size are planned where at the end of a major runway. As Mr. Sola has explained, buildings could limit how much federal administrators will allow that runway to handle and could constrict aviation.

Until the airport, the county, the federal government, transportation interests and neighbors have weighed in after adequate time to examine the finished pact, the only votes the city should take are to either reject the whole idea of leasing the golf course or, failing that, to at least seek open biddings. The only rationale for no bids – the need for a stadium – vanished when the team built one elsewhere.

If the city still intends to turn green open space into a vast no-bid private project, however, the most interested parties must study the contract first.

Primarily, the city should make sure that it gets Miami International Airport’s blessing. The city gave the county the airport many years ago and has a vital interest that it does no harm there. It’s crucial to our economy.

The golf course deal has been an effort to bring in soccer (which the now-rising Broward stadium does) and to fill city coffers (admirable, but there are better ways). It has also been a political soccer ball at city hall.

As the blanks in the deal are filled in, the city should shift from looking at the politics and placing blame to looking at quality of life and public good. There can be only one outcome among competing interests.

That requires open discussions with all interests after the city gets negotiated documents with all the details.

There is just one golf course. Put it to the best use – which might mean no change at all – under fully shared agreements.

We rushed through a disastrous baseball stadium deal with incomplete knowledge – including its $3 billion cost. Don’t do it again.

6 Responses to If Melreese lease goes ahead, more voices must be heard

  1. Ed

    November 22, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    The golf course is NOT open green space that the general public uses on a regular basis. It is a pay to play golf course used by a very small minority of the populatuon. I was born and have lived here almost 50 years and I have never stepped foot on that property. The redevelopment of the property will open it up to a much greater population with its many varied uses., including a large public free access park. A pay to play golf course is not benefiting, and in fact excluding, a large portion of the community.

  2. Agustin

    November 23, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    Try playing.

    Melreese IS a valuable part of the community even if you do not play golf. It IS open to everybody and the cost to play is reasonable.

    We don’t need another stadium. Soccer could be played at Marlin Park, Dolphin Stadium, FIU, up in Fort Lauderdale etc.

    Save Melreese. Save First Tee.

    • Ed

      November 25, 2019 at 1:46 pm

      I play golf from time to time and have found other reasonably priced public access golf courses in South Florida….so Melreese is not by any means your only option to play golf (even if perhaps it is your preferred course)…and First Tee is going to be preserved under the redevelopment plan. I do however agree with you that the soccer team should also have other options to play in existing stadiums (not sure if schedule conflicts between baseball and soccer may create a problem for sharing Marlins Park however). Would you be so opposed to a new stadium if it were to be built in the alternative Overtown location? Are you only opposed to a new stadium because it will take away your preferred golfing venue? My point was that arguing that Melreese Golf Course is open green space that is used by the general public as if it were a free public access park is disingenuous. It is used by a very small percentage of the citizens of Miami (i assume you being one of them) who technically own it…and the economic and other benefits that it may generate for the citizens who own it are minimal, if at all existent. So you have publicly owned land providing very little public benefit to the majoirty of the public that owns it in its current configuration/use. That is not how public land should be used. It should be used to provide as great a public benefit to as large a majority of the public that owns it as possible. The redevelopment plan will do that. It will open up that land to much greater use by the majority of the public that owns it, and will certainly provide greater economic benefit to the public owners of that land than whatever greens fees are collected from your golf outings on that course. With or without the stadium component, the other elements of the redevelopment plan, including a large, free access, public park, will open up that public land to much greater use by the general public that owns it, as well as provide a much greater economic benefit than the current golf course could ever provide.

  3. wehaveseenthismovieB4

    November 24, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    I don’t care if the green space is not used by a majority of the public. Incredible as it seem,the majority of the public is so much the better for nitrogen exchanged for oxygen by green space, plus the fitering effect of bad elements in the air by green space. To argue for paving over green space with impervious cover for the blessings of “development”, flooding, traffic congeston and added air pollutants misses the point of green space completely.

  4. wehaveseenthismovieB4

    November 24, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Green space exchanges nitrogen and air pollutants for oxygen. That’s a good thing for all living creatures, whether they play golf or not. Replacing it with impervious cover, added air pollutants and traffic congestion is spitting into the wind of Mother Nature, not good in a era of climate change and global warming.

    • Ed

      November 25, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      I hear your argument, but can’t say I buy into it completely. A large portion of the property will be used to create a large free access public park which can be densely populated with trees that can have as much, if not more, of a positive environmental impact as the current golf course. Golf courses are notorious for negetively impacting the environment (large water consumption, herbicides, perticides, fertilizers, etc). Despite the golf course being green with grass, it is sparcely populated with trees which really make a difference. So if you really want to scrub the air of pollutants support the redevelopment of this property and push for as many trees to be planted on the property, both on the free access public park component as well as all the other components as possible. I believe it can actually be a net positive impact on the environment if done properly. Not to mention the environmmental remediation that they will do to clean up that property from the contaminants that exist there today because it was previously used as a trash dump.