State To Review Miami Land Deals
By Susan Stabley
The state will review more than a dozen land deeds for thousands of acres in Miami because the city may have made deals to use public land without the state’s input.
The oversights arose during separate negotiations over property on Virginia Key and Watson Island. They have raised questions about whether the city or businesses owe money to the state for operating commercially or approving plans for other land intended for public use.
Public lands given to the city by the state carry conditions that they be used for public benefit, but Florida Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust, composed of the governor and his Cabinet, can waive restrictions barring commercial use, said Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kathlyn Gaither.
The city discovered a deed restriction while working on a lease extension for the Rusty Pelican restaurant, which is tied to a $4 million expansion on Virginia Key. The state could pursue a share of profits there or many other commercial ventures, said Ms. Gaither.
In exchange for permitting the proposed $281 million Island Gardens resort on Watson Island, the state has asked for 75% of its profits, she said.
"The city will have to show how the public will benefit from this," said Ms. Gaither. Without the trust’s permission, the project cannot move forward.
Judy Burke of Shutts & Bowen, attorney for developer Flagstone Properties, said the negotiations were expected and are the obligation of the city.
The city is now working with the state to review deeds throughout Miami.
Said Keith Carswell, director of the city’s Department of Economic Development, "They will find we have been very good custodians of these properties."