Miami commission holds talks over boat show stall

Event to be held at Virginia Key's Miami Marine Stadium site

MIAMI – The heated debate over whether to move the Miami International Boat Show to Virginia Key continued as a stand-off between Miami and the village of Key Biscayne, at a mediation session mandated by Key Biscayne's lawsuit.

"Let's see if it works -- once," offered Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.

"There is one road in, one road out and there's no parking," said Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Lindsay.

The annual boat show, in its 74th year, has become a financially important annual event in South Florida. Because its usual venue at the Miami Beach Convention Center is about to undergo renovation, Miami has contracted to move it to Virginia Key's Miami Marine Stadium site on the Rickenbacker Causeway waterfront.

City staffers presented detailed mass transportation and parking plans

"I applaud your Herculean efforts," Lindsay said. "But I think this demonstrates and highlights some of the challenges with this site."

"We are willing to commit to Key Biscayne that we would not have more than one event of this magnitude," said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. "We have 'Ironman,' we have marathons ... if we want to do it there, who is going to tell you not to do it?"

Turning the tables, Regalado challenged Key Biscayne officials on the annual tennis tournament at nearby Crandon Park that creates traffic issues for Miami residents who live near the entrance to the causeway.

"For three consecutive weeks there is gridlock, it is a nightmare. We need your support to cancel the tennis tourney or modify it," he said.

The cities' face-to-face meeting Tuesday was part of mediation required in Key Biscayne's lawsuit that alleges Miami's boat show plans violate the master plan for the public parcel surrounding the Marine Stadium. Currently, Miami is investing $16 million to create a park and site for events there.

"It's the possibility of creating a special events and convention venue that house 30,000-40,000 people. That is not public use and is not park use and that is what we object to," Lindsay said.

The meeting was packed with people wearing white T-shirts reading, "I support the Miami Boat Show." One of the workers said they represent those who benefit from the business the annual event brings.

Also in the audience were environmentalists arguing to protect the fragile shoreline and sea life, and Key Biscayne residents concerned for their community and quality of life.

Addressing the lack of movement in either side's positions, Miami commissioner Sarnoff proposed a partnership, challenging Key Biscayne leaders to split the cost of the $16 million park renovations at the Marine Stadium site.

"If you want to tell the city of Miami what to do on our property, come in and help improve our property and be part of the process," said Sarnoff.

Sarnoff and Lindsay will represent their cities at the next meeting to search for compromise and solution, the date to be determined.

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