MIAMI – Following hours of passionate public testimony and an extended meeting, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted Tuesday evening to approve some of the final permitting necessary for the Miami International Boat Show to stage its annual event in February at a new venue at the Miami Marine Stadium site on Virginia Key.
Significant opposition to the move included environmental groups and residents of Key Biscayne concerned with traffic, quality of life and environmental damage.
"It's not just about this property. It's about the whole island. The basin and bay is impacted," Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Lindsay told county commissioners.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association that runs the 74-year-old international event had applied for a 10-year permit to build 830 temporary wet slips and floating dockage for the event. The final approval is for two years and adds monitoring to gauge the event's effects on marine life.
Opponents are skeptical that the move to the Virginia Key site will be temporary.
Miami-Dade County commissioners also approved environmental permits for water taxi service during the event.
Commissioners heard from dozens of Boat Show principles, marine-related company owners and people whose jobs and businesses are fueled by the Miami International Boat Show's estimated $600-million annual impact. Show managers said the 1,400 companies that participate produce 80 percent of marine merchandise sold in the United States.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Miami-Dade County environmental managers had already signed off on the Boat Show plans for the Miami Marine Stadium site. Approval from the federal Army Corp of Engineers is pending and expected.
The city of Miami, where the site is located, is currently developing a $20 million flex-park and event space at the site to complement a renovated Marine Stadium. Miami's officials have been among the most vocal supporters of the Boat Show's move there.
"What we're doing here is forward thinking," Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said.
The city of Key Biscayne has a lawsuit pending, alleging a private event on the site violates the public land deed and the master plan for Virginia Key.