Village of Key Biscayne fights back – again – against boat show

Miami Marine Stadium
Miami Marine Stadium

In the latest attempt to thwart the Miami International Boat Show from taking place on Virginia Key, the Village of Key Biscayne is back in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

This time, village officials are seeking a court injunction to stop the city of Miami from issuing building permits for construction at the Miami Marine Stadium site where the event is scheduled to be held in February.

According to an amended complaint filed late Thursday, the village also wants a permanent injunction to stop the boat show’s relocation to Virginia Key, and is asking the court to compel city of Miami commissioners to hold a public referendum on the use of Miami Marine Stadium by a private operator.

The latest version of the lawsuit, originally filed eight months ago, alleges the boat show will create a public nuisance and that the license the city granted the event’s operators is actually a lease for waterfront land that requires voter approval. Key Biscayne also has another lawsuit pending against the city, as well as a third complaint against the boat show operator, the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association.

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In a statement, Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Pena Lindsay said the latest court action is another attempt to protect Virginia Key’s future. “The City of Miami’s plan to develop commercial exhibition space for the benefit of private industry at the historic Marine Stadium is short-sighted and will cause irreparable harm to one of Miami-Dade’s greatest treasures,” Lindsay said.

Cathy Rick-Joule, director of the Miami International Boat Show, issued a statement that Key Biscayne’s latest court pleading will not “derail” plans to relocate the annual event from its former home, the Miami Beach Convention Center. “The 2016 event will move forward as planned and we are excited to celebrate its 75-year legacy,” Rick-Joule said. “As a treasured Miami tradition, the boat show is paramount to the local community and the entire recreational boating industry.”

Last week, Key Biscayne backed out of a multimillion-dollar legal settlement with Miami that would have ended the litigation and allowed the city to continue with a $23 million redevelopment of a surface parking lot near Miami Marine Stadium into an event space. The space would be converted into a park during the months the boat show does not have use of the facility. The village was required by state law to seek an amicable resolution before continuing its lawsuit.

Key Biscayne officials, as well as local environmental groups, say the boat show will do great harm to Biscayne Bay’s ecosystem and create unnecessary traffic congestion on the already crowded Rickenbacker Causeway. Boat show representatives maintain the event will not damage any wildlife and that it produces $597 million in annual economic impact for the state and provides 6,500 jobs to Miami-Dade County residents.