Judge dismisses Key Biscayne lawsuit amid boat show battle

Miami Marine Stadium (credit: Rick Bravo)
Miami Marine Stadium (credit: Rick Bravo)

Key Biscayne’s efforts to stop the Miami International Boat Show from relocating to Virginia Key just suffered a setback, after Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Antonio Marin tossed out one of the village’s lawsuits aimed at derailing the event scheduled to take place in February.

In April, Key Biscayne sued the National Marine Manufacturers Association or NMMA, the entity that controls the boat show, alleging the group violated Florida’s public records law by refusing to produce documents related to its license agreement with  the city of Miami regarding holding the boat show at the site of Miami Marine Stadium in Virginia Key.

In his dismissal order issued Wednesday, Marin said Key Biscayne failed to prove NMMA was required to comply with the village’s request.

Cathy Rick-Joule, Director of the Miami International Boat Show, praised Marin’s ruling in a statement provided to The Real Deal.  “We are pleased that the Court agreed with the NMMA and dismissed the Village of Key Biscayne’s lawsuit,” Rick-Joule said. “The Court rejected each of the arguments advanced by the Village.”

Rick-Joule said the NMMA will continue its preparation work for the 2016 boat show at the Miami Marine Stadium site, where the city is investing approximately $23 million to create a large event space that will be converted into a park during the months the boat show is not there.

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Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Peña Lindsay said the ruling doesn’t completely kill the lawsuit and that the village will file an amended complaint in the near future. “This happens all the time in litigation and is not dispositive on the final outcome of the case,” Lindsay said.  “We are continuing to pursue all legal matters vigorously and will file a new pleading against NMMA.”

In his dismissal order, Marin said Key Biscayne had failed to show that NMMA was acting as a city of Miami agent by developing structures at the Miami Marine Stadium property for the boat show. “It cannot be said that license ‘significantly involved’ NMMA with the city,” Marin wrote. “There is also no claim that the city regulates NMMA, and NMMA was plainly not created by the city to host the boat show.”

Key Biscayne still has another pending lawsuit against the city, alleging the boat show will create a public nuisance and that the license agreement with NMMA is actually a lease for waterfront land that requires voter approval.

The village, along with environmentalists and historic preservationists, have been locked in battle with Miami and NMMA officials for months to prevent the boat show from taking place at Virginia Key. They claim the event will create traffic gridlock on the Rickenbacker Causeway, the only artery into Virginia Key and Key Biscayne, as well as significantly damage the sea life in and around the Miami Marine Stadium basin.

Last month, the Miami-Dade County Commission postponed a vote to give the NMMA an environmental permit and a zoning variance allowing the boat show operator to install a floating dock that can accommodate up to 830 boat slips and other floating structures. The NMMA is also waiting for permit approvals from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps. of Engineers.


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