Miami Dade County Community Forum

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

RECAP of City of Miami Commission Meeting Regarding Virginia Key Master Plan

One of our members had this to say about the City of Miami Commission Meeting, where the Master Plan for Virginia Key was considered, and we thought we would share it with you:

In deferring approval of the proposed Virginia Key Master Plan until May 2010, the city of Miami has an opportunity to come up with a plan that better preserves the ecology, cultural and historic assets and simple beauty of the island.

The proposed plan that was before the commissioners Oct. 9 featured a shopping center, marine industrial buildings such as a massive boat storage warehouse and five-story parking garages, a large sports complex with stadium lights next to sea-turtle nesting beaches, and community/conference centers with overnight accommodations.

“We need to take a pause,” said Commissioner Tomas Regalado. “History will judge want we do with this island and we need to get it right.”

The commissioners also directed the city manager to proceed immediately with clean up of the polluted landfill site, which closed in 1978 and is the proposed location of the sports complex under the current plan. Preliminary underground testing completed this summer indicates large concentrations of ammonia and other contaminants, which may be leaching into surrounding waterways.

Still, concerns about the possibility of commercial development of the ecologically rich but neglected island dominated the public comments and commission discussion.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said he supports the parking garages and also is interested in creating revenue. “We have to find alternate ways of funding for the city,” Sarnoff said.

Regalado, however, recounted that preserving the island in its natural state would benefit the city’s coffers, too.

“What would Teddy Roosevelt do?” Regalado asked, recounting the conservation president who created five national parks during his tenure and enacted the Antiquities Act, which enabled the president and his successors to proclaim historic landmarks, prehistoric structures and other places of historic or scientific interests as national monuments. (Biscayne National Park was actually first proclaimed a National Monument to save the bay islands and Biscayne Bay from imminent development)

“I think he would say, if you want to make money from Virginia Key you don’t develop the place. There’s nothing else like this.”

Regalado said preserving the island’s beauty and nature and restoring the Marine Stadium would bring people from all over the world to Miami, to photograph and visit the unique wilderness island next to a major city.

“I don’t think we want more concrete, more hotels,” added Commissioner Joe Sanchez. “Given more time I think we can come up with something that’s ecologically sensitive.”

The Dade Heritage Trust and Friends of Marine Stadium made an extensive presentation on the historic stadium and updated the commissioners on the status of a pending structural assessment. One study concluded that Hurricane Andrew did not cause any structural damage to the stadium. The City of Miami closed the stadium in 1992, citing damage from Hurricane Andrew. The iconic structure was subsequently severely vandalized but has eludedefforts to demolish it. Friends of Marine Stadium seek to restore and bring back the stadium into operation for concerts and other community events.

“This is nature welcoming urbanism,” Sanchez said of the island. “Virginia Key could be our signature park.”


  1. I thought Marc Sarnoff embarrassed himself on Thursday. He scolded all of those in attendance for not being "realistic" (hence, more parking garages). He has a point about the need for revenue; but his tone was condescending and patronizing.

    He said that the only people who would attend Marine Stadium events are older people who went to the Stadium in the past-and that he wanted the viagra concession for the stadium. Younger people wouldn't enjoy that kind of outdoor experience.


    He also suggested that the only use for the Stadium would be adaptive re-use-for something else. Does he think that maybe MacDonald's will put in a giant fast food restaurant and that the roof will be the "golden arches"?

    Very odd.

  2. Yes, I agree with anonymous. The Commissioner chided that folks wanting to change the plan were "all this" or "all that", suggesting participants were unwilling to compromise. He told us that the "real world" always produces a "hybrid" plan. Apparently he missed the fact that the folks at the Commission meeting were working off of the revised EDSA plan, creating a "hybrid" more acceptable to the public. I like Commissioner Sarnoff, but I wish he would be more respectful to the public. We deserve it.