Lawsuit to shed light on soccer stadium deal, land taken by eminent domain

Lawsuit to shed light on soccer stadium deal, land taken by eminent domain
  • Sumo

Thank the political gods that millionaire Miami pioneer heir Bruce Matheson also smelled something fishy about Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez‘s special no-bid deal to sell a county-owned parcel in Overtown to the Beckham United group that wants to build a soccer stadium there.

Matheson — who has the money and gravitas that comes from a track record of fighting Big Sports — filed a lawsuit last week to stop the sale of the property at 684 NW 7th St., used by the county’s water and sewer department as mostly a storage depot for equipment, to David Beckham and his business partners. They want to put it together with other adjacent parcels they have bought so they can build a stadium for a promised but as-yet unexisting professional soccer team. And the county commission approved the sale for $9 million last month.

The crux of the lawsuit is that the county should have issued a request for proposals for the property once the property was deemed surplus, and that the commission should then have chosen the highest paying bidder, as state and county laws require.

Because, after all, the process is not supposed to be rigged to benefit any particular person or soccer star. And the mayor of the county isn’t supposed to arbitrarily put a property on surplus all of a sudden to benefit the father of his campaign fundraiser.

That is what happened, folks. This property was not on the surplus list already. In fact, the 7 and 7 building — as it is known among county employees because it’s on 7th Avenue and 7th Street — was getting ready for renovations to remove asbestos. Furthermore, Ladra has been told by a couple of different sources that the county is looking to buy or lease another property so it can house the overflow of equipment and trucks — as well as staff parking for a nearby facility — that are at the 7 and 7 building now.

But the property was curiously put on the surplus list after the Beckham group purchased an adjacent lot owned by Chris and Tom Korge and Barry Goldmeier, father of Brian Goldmeier, who makes a great living raising campaign funds for Gimenez and his allies. That 1.37 acres, purchased in 2006 for $1.3 million went for $6.2 million to Beckham. But it is arguable that it wouldn’t have sold at all if the county land, which is three adjacent acres needed for the stadium site, wasn’t suddenly made surplus with a wave of the mayor’s magic wand. Remember, Gimenez signed a letter of intent to sell the land in December of 2015. The subpoenas that come with a lawsuit may tell us whether or not he was pressured or convinced to put the property on surplus so he could sell it cheap, like the mayor did with the land up in Northwest Miami-Dade that was subsequently bought by the American Dream Mall.

Read related story: Carlos Gimenez’s pals own land for/near new soccer stadium

Matheson’s lawsuit states that the county sold the land based on an old appraisal — before adjacent land sales — and at $69 per square foot, when the lot next door was purchased by Beckham’s group for $103 a square foot.

Talk about a sweetheart deal. Such a deal that Matheson said he would buy it himself at that price. I bet a lot of people would.

Ladra thinks the lawsuit will shed light on many irregularities in the process. We will get a full vetting of the history of this property and find out things that Gimenez certainly didn’t want us to know.

Like the fact that this parcel was originally taken by the county in 1971 through eminent domain proceedings against the Canada Dry Bottling Co., which was paid $60,445 for the land and moving costs, and a few other property owners, according to Miami-Dade Circuit Court records (case nos. 69-12503, 69-15943 and 69-16872). J. C. Devine Company, an Ohio corporation, owned one of the lots taken through eminent domain for $225,979. Eric and Fay Manville owned a third parcel with Minnie Barnett Johns and Chauncey and Estelle Walden. Manville was paid $21,940, Barnett $28,325 and the Waldens got $24,650 for their losses.

Records show that the court allowed Dade County to take these lands from these private land owners through eminent domain “for the public purpose of urban renewal contemplating the clearing and redevelopment of a slum area.”

Apparently, the county felt that using the lot as an overflow station for trucks and backhoes and excavating equipment for most of the past 45 years was “urban renewal.” In light of the use its had, then certainly a stadium may be more in line with that public purpose of redevelopment.

But so would a park. Or affordable housing. Or an artists’ co-op space. Or a tech start-up hub. At the very least, shouldn’t there have been a conversation about what to have there? The lawsuit seems to have opened the door for that chat. Better late than never.

Mike Hernandez, the mayor’s mouthpiece, has already blasted the lawsuit (like he blasted the Skyrise Miami lawsuit and we saw how that went). His comment in the Miami Herald story, as always, targets the messenger in an obvious attempt to change the narrative. “It’s apparent that Mr. Matheson hates professional sports,” Hernández said, referring to the man’s fight to keep the Miami Open tennis tournament at Crandon, public land his family donated to the county, from expanding and privatizing the park.

“He’s doing his best to drive out the Miami Open from Key Biscayne, and now he hopes to block Major League Soccer from coming to Miami,” said Hernandez, who is an extraordinary spin doctor and is taking the side of Big Sports against the Joe Public. Notice he did not even address the procedural irregularities. Because it’s easier to create a boogie man and make it about that than it is to defend the lack of transparency and due process in this administration.

Read related story: King Petty Carlos Gimenez gets goofy over soccer stadium

The county will say that Beckham got the no-bid deal, approved by the commission last month, in exchange for a package of community benefits that include hiring locals and salary requirements. The problem is that those things have become common requests of any developer coming to town asking any kind of variance or site plan approval and commissioners certainly could have offered the same opportunity for others to bring those same benefits to the table.

Also, to comply with the requirements of eminent domain, at least some of the proceeds from that sale, we believe, have to go to some kind of urban renewal project in the neighborhood. Not to the lease or purchase of an additional property to take the facility’s place (because it wasn’t really surplus to begin with).

Wouldn’t a bidding war — or even just selling it at true market value — benefit the taxpayers of Miami-Dade? Especially at a time when the mayor is saying we have no money for light rail and, in fact, cutting transit services and hiring only a net gain of 12 new officers for 2.5 million people? Wouldn’t a full conversation about options for “urban renewal” on this property benefit the people of Spring Garden, who are afraid the stadium will break their quality of life, and really everybody?

Of course it would. Yes, yes and yes. But there was never an honest conversation about options because this was rushed through. Hurry, hurry! Mr. Beckham needs this to get his team. Mr. Beckham needs this vote to get his financing. Hurry, hurry!

Also, by the way, a judge is not the only one that can stop this stadium or slow it down if she or he rules in favor of Matheson, who lives in Spring Garden (and thank the political gods he does because that gives him standing in court). The county commission may have to revisit the sale it approved June 6 anyway, regardless, because of a requirement — imposed by Commissioner and DUI ducker Jose “Pepe” Diaz, channeling the Godfather — that county cops be hired for overtime inside the facility. The city of Miami has an issue with setting a precedent on a private facility hiring county officers for OT rather than city cops.

Gimenez already publicly said that he could renegotiate the deal to address that issue. But if the county can undo the police OT requirement that means they can likely undo more. Maybe all of it? At the very least, they can try to get a better deal for the taxpayers they are supposed to represent. Or a better project.

Commissioners are always saying that they wish they could rewrite the Marlins stadium deal and here is a chance to rewrite the soccer stadium deal. They could open it up to proposals and let the highest bidder win. If the best use and highest bidder happens to be the soccer stadium, then so be it.

If not, then they’ll know they did the right thing.

Oh, who is Ladra kidding? It’s going to take a judge. Thank the political gods for Bruce Matheson.

24 Responses to "Lawsuit to shed light on soccer stadium deal, land taken by eminent domain"

  1. Susan   July 24, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    Great, in-depth reporting!

    Reply
  2. gustavo chacon   July 25, 2017 at 8:46 am

    In Our County PTP Mentality any thing is possible and Codes and County Laws are Ignored By All. The Pinocchio’s at The BCC Always find a way and the CAO will accommodate their request ?
    WHO OR WHEN WILL THEY GET INVESTIGATED ? HOPE IS THE DOJ ?

    Reply
  3. Terry   July 25, 2017 at 10:44 am

    So Marie Antoinette has found her Louis XVI ( Gimenez and Beckman ) and the people as always has to pay.Thank you Mr Matheson you have always cared!!!

    Reply
    • Noel   September 2, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      He always cared ? Explain Heat arena & Marlins Park. He just wants the land for himself.

      Reply
  4. No Fan   July 25, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Funny how it is all hurry up and wait on this. The county always seems to be some 11th hour-got-to-get-it-done deal while Beckham still doesn’t have a franchise, has missed his down payment date and generally the whole thing looks like a giant speculative land deal by his entourage.
    However Beckham’s place in history is secure. certainly Matheson’s is and on the other end of the scale Carlos Gimenez and Mike Hernandez’s legacy is going to be the most corrupt insider trading politicians in Dade county but the bar is already so low with Opa Locka and City Of Miami that the county is just lost in the chaff.

    Reply
  5. Roly   July 25, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    They paid fair value for land no one was interested in purchasing. They will pay property tax. The stadium itself is receiving $0 taxpayer funds. They aren’t building parking, which is actually a good thing because it means less cars in the area. Before anyone says anything about public transportation, all you have to look at was the old Miami Arena. The metrorail was packed and it was the easiest way in and out.

    Yeah, no we don’t want it…

    Reply
  6. Gail Flanders   July 25, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Thank goodness we have Bruce Matheson to fight the corruption of local officials bending over backwards for any pro athletics who want to take advantage of the tax payers. Welfare for the rich is always available for the politically connected.

    Reply
    • Noel   September 2, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Bruce is only doing this as a favor to the Heat owner who doesn’t want an MLS team as competition and because he wants the land itself. Open your eyes for God’s sake. Just because Bruce comes from good people doesn’t make him a good guy. If he such a great guy why didn’t he stop AA arena or Marlins Park ?

      Reply
  7. Mikey   July 25, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    The soccer stadium is privately funded and will be a great asset for miami. Way better than that stupid publicly funded stadium called Marlins Stadium.

    Reply
    • No Fan   July 26, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      You and Rolly doing a little daytime drinking?
      In case you fogot the old Miami Arena was called the pink elephant for a reason. and was obsolete within 10 years of being constructed sold for $24 million less than the $52 million it cost to build and wiped off the face of the earth by 2008.

      And saying Beckman’s deal is better than the Marlins deal is like saying yellow fever is better than Ebola. As Marlin’s owner Jeff Loria heads for to the door pocketing the last 5% kickback he was supposed to give us once selling the team it is hard to imagine any deal ever coming close to this corrupt again.

      Personally I think the whole soccer thing is smoke and mirrors. they’re talking about 50 event dates a year
      Nobody in Miami has ever learned how to put 22,000 butts in a seat once a week year round It’s especially never going to happen with existing transit plan. For all of Garden Springs bitching there’s only one tiny bridge that leads to the stadium and it could easily blocked off on event days isolating their neighborhood.

      Reply
      • roly   July 26, 2017 at 9:45 pm

        I brought up the Miami Arena because people used public transit to get to and from. The building was a mess because it was poorly designed. Both the Heat and Panthers drew well there.

        Please explain how this stadium has anything to do with Loria and the Marlins. Construction is being privately funded and the team will pay property taxes like everyone else. They also purchased the land, land that is of no use.

        Reply
      • Noel   September 2, 2017 at 2:31 pm

        At least it isn’t going to cost Miami a penny to find out if Beckham can fill his privately built and property tax paying stadium.

        Reply
  8. Cansado de Lomismo   July 25, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Every morning at the break of dawn I open the Herald hoping to see a front page with the heading “FBI raids Mayor Carlos Gimenez home and arrests everybody, including their pet cat”. I keep praying for the day that ragged toothed windbag of a mayor is wearing an orange jumpsuit. Guaranteed he won’t do well in prison.

    Reply
  9. Michael Rosenberg   July 26, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    As President and co-founder of the Pets’ Trust, I would like to make one adjustment to your comment Cansado. The pet cat didn’t do anything wrong.

    Reply
  10. Henry Clifford   July 26, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Way to go, Bruce. The man is not anti-sports, he is pro-law and anti-corruption. Who knows,the Mayor may be trying to do the right thing ((and I cannot imagine Carlos trying to do anything else), but the history of the Commission and of Sports Development here is at best shady. If the Dolphins were trying to build a new stadium, Pepe might want to put it on Watson Island. There’s a reason that Cinderella’s sisters didn’t marry the prince- their footprint was Too Big. Hialeah racetrack is sitting mostly unused, yet everyone has to cram everything near the water ( presumably for the glory of Miami)

    Reply
  11. belong   July 29, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Spring Garden (Miami’s first planned neighborhood) is totally stoked with the Bruce suit against this ill-considered stadium plan, which will result in 25,000 folks roaming around here on foot at midnite when their event lets out (every weekend), plus the noise. We would do well to remember there would be no Crandon Park & beach, no Deering Estate, no Matheson Hammock & more, not to mention U. of M. – without the generosity & civic mindedness of the Matheson clan since the earliest days of Miami. A stadium is fine, but not dropped onto a residential urban core area – put it out on the edges where noise & traffic don’t disrupt established neighborhoods.

    Reply
    • Noel   September 2, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Just because his ancestors had heart doesn’t mean Saint Bruce isn’t doing this for personal greed. He did offer to buy parcel at same price to drop suit. Nimbys love blocking development after they got in cheap. So they can maximize their capital gains.

      Reply
  12. A good neighbor   July 31, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    A stadium in the middle of residential area? Only in Miami, my friends, only when you have “private” enterprises benefiting public officials!
    An “No Fan” you should have YOUR hood closed whenever is an event… not ours. Just try to cross the little bridge on any day when there is a bit o traffic or when the bridge is up and the line of cars block the entrance to our neighborhood; a nightmare.
    About setting up a nice green park full of trees and little concrete for the people to enjoy. Something that is available to all of us all year around not just a small 22000 seat stadium.
    About a factory for 3000 workers to “make america great again and not 25 minimum wage jobs.

    Build the stadium at the north end of metrorail!

    Reply
    • Noel   September 2, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Guess you’ve never heard of Wrigley Field or Fenway Park.

      Reply
  13. Jose   July 31, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    Gail Flanders ,
    You made an excellent point but if I may add that parasites like Mayor Carlos Gimenez is the head of the serpent or as I would like to say , head of the Miami Cuban ”Cosa Nostra”.

    Being born in Cuba and so sick of these parasites regardless of party , I usually just look now for anyone who isn’t Cuban or new .

    Reply
  14. Jose   July 31, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Cansado de Lomismo ,
    Muy bien comentario . Ojala se haga realidad , pero no solo gimenez pero 90% de los politicos de todo Miami-dade .

    Reply
  15. Noel   September 2, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Gee, I wonder where Saint Bruce was at when his buddies at the Heat & Marlins were getting billions in taxpayers money. This clown even offered to buy the property itself to drop his suit. That property would be worthless if Beckham wasn’t planning to build next door. As would most of the adjacent properties prior to Beckham purchase. You people want to kill the only taxpayer fair sports deal to ever come along in South Florida !

    Reply
  16. CCx   September 4, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Great reporting as always.
    Does anyone on the Mayor’s staff even consults his own RER team to figure out what’s the best location for a project?? This monster will be located smack in the middle of inaccessible residential old industrial zones. No master planning, another Miami project without vision and likely filled with unlawful deals. The best part is that the so called independent office of the Inspector General is a department of the County, how truly independent is that?

    Reply
  17. JohnQ   September 14, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Midnite?(correctly spelled midnight) So you don’t go to or watch any soccer games. Almost to a game, on weekends, MLS games are played at 7:30PM. A match runs 90 minutes, with a 20 minute half. If my math is correct, even with 5 minutes added time in each half(very rare occurence) most MLS matches are done with 2 hours and 10 minutes of start. Add that to the start time, most games will be completed at 9:40PM. So unless the crowd is hanging around for the next 2 hours and 20 minutes, they won’t be there at midnight.

    Having been a season ticket holder for 3 years, and been to many games in several cities cheering my MLS team on, I don’t go looking for a neighborhood to wander around in on foot. Been to many a bar after a game, but neighborhood beer prices are atrocious. The noise would be minimal at a distance of greater than 300 meters, and that argument holds no validity.

    As to the rest, I have no idea, as I am not a resident of Miami. I just felt the need to correct your asinine comments on something you have no personal experience, nor objectivity regarding.

    Thank you and have a nice day

    Reply

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