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Hours before the Miami City Commission was set to vote on a proposal from David Beckham and his partners to build a commercial and soccer stadium complex on a municipal golf course near Miami International Airport, an attorney has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to derail the plan.
The suit, filed early Wednesday by attorney William Douglas Muir in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, alleges Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, City Manager Emilio Gonzalez and the five-member City Commission have not followed city law while considering the Beckham group’s proposal to lease 73 acres of Melreese Country Club for a large commercial and soccer stadium complex. The group, led locally by MasTec executive Jorge Mas, wants to build a stadium for Miami’s future Major League Soccer franchise.
A commission meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at which Miami’s elected officials will consider holding a referendum on a preliminary framework for the plan. Commissioners are considering asking voters to decide if the city should change its competitive bidding laws to negotiate a no-bid lease with Miami Freedom Park, LLC, the corporate entity representing the Beckham soccer group. Wednesday’s meeting was scheduled after an initial vote on Thursday was postponed when Commissioner Ken Russell wanted to negotiate certain terms of the deal.
In his complaint, Muir contends the city is flouting its own competitive bidding laws, running an end-around a requirement to hold an open bid for similar projects when it receives a unsolicited proposal for using public land for private development. He also accuses the city of failing to properly notify the public of details of the proposal, echoing critics frustrated by the fast-moving proposal leading up to the commission vote. Muir said Mas has lobbied city commissioners “with minimal transparency” in an effort to move his proposal along with little vetting and public input.
The lawsuit also asks the court to compel the city to hold a public comment period at Wednesday’s meeting. The city decided at last week’s meeting that after hours of public testimony from opponents and proponents, it would not hold any more public comment Wednesday — even though some terms of the preliminary deal have been revised.
On Monday, Mas told the Miami Herald Editorial Board the process has been rushed because he is working on a tight timeline set by MLS.
As of Wednesday morning, Russell remained unsatisfied with an updated term sheet proposed by the Beckham group. After a late-night meeting with Mas and other city officials, Russell said he wanted to discuss the issue more at Wednesday’s meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
“We look forward to addressing the merits in court,” said the city’s attorney, Victoria Mendez.
Read the full complaint below: