MIAMI (CBSMiami) – On a 3-2 vote Miami city commissioners approved putting the Miami Freedom Park plan on this November’s ballot.
The vote by commissioners came down just before 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The close vote came hours after contentious arguments between the commissioners.
November’s vote will decide whether David Beckham‘s soccer group should be allowed to build a stadium, hotel, office complex and big park on the city-owned Melreese Country Club.
The debate is not over though.
If voters approve, the issues goes back to the commission and they will then hammer out the fine print of the lease agreement.
“We’ve got to know we have the best partner, who has the community in mind,” said Commissioner Ken Russell who had been the swing vote, but came around to the referendum plan, joined by Keon Hardemon and Joe Carollo.
“I’ve had a lot of questions about the finances and all of that, and I still do,” said Commissioner Manolo Reyes, who along with Willy Gort were on the losing end against a deal they called vague and suspect.
Beckham partner, Jorge Mas, promised the project won’t cost the city a cent, that Miami will make millions in fair value rent, get a huge new park and more.
“Twenty-three acres of soccer fields will be available to the public,” added Beckham group attorney Richard Perez.
Mas promised employees would make a living wage.
“It’s important that people have an opportunity to make a living,” Mas said.
A $15 an hour minimum wage for anyone working on the completed project seemed to be the winning promise.
“They have nothing to fear as the truth comes out and people see this project and the impacts, especially around the neighborhood, they have nothing to fear will deal with the traffic,” Mas said of Miami voters.
The new information on Wednesday was enough to finally bring the commission to a vote.
“I am okay to see this move forward to the voters,” a finally persuaded Commissioner Russell said.
“I think it’s an important step obviously to get it to the ballot in November. We have a lot of work to do now,” said Mas.
Mayor Francis Suarez, a big Beckham project booster, believes the voters will see it as a win/win.
“What’s important is that our residents, out property owners, will be the ones to make the final decision,” said Suarez.
Local resident Dean Thomas uses the Melreese golf course daily.
He feels permits should be the least of the city’s concerns.
“There’s already too much traffic in this area,” Thomas said. “It’s just going to be a bottle neck.”
The only positive he sees in this process is finally giving the people the power to choose.
“I think they should let the people decide as opposed to the commissioners,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing.”
Already, however, a lawsuit has been filed against the no-bid deal for public land.
“What they are doing violates the charter of the city of Miami. It’s basically their governmental constitution. It’s illegal. It’s unlawful,” said activist Saul Cimbler in criticizing the Beckham project referendum.
So, while Beckham and company have scored a first major goal nobody is hollering play ball just yet.
A hearing has been scheduled for next Tuesday on the emergency lawsuit brought to block the Beckham project from going to the voters.
Time is a factor. If the issue is to be on the November ballot, it must be filed with the elections office by August 7th.