The proposed overall millage rate in the City of Miami, used to calculate property tax bills, will remain unchanged for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
A judge has rejected the city of Miami’s attempt to evict Flagstone Island Gardens from its development site on Watson Island and declared that the city violated the company’s lease.
The ruling could allow the mega-yacht and mixed-use project to move forward while leaving the city on the hook for million of dollars in damages and attorney fees. Attorney Eugene Stearns, who represents Flagstone Island Gardens, said the developer has spent over $120 million on the project so far.
“The city’s attempt to confiscate the huge investment this family made in this property has been revoked,” Stearns said.
City Attorney Victoria Méndez said the city is evaluating whether to appeal. That decision will likely be made by the City Commission, which voted 5-0 in May 2017 to declare Flagstone Island Gardens in default on its ground lease.
The judge’s decision followed a seven-day trial that wrapped up earlier this month. Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge William Thomas ruled that Flagstone Development Corp. is in full compliance with its lease for the city-owned property. On the other hand, he said, the city breached the lease by refusing to approve routine building permits and by declaring the developer in default for no valid reason. The city’s notice of default to the developer is invalid, the judge ruled.
“The city’s breaches have directly and proximately caused damage to Flagstone in an amount to be determined after further proceedings,” Judge Thomas said.
Flagstone has continued to operate the marina because it obtained a stay of the eviction, but it was unable to move forward with development plans. The judge noted that city of Miami staff found no grounds for default before the commission acted.
“City staff concluded that Flagstone was in compliance with the agreements and this court concludes that the substantial and competent evidence supports no other conclusion,” Judge Thomas ruled.
Led by Mehmet Bayraktar, Flagstone Island Gardens LLC and Flagstone Development Corp. was selected by the city in 2002 to lease and develop a project on Watson Island, which is along the MacArthur Causeway on the way to Miami Beach. Work on the site stalled during the recession, then again when community activists opposed to the project unsuccessfully pursued lawsuits.