Article Courtesy of The
By Joey Flechas
Published March 13, 2019
The Brickell Homeowners Association has sued Miami’s
government claiming the city violated its laws by giving Ultra Music Festival a
no-bid contract to stage the three-day event on Virginia Key this year.
Ultra is scheduled to open March 29 on
the island at two separate locations linked by a barricaded
walking path, the lot outside Miami Marine Stadium and a
section of Virginia Key Beach Park. In November, Miami
commissioners approved a revocable licensing agreement
allowing Ultra to move to city-owned property on the key
after the commission rejected a new deal for the festival to
stay at its longtime home, Bayfront Park — an ouster
underscored by downtown neighbors’ complaints and political
infighting among commissioners.
The homeowners association, which represents 35,000 people
living between the Miami River and the Rickenbacker
Causeway, is raising an argument the downtown dwellers had
threatened to use if the commissioners let Ultra stay at
Bayfront Park. Instead of complaints about the anticipated
noise and traffic that will accompany Ultra’s move to
Virginia Key, the association is focusing on the city’s
legal definition of its agreement with Ultra.
Scenes from the second day at the Ultra Music
Festival Saturday, March 24, 2018, at Bayfront Park in Miami.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court,
alleges that the city is calling its agreement with Ultra a “license” when
it is actually a “lease.” The distinction is important because a lease would
require the city to open a public bid before awarding a contract. The
attorney representing the Brickell homeowners, David Winker, said in a
statement that the lawsuit asks the court to “hold the city accountable and
force it to follow its own laws regarding competitive bidding and
participation of its citizens in the process.”
“The city of Miami circumvented its own laws and disenfranchised its own
citizens to force this deal through ... a deal that is a disaster for the
environment and our residents,” Winker said.
Winker has been busy suing the city lately. The attorney sued the city twice
in the past few months to derail the effort to replace Miami’s only
city-owned golf course with a commercial and stadium complex for David
Beckham’s upcoming Major League Soccer team.
In 2018, downtown residents raised the same lease versus license issue,
using some of the same case law, but never sued. Commissioners eventually
rejected a new multi-year contract to keep Ultra on Miami’s downtown
waterfront. The city described the Virginia Key deal as a revocable license
with no term, meaning the city can decide to cancel the contract with about
a year’s notice.
On Thursday morning, Miami City Attorney Victoria Mendez told the Miami
Herald her office had not yet received the 10-page complaint, which was
first published by blogger Al Crespo.
The lawsuit is the latest legal challenge to stop the electronic dance music
festival. When commissioners approved the Virginia Key deal with Ultra, they
also displaced another electronic music festival which had been staged on
the island the past two years. Rapture Electronic Music Festival had been
scheduled to hold its event on the same weekend in Virginia Key Beach Park.
Rapture sued Ultra and the city in federal court earlier this year, but a
judge threw out the complaint in mid-February.