In the salvo of legal papers unleashed over David Beckham’s soccer stadium proposal, attorneys for the developer say Douglas Muir’s lawsuit is “far from a model of clarity.” For his part, Muir said the city of Miami is offering privileges to stadium developers in violation of the state Constitution.
Muir, a Miami attorney, claims the city skirted its laws when it approved a referendum to lease the public Melreese golf course for a soccer stadium and unrelated real estate without competitive bidding.
The City Commission voted 3-2 on July 18 to hold a Nov. 6 referendum asking voters for approval to rent the property for a base rent of $3.5 million a year to Miami Freedom Park LLC, which plans to build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium and other projects.
Muir in part argued in a petition filed hours before the commission vote that the city violated its own charter by potentially leasing public land without competitive bidding. He also argued the referendum asks voters to change Section 29-B of the city charter even though Section 29-A also prohibits a land lease without public notice and an opportunity for a competitive process.
Miami Freedom Park, represented by Shubin & Bass founding partner John Shubin and associate Ian DeMello in Miami, successfully intervened as a defendant.
Shubin and DeMello maintain in court filings that Muir has no standing to sue because he hasn’t demonstrated a special injury to support his status as a plaintiff.
“While his self-proclaimed status as the defender of public rights may be viewed by some as a virtuous pursuit, the judicial consensus remains that this court is bound by the law of the Florida Supreme Court, which has repeatedly held that a plaintiff must demonstrate a special injury before the court can consider the merits of his challenge,” they wrote in their July 31 response.
They go on to call Muir’s writ of mandamus “far from a model of clarity,” saying his remedy is at the polls and not in court.
“This is a good time to highlight the irony of Muir’s complaint,” Shubin and DeMello wrote. “He alleges that the city is depriving the public from a legal right to competitive bidding … yet at the same time he seeks to deprive the public from the right to vote on the proposed charter amendment.”
Muir also is inaccurate in saying Section 29-A of the city charter is applicable, Shubin and DeMello argued, saying the section deals with the city procuring private contracts for services, not city leases.
The city echoed the charter element in its July 31 response.
The section deals with unified development projects, which “is a project where the city procures services from a private party,” Deputy City Attorney John Grego wrote.
In an emailed response, Muir said the city also is skirting a different city ordinance that prohibits negotiations with a single bidder and insists the proposed charter amendments and the resolutions authorizing the referendum are unconstitutional.
He also has argued against Miami Freedom Park intervening in the lawsuit and reiterated that argument on Monday.
“Miami Freedom Park has not made a convincing argument why it should have standing to intervene or to move to dismiss, or is a necessary or indispensable party to the case,” Muir said.
He also maintains the city is violating the state Constitution by giving a special privilege to Miami Freedom Park.
“The granting of special privileges to individual private entities by passage of special laws prohibited by the Florida Constitution is an unconstitutional practice which the city should not be wasting taxpayer money defending in court,” Muir wrote in a letter to the city Saturday.
Shubin and DeMello as well as City Attorney Victoria Mendez and Greco didn’t respond to requests for comment by deadline.
Beckham’s business partners are brothers Jorge and Jose Mas, who head Coral Gables-based infrastructure company MasTec Inc.
Aside from the Major League Soccer stadium, they want to build about 1 million square feet of real estate, including a tech hub, retail and entertainment venues and public soccer fields on 110 acres of the 150-acre International Links Melreese Country Club at 1802 NW 37th Ave. east of Miami International Airport.
The city has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to submit ballot language for the referendum to be held Nov.6. As of Monday morning, it still hadn’t been filed, according to a county Elections Department spokeswoman.