Dade County Drops Lawsuit Against Air Force over
Ban on Airbase Conversion to Commercial Use

DECEMBER 7, 2001

The Miami-Dade County Commission delivered a major victory to environmentalists Thursday when it decided to drop the county's lawsuit against the federal government over a decision to bar commercial aviation at Homestead Air Force Base.

By an 8-5 vote, commissioners voted to stop their effort to overturn the Jan. 16 decision by the Air Force. Commissioners decided instead to submit a plan for a mixed-use county development at the base to the federal government by a Tuesday deadline.

The move was immediately hailed by environmentalists, who had praised the Air Force's decision to protect nearby Biscayne and Everglades national parks from a commercial airport. "It's a real victory for the people of Miami-Dade County, whose tax dollars were paying for this lawsuit," said Jonathon Ullman, Everglades representative to the Sierra Club. "It was ridiculous to be suing the U.S. Air Force now at this time of war, promoting an airport 41/2 miles from a nuclear power plant. The whole thing was just insane."

The county's next move will be to inform federal officials of a proposal for a development that includes a new visitor center; National Park Service headquarters; an environmental, ecology and resource center; and a hotel and conference center.

County Commissioner Katy Sorenson, who led the effort to drop the lawsuit, described it as a hindrance to the county's development plans, because developers would be reluctant to come forward, knowing the county's priority was an airport. Sorenson also said the economic crisis spurred by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made the airport proposal less than viable. "You have to understand that airlines don't have money even to complete our own Miami International Airport expansion," Sorenson said. "To think that they're going to invest after Sept. 11 is just pie in the sky."

The company that wants to build the airport, however, still is hoping that a Bush administration review of the Air Force decision -- made under the Clinton administration -- will clear the way for an airport. Ramon Rasco, an attorney who represents Homestead Air Base Development Inc., said it didn't make sense for the county to abandon its lawsuit before knowing the result of the federal review.

Source: Miami Herald

See also: Dade County Gives up on Developing Commercial Airport