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Miami Wilds water park vote delayed until December as other sites are considered

A rendering of Miami Wilds water park.
Miami Wilds LLC
Miami Herald
The planned Miami Wilds water park project has been scaled down from a full-blown theme park over the years but it still includes water slides, shops and restaurants.

Miami Dade County commissioners voted Tuesday to delay a decision on the controversial Miami Wilds development project. Commissioners pushed back revising lease terms for the water theme park until Dec. 12.

The decision comes as Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the county is looking at other locations for the project.

“We are considering other sites through the chair,” Levine Cava confirmed ahead of the board’s deferment vote.

The controversial plan to develop the Miami Wilds water theme park over a parking lot near Zoo Miami’s environmentally-sensitive pine rocklands first won approval in 2020.

But federal litigation from conservation groups has caused the need for revisions to the county lease after federal officials admitted to not completing wildlife studies needed to lift land deed restrictions on the project.

Environmental groups, including Bat Conservation International, are suing the Department of the Interior and National Park Service for failing to protect endangered species that rely on the disappearing rocklands adjacent to the proposed site. Research found that Florida bonneted bats— North America’s rarest bat— rely on Zoo Miami’s parking lot for foraging.

READ MORE: Zoo Miami water park has a new outspoken critic: the zoo's longtime spokesman

But the Miami Wilds developers hope to draw attention to their own bat study, which was commissioned last year from Johnson Engineering.

The developer did not immediately respond to WLRN for comment.

Earlier this month, park architect Bernard Zyscovich told WLRN’s South Florida Roundup that “the controversy has really been stirred up by Bat Conservation International” and that “the bottom line … is the bonneted bats do not forage here.”

District 9 commissioner Kionne McGhee said he wants to delay lease revisions until the ongoing court case is ruled on. It’s the second time that he’s asked the commission for a deferment. The crucial vote was first put off early this month.

“To force a date at this particular moment is actually recreating this very moment,“ McGhee said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We are not quite sure when the federal court is actually going to make its determination.”

While McGhee proposed that the vote be deferred without setting a date when the development project would be discussed next, commission chairman Oliver G. Gilbert, III urged the board to agree on a date.

“You have to tell the people when we’re going to talk about this again so they don’t have to worry about watching and whether it’s going to sneak back up,” Gilbert said.

District 7 commissioner Raquel Regalado said she was ready to vote against the construction of Miami Wilds at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The reality is these people have not submitted a permit,” Regalado said. “They owe us attorney’s fees. The county attorneys have been participating in this litigation and have not been paid their fees according to the contract.”

If the topic is deferred for a third time at the Dec. 12 meeting, the item will be removed from the agenda and commissioners would start the process anew with a revised resolution.

Julia Cooper reports on all things Florida Keys and South Dade for WLRN.
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