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Miami-Dade Voters Will Decide Future Of County Fairgrounds

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Miami Herald

On the Nov. 4, Miami-Dade County voters will decide whether Florida International University can gain access to 64 acres of land from its neighbor, the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition.

FIU has been trying to get hold of the fairgrounds for over three years, but can only do so if the county terminates the fair’s lease, or if the fair and FIU come to an agreement on the site and price of relocation.

On Wednesday, Sept. 4, both parties went before the Miami-Dade County commission. The meeting sought to approve ballot language that would place the public university under the same exception the fair has in the county’s charter.

Under article seven of the charter, the fair is allowed to operate on land designated for use as a public park. The ballot would add FIU to that exemption should the fair find a site suitable for relocation that also comes at zero cost to the county.

Should the county want to terminate the lease, it will need to give the Youth Fair three years prior notice, provide for a new site and pay the fair for all moving expenses, an expense the county does not want to take on.

FIU representative Richard Perez reiterated that no county taxpayer money would be used to fund the relocation, only state funds.

Perez also mentioned what the University is willing to give: $20 million in park improvements to the county, the Bird Drive Basin back to the county and the fair’s relocation costs should FIU’s board agree to the amount.

While the university claims relocation costs will not be passed on to county taxpayers, the Youth Fair’s CEO and president Bob Hohenstein stated the opposite.

“There is nothing in the ballot language about the requirements that must be met before the county asks the fair to relocate,” he said. “It could cost Florida taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to move the fair before FIU could take over the land and there is nothing on either agenda item that points that out.”

Concerns that costs will be passed on to county residents is upheld by district four commissioner Sally Heyman, who said “at the end of the day, the public is going to pay on some level.”