Miami-Dade county commissioners deferred a decision Tuesday to issue a permit for the Miami International Boat Show that is necessary for the in-water portion to move forward, punting the decision to Dec. 15.
Show organizers expect the county to ultimately approve the permit for the show, slated for Feb. 11-15 at the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin, allowing the in-water portion of the show to move ahead as planned.
The absence of the permit would, “worst-case scenario,” only affect the in-water part of the show, not the entire show, National Marine Manufacturers Association spokeswoman Ellen Hopkins said.
“But that’s very unlikely to happen because it would be an economic disaster for the state, the county and the city [if the show was disrupted], and county commissioners recognize that,” Hopkins told Trade Only Today.
“The great news is, the permit has been recommended for approval by the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, the agency that determines whether the area will be environmentally protected, and ensures we are doing everything necessary to protect it,” Hopkins said.
The DRER is the agency that issues permits, after first ensuring extensive environmental requirements will be met by organizers, and then getting approval from the county commissioners. Docks wouldn’t start getting launched until January, Hopkins said.
“We’ve worked with them for decades on all of our permits … so they know we clearly have a track record of making sure we meet all requirements,” Hopkins said.
Tuesday’s meeting included “an extended back and forth between show supporters and leaders of Key Biscayne,” the Miami Herald reported.
Key Biscayne leaders have long opposed the show’s move to Virginia Key, hiring a public relations firm to help sway public opinion against it.
The show is asking for an 830-slip approval in the permit, though it only plans to use 500.
The public relations firm showed images of disintegrating temporary floating docks from other in-water boat shows, though organizers say those are not the docks that would be used in the basin.
“Bellingham Marine was there yesterday, telling commissioners about the new encapsulated docks” being built for the show, Hopkins said.
“We trust the environmental agencies to do their job, as they always do and always have in working with the Miami International Boat Show for decades,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich in an email.
Dammrich reinforced the show’s commitment to protecting the environment and pointed to the NMMA’s track record with the agency.
“We understand that the board of county commissioners would like additional time to review the administration’s favorable recommendation to approve our Class I special event permit application, and we stand ready to assist with any questions the board members may have,” Dammrich said.
“Speaking of planning, as we prepare for the 2016 show, we held a webinar today for exhibitors and shared a lot of exciting and important parking and transportation information as exhibitors begin to make final preparations for their onsite experience at what is shaping up to truly be the greatest boat show in the world,” Dammrich said.
The webinar was to help exhibitors navigate the show because it is a new experience for everyone. It focused largely on traffic and transportation — concerns once stressed by Key Biscayne officials.
“According to the city, we have put together one of the most comprehensive event traffic plans the city has ever seen for an event,” Hopkins said.
It’s important for exhibitors to go to miamiboatshow.com to reserve parking, she added.
One union worker expressed concern to the Herald about the delay in issuing the permit. “For 20 years, I’ve worked on the show, setting up and dismantling the show,” Alan Lichtman, a leader of the union representing boat show event crews, told the paper. “Thousands of residents depend on the boat show every year.”
Hopkins stressed that the permit would not affect the entire show, but she also believes it will move forward as planned.
“That show is such a significant piece of the state, county and city,” she said. “The economic impact alone, and the 55,000 jobs” are crucial.
“Not to mention the 74-year legacy of the boat show,” she added. “The recreational boating industry as a whole, as well as the more than 100,000 boating enthusiasts who attend," count on the show each year. “It’s too big. It’s too important.”
This report was updated Wednesday afternoon.