The Miami International Boat Show cleared another big hurdle on Tuesday as the county commissioners voted to approve a permit necessary for the in-water portion of the show.
Miami-Dade commissioners voted 8-1, after more than an hour of testimony from supporters and opponents, to approve a two-year permit instead of the three-year permit the National Marine Manufacturers Association had requested.
They also approved a provision prohibiting all plastic and styrofoam from the docks, a stipulation show organizers said they have no problem accepting, NMMA president Thom Dammrich told Trade Only Today.
Although there was discussion of reducing the number of slips approved in the permit, the number remained at 830. Dammrich said the NMMA expects to only have enough for 450 to 500 boats. The Army Corps of Engineers approval is expected soon.
The meeting followed an editorial in the Miami Herald calling for commissioners to approve a one-year permit and then force the NMMA, which is investing millions of dollars in infrastructure to help create a flex park on Virginia Key, to find a new home for the boat show.
Roughly 100 industry members showed up for the eight-hour county commission meeting Tuesday, which include a lengthy break for a holiday luncheon, to support the boat show’s move to Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin after the commission had voted to delay the permit approval in November. The NMMA rallied industry members to sign a petition in support of the show and its move away from the Miami Beach Convention Center as that venue undergoes significant renovations.
“We had nearly 3,000 people that signed the petition supporting the show that we presented to commissioners,” Dammrich said. “The support that we got for the show from the industry, from other marine trade associations, from exhibitors and suppliers, I just want to thank everybody for their help because we wouldn’t have been successful without it.”
Executives from major boat manufacturers, including Contender Boats, Cigarette Racing, EdgeWater, Boston Whaler, Pursuit and Azimut Benetti, waited eight hours to present testimony, Dammrich said.
“All of them had a different message, too,” he said. “Some talked about the importance of the show for their business and employees, or the international scope of the show, and how Miami is known worldwide for the show.”
(Yachts Miami Beach — formerly known as the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach — has completely separate ownership and is not affected by the dispute. Although many attendees assumed the two shows are one and the same, they have always been separately owned and operated. Yachts Miami Beach will be held along Collins Avenue, as always, and at the Island Gardens Deep Harbour superyacht marina on Watson Island.)
On Tuesday, Dammrich presented testimony to commissioners saying Key Biscayne leaders, who have fiercely opposed the show’s move to neighboring Virginia Key, have presented a false choice.
“Key Biscayne is saying you can protect the environment or you can have a boat show,” Dammrich recounted of his comments at the meeting. “But the good news is … you can protect the environment and protect the hundreds of small businesses and jobs whose livelihood depends on the show.”
A study required for the permits from other county agencies showed that only 5 percent of the area covered by floating docks is made up of sea grass, and the rest is silty mud, Dammrich said.
But on Monday, marine biologist Colin Foord released a video showing several species of state-protected marine life in the area, including West Indian manatees, bottlenose dolphins, queen conch and turtle grass, according to the Miami Herald.
“They talked about the pilings at the hearing,” Dammrich said. “They’re a very specific kind of hardwood, and there are no toxins in wood at all. We’re driving them into a mud bottom and pulling them out of a mud bottom. I don’t know how you can do damage to a mud bottom.”
State and county regulators testified at the meeting to confirm that only 5 percent of the area included sea grass. “I said in Miami last February, there’s going to be a lot of noise, and there’s been more than I expected. But I think we’re working to be good neighbors, responsible neighbors and to produce one of the world’s leading shows,” Dammrich said.
“People should have a lot of confidence that the show is going to go on as planned and going to be fantastic show,” he said. “County commissioners, in my opinion, really gave thoughtful consideration to all sides and all issues and at the end of the day decided that they could protect the environment and have a boat show at Virginia Key. Our expectation is we’re going to do an excellent job and they will see no reason not to renew the permit in the future.”