|By Charles Rabin, The Miami
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 22, 2011--The Flagstone Development Group's long-stalled plans for Watson Island were once again given the thumbs up by city commissioners, this time after the state approved a waiver on submerged land on the island's west side.
By a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved the waiver last week and other components of the project approved by referendum more than a decade ago. The project includes the construction of retail outlets, a hotel and a mega-yacht facility that leaders hope will draw the uber-wealthy. Only Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones voted against the plan.
With the vote, Flagstone lobbyist Brian May handed the city a check for $300,000 in back rent, and promised to keep payments up to date from now on for the city-owned land.
The plan for the city's waterfront jewel was originally passed in early 2001 by voters. Afterward, rights to the property were awarded to Turkish developer Mehmet Bayraktar through a high-profile bidding procedure that was capped off with the announcement at a building on Watson Island.
But plans for the project stalled over the years, with the current commission threatening several times to pull the plug altogether. With the exception of Island Jungle Gardens on the north end of the island and the Children's Museum on the south side, the island is almost barren. Bayraktar and May said the 9/11 attacks hurt financing plans for the project, and it was delayed even further when the recession hit and Bayraktar had trouble finding money to support the plan.
There's still no financing in place, though May told commissioners that Bayraktar hopes to break ground on the mega-yacht facility by the spring of 2012. When complete, the projects could produce yearly tax bills of close to $2 million for Miami.
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