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TheStreet Open House

Miami-Dade County Shoots Craps With Federal Grants At Opa-Locka Airport

MIAMI, April 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- On 22 May, 2012 the Department of Justice will defend the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Miami-Dade County in oral arguments for a second time from a 2005 BMI / Blueside discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta GA.

"Aviation development at Opa-Locka Airport is like a space shot of North Korea at night, 1% eat while 99% starve. Now County and Aviation Managers are shooting street craps with federal grants, betting the house they can beat federal law," states BMI spokesperson Stephen O'Neal, a former 25 year tenant who had first sought a development lease at Opa-Locka Airport in 1999.

A second and final ruling against Miami-Dade County following the 2008 U.S. Court of Appeals reversal of the FAA with a decision of discrimination by Miami-Dade County would shut down the FAA's Airport Improvement Program (AIP) which in turn could contaminate other federal transportation grants. The FAA has given Miami-Dade over $200 million in AIP grants since 2000 and a final ruling of discrimination could trigger federal directives to claw back affected grants with interest.  

In 2009 Aviation Week, a McGraw Hill Publication chronicled the difficulties at the former US Naval Air Station in an article  called "The Opa-Locka War" which centered on long term tenants struggles to obtain development leases for their businesses while the County leased out the land from underneath them without bid or notice. 

"The economy is often given as the reason by Miami-Dade for a lack of aviation development, rather than the actual cause which is land banking," BMI's O'Neal explains. "A close look shows that three small aviation development leases of 34, 22 and one acre, two of which came in existence as a result of litigation, continue to be successful at building new aviation facilities. Whereas the majority of the two 300 plus combined acre aviation development leases that changed hands in 2007 / 2008 have remained undeveloped since 1962 when the County took possession of the airport from the federal government 50 years ago."

O'Neal shrugs, "This is all about County and Aviation Managers operating under the influence, not of federal law but 1%."             

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