Watson Island SPB Revival Faces Delays

Watson Island Seaplane BaseScreen Capture: Skyvector.com
Watson Island Seaplane Base

Picture: Miami Seaplane Base Facebook

Further Delays In Watson Island Seaplane Base Revival

Plans to revive Watson Island Seaplane Base in Florida, about 2 miles E of Miami (X44) remain on hold as city officials now review the intended lease of the city-owned property to a private company. City Commissioner Ken Russell intends to acquire more details on revamping the seaplane base and heliport. Plans call for an expansion in development and intentions to bring restaurants, a media center and a lighthouse to the city owned island.

Mr. Russel was behind the previous delays in November and December citing the public’s right to determine how to use the property. In 1926, Chalk’s International Airlines built an air terminal on a landfill island, Watson Island, where it continued to operate for 75 years. The airline, which lost a Mallard off of Miami Beach in December 2005, briefly appeared again in 2006, operating leased B1900’s within the Sunshine State.

Mr. Fernandez, legal counsel to Nautilus Enterprises LLC and Chalks stated:

One of the first uses on the island shortly after its creation was a seaplane base.The SPB was allowed under the city’s old zoning code, but the adoption of Miami 21 in 2010 made it a non-conforming use, explained Mr. Fernandez. The proposed ordinances would correct that error.

The city has partnered with the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority (MSEA) which unanimously approved plans to develop the land, before being faced with trouble from being eliminated itself. Critics of the body say it has too much power and influence. Commissioner Frank Carollo proposed that a discussion regarding the possible elimination of the MSEA board be placed on the agenda dated January 14th of this year. While consensus on doing away with the authority wasn’t found, the city attorney’s office is now tasked with preparing proposed legislation to realign the membership on the authority and allow tighter controls on what it can and cannot do. One change is to ensure that all leases of city-owned waterfront property go to a public vote.

A planning department memo appears to take a pro tourism and pro modernization stand on this topic. The lead ordinance would change the use designation of the site from Public Parks and Recreation to Major Institutional, Public Facilities, Transportation and Utilities.

The evolution of Watson Island has been consistent with the current plan in place. At this time it is necessary to rebuild the heliport and seaplane facilities deemed as pre-existing services on the island, with vested rights…

Commission members will hear about the Watson Island matter in the next scheduled meeting on February 26. Seaplanemagazine.com continues to monitor the developments, not without hope to see seaplanes fly again in this historically and strategically important location. FMI: Visit Miami Seaplane Base’s Facebook Page


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