Land sale blocked by statePrompted by disclosures that Florida International University had wanted to sell some state-owned waterfront land, Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet imposed new deed restrictions on the school.
BY GARY FINEOUT[email protected]
TALLAHASSEE - Saying that a piece of prime land on Florida International University's Biscayne Bay campus should not be turned into condos, Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet on Tuesday slapped new restrictions on 195 acres the university leases from the state.
The new restrictions, which say the land can be used solely for ''educational purposes,'' will make it nearly impossible for FIU to sell off a 26-acre portion of mostly undeveloped property along Biscayne Bay without getting approval from state officials first.
The Miami Herald reported in April that FIU officials had tried to get legislators to transfer the land to the university because FIU wanted to sell it and use the estimated $100 million in proceeds to pay for scholarships and ''academic support.''
The university's effort would have bypassed the governor and Cabinet, who usually vote on all transactions involving state-owned land. It was opposed by Sen. Alex Villalobos, a Miami Republican who questioned the effort's legality.
Paul Gallagher, FIU's vice president emeritus and lead lobbyist, told The Miami Herald last month that the university had put its plan on the back burner for now.
Still, the disclosure of the possible deal led the Department of Environmental Protection to review nearly 600 acres of land leased from the state to FIU at both its main campus in West Miami-Dade County and the Biscayne Bay campus. Agency officials discovered that deeds for the main campus restricted the land's use to ''educational purposes,'' but not all deeds for the Biscayne Bay campus contained such limitations.
Bush said it was important to make sure all state-owned land had the same restrictions.
''Rather than allow for speculation going forward about the possible use of this in some way that is not related to educational purposes, I thought it was important to bring a consistent policy to bear on these properties,'' the governor said.
Howard Lipman, vice president for university advancement at FIU, downplayed the change Tuesday, saying the university favors having the same restrictions for all the property it leases from the state.
''There's no surprise or anything like that,'' Lipman said, adding it is the role of FIU to use the land it leases for ''educational purposes.''