Miami-Dade County commissioners threw their political weight Thursday behind Florida International University, unanimously agreeing that the educational institution should expand onto neighboring, county-owned land.
But that property is not vacant. It’s an 86-acre portion of Tamiami Park leased to the Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo, which county government would have to help move to make room for FIU.
And commissioners don’t know where the youth fair should go.
“We’re just saying, this is public land,” said Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, who represents the West Miami-Dade area. “It has a better use.”
The commission directed Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration, which has been trying to relocate the fair for months to no avail, to recommend a site by Sept. 3. By that date, commissioners also want draft language for a ballot question asking county voters to approve turning over the public fairgrounds at Coral Way and Southwest 107th Avenue to FIU, as required by Miami-Dade rules.
Esteban “Steve” Bovo, the commissioner who made the request, said ideally the question would go to voters in the Nov. 4 general election. But that time frame sounds tight, considering the Miami-Dade elections department typically prints its ballots a few days after the end of the primary — which takes place Aug. 26.
Still, Thursday’s decision represents a victory for FIU, which lobbied for — and received — $10 million in state funding this year to help pay for the fair’s relocation. The fair doesn’t want to find a new home away from where it’s been for 43 years.