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MIAMI-Although it recently deferred a vote on the matter, the Miami-Dade County Commission has referred to committee a proposal to drop a federal lawsuit against the Air Force and urge the Air Force to give the county 1,800 acres of surplus property at the abandoned Homestead Air Force Base.

The commission filed a civil petition last March in U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, to quash an Air Force plan that offered to give the county only 717 acres for the possible site of a mixed-use commercial development.

Earlier in the year in an administrative ruling, the Air Force declared portions of the abandoned base as environmentally sensitive, thus thwarting a bid by the county to turn the property into a commercial airport.

In May, a federal judge ruled against two petitions that sought injunctive relief against the Air Force administrative rule that forbid the county from redeveloping the 1,800 acres. Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled neither the county nor the plaintiffs in a separate case proved either would suffer irreparable harm if the court denied their petitions for injunctions.

In its petition, the county urged Friedman to uphold an Air Force record of decision issued in 1994 that declared 1,800 acres at the base suitable for commercial airport development.

Acting on that 1994 decision, the county argued it had invested as much as $9 million over the past several years in advance of redeveloping the site as a commercial airport. The county even selected Homestead Air Base Developers Inc., one of the plaintiffs, as the developer.

In her recent proposal, County Commissioner Katy Sorenson argued the county should voluntary dismiss the federal lawsuit and urge the Air Force to reconsider its final record of decision.

Sorenson argues the Miami-Dade economy experienced serious economic consequences from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on America. She suggests the 1,800 acres could quickly help the county with its economic development plans.

Although the commission recently deferred a decision on the matter, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas referred the proposal for review by members of the county’s Transportation Infrastructure and Environment Committee.

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