Junk Bonds

Giant bronze dolphins and Miccosukees in the golf zone


West Miami-Dade residents are waiting for the feds to make a decision that could exempt 200 acres in Kendale Lakes from state and local laws -- and possibly ease an attempt to include gambling halls at the Miccosukee Golf and Country Club. In February 2003 the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida applied to have the club taken into trust by the U.S. government on its behalf. The application is still pending, but late last year Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess weighed in on the matter.

Rundle and Burgess both wrote letters to the Bureau of Indian Affairs expressing distress that taking the land into federal trust would mean local police would no longer have jurisdiction, and that the golf course would be exempt from local zoning and environmental regulations.

Kendall residents have been curious and apprehensive since the tribe's 2001 purchase of the dilapidated Miami National Golf Club in Kendale Lakes. The tribe isn't known for its public relations efforts, and many didn't know what to expect. Then the course was refurbished, membership flourished, and the Miccosukee Golf and Country Club became a tour stop for PGA and LPGA events.

Another Miccosukee success story? Perhaps, but it is precisely because of the tribe's notable business acumen that residents keep whispering the "c" word.

"They've assured us that they have no intention of opening a casino in Kendale Lakes," says Miles Moss, president of the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations. "But we keep hearing rumors that the tribe is hoping to have at least bingo or table gaming on the grounds."

Exempting the club from state laws prohibiting gambling would be a key step in that direction, but Miccosukee general counsel Dione Carroll (while not specifically denying plans for any gambling operations) points out the time and money spent by the tribe to build a world-class golf course. Carroll's statement echoes a portion of a letter from tribal chairman Billie Cypress to Moss, wherein Cypress outlines the golf course improvements, concluding with this: "I submit to you that those are not the actions of an organization that is seeking to change the use of the golf course."

Carroll calls concerns about environmental regulations a joke. "Candidly, we have much more protective environmental regulations than the county," she says.

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