Monday, May 28, 2018

Developer in fight over prehistoric site

MIAMI — Miami's historic preservation board has rejected a developer's plan to carve out and display a remnant of a major prehistoric Native American village.

The board voted Friday to ask MDM Group to revise its plan to better protect and showcase the remnants. The remnants include posthole patterns believed to have been the foundations of a 2,000-year-old Tequesta village as well as parts of a Seminole War-era U.S. Army fort and Henry Flagler's Royal Palm Hotel.

An attorney for the developer tells the Miami Herald that MDM Group will appeal the board's decision to the Miami City Commission.

Archaeologists and preservationists want the developer to redesign a commercial and hotel project to accommodate the findings. About two dozen people, including members of Native American groups and descendants of Miami pioneers, spoke at the board meeting Friday, but none supported the developer's plan to carve out a section of the limestone containing the circle formations and place it on display in a plaza.

Several board members said the archaeological findings add value and commercial appeal to MDM Group's project. "How cool is this?" said board member Hugh Ryan. "We should be excited about this. It's an exciting opportunity. It could be an international landmark."

Representatives for the developer have said a redesign could imperil the project's viability. The MDM Group's attorney, Eugene Stearns, argued Friday that the postholes are insignificant by themselves and not worth preserving.

Board member Jorge Kuperman said the developers knew they bought property in a designated archaeological zone, took a "calculated risk" and now should be responsible for safeguarding the finds. "MDM knew precisely what they were buying into." Archaeologists say the site is one of the largest and earliest examples of urban planning ever uncovered in North America.

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