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Blockbuster Park seeks power to tax

Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. would be allowed to tack on higher sales and property taxes and sell tax-exempt bonds for a giant sports complex under draft legislation.

The $10-billion Blockbuster Park is planned as a home for Blockbuster chairman Wayne Huizenga's Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers and South Florida's biggest theme park off Interstate 75.

"This is landmark legislation," said attorney James Blosser, assistant to Huizenga.

The company obtained staff approval Friday from Broward and Dade counties and the city of Miramar to pursue a bill to create an independent governing district for Blockbuster Park covering up to 2,300 acres.

Under the rushed compromise, Blockbuster would be allowed to charge a 5 percent sales tax plus the existing 6 percent state tax and an additional $5 per $1,000 in property taxes. The company could issue tax-exempt bonds for roads and utility work.

The city of Miramar would control public safety, while the three governments would share fire and emergency medical services.

Earlier versions of the plan gave the company wider authority, including police powers.

Blockbuster was under pressure to submit a bill by Friday to get committee consideration next week and time for review before the state Legislature's scheduled adjournment April 8.

The company actually came up with two versions: a Broward-only development and one stretching into Dade County, which has raised the most questions about the project.

Blockbuster would like to have the Dade property included in the park, but the company doesn't need it this year to launch the development, Blosser said.

"That's our first priority. But we can't afford to wait," he said.

Dade County backing is not assured, commission chairman Arthur Teele said.

One of the issues that isn't covered by the South Florida Sports and Entertainment District legislation is the environment, which is being addressed by state and regional planners.

Robert Pennick, chief of the state Department of Community Affairs' bureau of local planning, wrote Dade County officials last week about the project's "substantial" harm to fragile wetlands.

"We are concerned because the site has a lot of wetlands and because it is so close to the Everglades," Pennick wrote. "We are not saying that this site cannot be developed, but we are saying that we have a lot of questions."