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Downtown Miami Residents Sue the City Over Ultra Music Festival

Ultra Music Festival may have won back its place at Bayfront Park last year. However, it appears now that the battle between the EDM festival and disgruntled downtown residents has entered a new phase.

Fourteen plaintiffs filed a lawsuit over Ultra Music Festival against the City of Miami on Tuesday, January 14, in the 11th Circuit Court of Florida. The suit argues that the city is creating a public nuisance by allowing Ultra to “blast catastrophic volumes of noise into Plaintiffs’ and other downtown Miami residents’ homes depriving them of the quiet enjoyment of their homes.” The suit also claims that this violates the city charter’s guarantee against “excessive and unnecessary noise.”

The suit makes several other allegations. Downtown residents purport the city is breaking many rules. These include rules on competitive bidding, independent appraisals, waterfront access, and other issues by allowing Ultra to take place.

Samuel J. Dubbin, the Coral Gables attorney representing the plaintiffs stated the following:

The suit asks the courts declare that the City of Miami violated its charter, the city code, and well-established case law requiring the courts to enjoin the government from allowing excessive and harmful levels of noise to be inflicted on residents. The record is irrefutable that the Commission voted to allow noise that far exceeds levels which cause hearing damage, as well as hypertension, anxiety, sleep deprivation, ischemic heart disease, tinnitus, disruption of normal sleep cycles, property damage, and severe harms to downtown residents’ ability to function normally in their homes.

Previous Issues with Residents

Downtown residents have squabbled with Ultra for years over the noise issue. In 2017, over 1,000 downtown residents signed a petition. This petition demanded the city to stop allowing music festivals in the park due to noise issues. At the time this included Rolling Loud. As a result, Rolling Loud relocated to Hard Rock Stadium after its 2017 edition in Bayfront. In 2019, Miami exiled the festival to Virginia Key. However, a less-than-satisfactory showing at the new venue led Ultra to terminate its agreement with the city. Commissioners brokered a new deal. This allowed Ultra Music Festival to remain in downtown Miami in spite of the angry condo owners.

A representative for Ultra made the following statement:

We are aware of reports that a group of neighbors once again filed suit against the City of Miami. The lawsuit filed raises almost identical issues to the lawsuits filed last year and, just like with those lawsuits, we fully expect the city to quickly prevail like it has in the past.

We are grateful to continue partnering with the City of Miami, and we look forward to bringing a world-renowned event back to our home at Bayfront Park this March.

Last year’s Lawsuit

David Winker is an attorney who previously represented the Brickell Homeowner’s Association. Last year, he participated in another legal action that attempted to remove Ultra Music Festival from Virginia Key. He says this new suit is the result of mistakes by the city and festival. Winker is not providing legal counsel in the new suit. He also stated that city attorney Victoria Mendez lowered the threshold of approval for the festival’s deal without a legal basis. Instead of requiring four votes in a city commission meeting, only three votes were necessary. Therefore, he believes Ultra failed to properly engage with residents over their issues.

“This lawsuit is yet another example of residents having no choice but to try to force their city to follow its own laws,” Winker says. “The city charter contains the provisions that protect us from these terrible deals. The problem comes down to the city failing to enforce those laws.”

This year’s Festival

Currently, Ultra Music Festival 2020 is scheduled to take place Friday, March 20, through Sunday, March 22. It will take place in its longtime home of Bayfront Park. 

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