Miami Gardens Residents Lawsuit Won’t Halt Miami Grand Prix

The Miami Grand Prix racing event is moving forward as scheduled after a judge declined to grant relief to neighbors who claim they could suffer hearing damage, cardiac complications, and a generally unpleasant weekend amid the roar of Formula 1 cars near their homes.

The group of more than a dozen Miami Gardens residents sued last month in Miami-Dade circuit court to stop the event, which is set to kick off May 6 at Hard Rock Stadium. The plaintiffs cited concerns about noise and traffic, with one longtime resident professing, “We are already prisoners of our homes with the myriad of events at the stadium.”

Over the past few months, the Hard Rock grounds have been temporarily converted to a sprawling race complex, the Miami International Autodrome, to accommodate the event. The race track is confined to the facility, but the lawsuit contends that engine noise and pollution will inundate surrounding neighborhoods, creating not just a nuisance but a health hazard.

Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Betty Ferguson, one of the plaintiffs who spearheaded the lawsuit, said: “I will not be able to enjoy sitting on my patio without wearing earplugs and worrying about my blood pressure rising because of the noise. I will not be able to go to the grocery store, drugstore, mall, recreation or fitness center without getting caught up in massive traffic jams.”

On Wednesday night, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Alan Fine made it clear he was not going to grant an injunction to halt the race. He found that the residents’ claims of potential hearing damage from engine noise are speculative at this stage.

“I haven’t heard any reference by any party to testing having been done at this facility regarding the noise carry,” Fine said.

At one point during Wednesday’s hearing, Fine chided the plaintiffs for allegedly delaying their request for an injunction until last month, when the racetrack development was already well underway.

Though the judge declined to halt the Miami Grand Prix, he is scheduling a post-race hearing where the plaintiffs can challenge future Formula 1 events at the venue. (The Miami Grand Prix is the first in a series of races planned under a ten-year deal to bring Formula 1 to Hard Rock.)

Attorney Melissa Pallett-Vasquez, who represented the stadium owners as well as race operator South Florida Motorsports LLC, did not respond to a request for comment. The lawyer said during the Wednesday hearing that “there is absolutely no basis to suggest that there will be physical injury of any kind” to residents.

Pallett-Vasquez said the engine noise from vehicles speeding around the 3.3-mile course will be controlled by a new barrier erected at the stadium property and by a soundwall that was installed in the 1990s to settle past excessive-noise claims. She insisted that the Miami Grand Prix’s impact on local schools will be mitigated by an agreement with Miami Gardens that bars racing during school hours.

As it stands, the event is set to proceed on schedule with qualifying slated for Saturday, May 7, followed by the main event on Sunday, May 8, beginning at 3:30 pm.

Formula 1 and Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium, had previously sought to stage the Grand Prix in downtown Miami with a street course that wove around Bayfront Park. Those plans fell through, however, against the backdrop of vehement opposition from some downtown residents. Ross, who holds franchising rights to Formula 1 racing in South Florida, subsequently secured the ten-year deal to host races at his stadium, according to court documents.

Ferguson and fellow plaintiffs have been bouncing between state and federal court over the past two years in their attempts to stop the races from coming to Hard Rock Stadium. They argued that the move to host the race in Miami Gardens, a predominantly Black neighborhood — instead of in the wealthier, predominately white downtown area — represented an act of discrimination. In June 2021, a federal judge rejected those claims, finding that Ferguson failed to establish discriminatory intent on the part of Miami-Dade County.

According to court documents, the Miami Gardens City Council passed a measure in 2019 that unanimously opposed hosting Formula 1 races in the city. Ferguson claims that after new council members were elected — and Formula 1 and its partners ramped up lobbying efforts with a $5 million community benefits package — the city changed its tune. Last April, the council handed down a split vote in support of the races.

Judge Fine did not set a date for when hearings in the lawsuit will proceed post-Grand Prix. He ordered the city to ensure that sound monitoring during the event is expanded offsite so that the parties can get an idea of how loud engine noise is at the nearest plaintiff’s home. (Sound monitoring is already required on the stadium property itself.)

In future proceedings, the parties are poised to continue jousting over whether Formula 1 races at the stadium run afoul of the city and county’s own noise regulations. While the Miami Gardens residents claim the races plainly violate the regulations, the defendants say a stadium zoning ordinance approved by the city and county in 2017 takes precedence because it specifically authorizes auto racing at the Hard Rock facility.

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