Homestead City Council held its regular Council meeting on Wednesday August 19.
Prior to session, Council briefly met as the CRA Board to approve an application to the County extending the CRA’s existence until September 30, 2051. That decision was unanimous.
Council again discussed Copart of Connecticut’s application for a storage and resale facility for damaged inoperable vehicles.
The company wants to purchase 98 acres of the Homestead’s Park of Commerce 275 acres.
The land is within the Homestead Air Reserve Base’s accident potential zone where prohibitions on certain usage are controlled by Ordinance.
Council first approved a necessary amendment to the Park’s Master Development Plan allowing this business category despite unanimous recommended denials from the Planning and Zoning Board and City staff.
Copart’s Attorney Tracey Slavens offered a recorded review on issues raised at prior Council discussions of the application. It was noted the initial 38 acres under consideration required significant wetlands mitigation with an estimated cost of $15 million.
The applicant provided a modified Declaration of Restrictions to include conditions and terms raised by Council in earlier discussions, including modifying restricted truck traffic, environmental monitoring for the lake, and adding $25,000 of entrance feature landscaping. The plans also include fast growing green buttonwood trees to visually screen the site.
Mayor Steve Losner initially proposed property closing no later than December 30 to get the business site on the tax rolls. Attorney Slavens now said she hoped for closing in September, adding new ad valorem taxes to the City’s budget.
Copart intends to have full time on-site security relieving concerns about vandalism or the business being an ‘attractive nuisance’.
Based on concerns about potential water contamination from drainage, the business agreed to ongoing inspections as an addition to deed restrictions. Language would be added to make it clear the property owner has the responsibility for any mitigation required to meet environmental standards.
Councilmember Sean Fletcher said, “It’s clear from resident dissention of those I’ve talked to that 80% won’t support this project. Copart may be a great partner but not at this location.”
“I’ve been actively involved in this project,” said Councilmember Jenifer Bailey. “I feel like it breathes new life into the Park of Commerce.” She led Attorney Slavens through a detailed discussion of the terms of the restrictions and agreements on the property.
Mayor Losner disagreed with a last term that required consent from the HARB representative for any amendment to the contract terms. “I can’t support this application as it creates no direct jobs,” he said. “I also have deep concerns about the environment.”
After extensive public discussion both pro and con, Council approved the development plan by a vote of five to two, Fletcher and Losner voting no.
The property’s site plan and tentative plat were approved along the same lines.
Council agreed to change zoning from B-1A (professional business) to R-1 (family zoning) for three small lots at NW 15th Street and NW 2nd Avenue. An amendment to the small scale comprehensive plan from light commercial use (LCU) to low residential use (LRU) also was approved. The applicant proposed three new homes as ‘in-fill’ to the existing City plan.
Councilmember Steve Shelley supported the change from commercial to residential development but questioned the size of the lots and type of housing proposed. City Development Services agreed that two of the lots at 6750 square feet were just below the City’s 7000 square foot lot minimum.
Councilmember Larry Roth said lots across the street were sized at 6750 sf which was the City’s original plat size.
Mayor Losner said the proposal “showed clean and modern structures.” Because the applicant was not available, the Mayor said Council would get “a second bite of the apple next month” when the item had its second reading.
Miami-Dade County received federal funds under the CARES Act to reimburse municipal expenses related to the COVID response. The County and cities have been arguing about the size of that assistance, finally settling on a $100 million sub-grant for the purpose.
City Manager Cate McCaffrey said the aid package was a moving target that changes. “It’s not clear when the funding will be released,” she said. “But the City must submit its expenses by September 15. $75 million is earmarked for reimbursement from FEMA and perhaps $35 million is earmarked for health care.” Those amounts are countywide.
Council approved a resolution in support despite some uncertain terms in order to advance the issue.
Councilmember Erica Avila offered a resolution in support of the Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee program for a military housing rental assistance plan. The MHRA was set up three months ago and already has 150 area properties participating as far north as Cutler Bay.
“The program is open for relocating military or those transitioning to homes in the area,” said Councilmember Avila. “The program offers assistance to active and retiring military to make housing affordable.”
The resolution cited problems of the usual three-month upfront rental deposit coupled with utility deposits and moving expenses for costs that often exceed military families’ ability to pay. Landlords enrolling in the program offer discounted monthly rents, lower initial deposits, flexible lease terms, and reduced application fees.
Mayor Losner seconded Councilmember Avila’s motion for Council’s unanimous support of the Chamber’s MHRA program.
Council also approved the recommended ten year water supply facilities work plan for submission to the state, adoption of flood damage prevention regulations so FEMA could improve the City’s rating for a reduction in flood insurance premium rates, and acceptance of a two year janitorial services contract for $142,140 with three potential one-year extensions in order to save money.
Homestead Electric made a presentation to Council to announce the lowest energy prices since 2004. A 9.7 percent reduction was possible since 2004 due to cost cutting, a 23 percent increase in customer base, and new technology. In September, the utility will implement a twelve percent rate reduction because of a reduction in fuel costs. The rate decrease will average $14 per month for every residential customer.