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Council Contends with Development & Raises Water Rates

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Posted: Friday, December 7, 2018 12:00 am

Homestead City Council was asked at its meeting on Wednesday November 28 for approval of a site plan extending a small subdivision.

The 3.7 acre parcel along Farm Life School Road (162nd Avenue), north of the turnpike and Mowry Drive is for a sixteen-home addition to the “Tropical Villas”

neighborhood.

However, the proposed entrance does not line up with a dangerous intersection at Mowry and SW 162 Avenue. The City required developer SR Acquisitions Homestead to submit a traffic study as well as a traffic signal analysis to the County prior to approval.

Councilman Jon Burgess said, “I remember this discussion in 2015, that a U-turn was needed to enter. (The applicant) was to go to the County and see what to do to alleviate the problem. A traffic light warrant and a traffic operations analysis were both required.”

The new development street enters Farm Life School Road where the roadway narrows to two lanes from four, just before a two-lane concrete bridge over the canal. City staff said the short bottleneck was a priority for improvement but was a high expense for the short distance because of the bridge.

“I can’t see where this is safe,” said Councilman Larry Roth of the proposed site plan. “The road isn’t conducive to someone making a U-turn to enter. There are numerous bad accidents there.”

Councilman Stephen Shelley asked staff what could be done to improve access. “Can the City put a traffic light there?” he asked.

Homestead’s development services director Joseph Corradino said, “No, you need County approval. Cross-access easements between developments would be useful to make internal circulation possible, but these are unpopular because homeowners feel less safe with internal traffic.” 

City Attorney James White told Council, “I caution you on rejection or complete denial as the applicant has met all criteria of the Code for site approval.”

Mayor Jeff Porter determined that the Farm Life School Road was a City road and it was the City’s responsibility to replace the old bridge. Staff said any traffic engineering such as signals or signs requires County approval and the County pays.

Council appeared hesitant to approve the new site plan. Because the

requisite studies were incomplete, the applicant asked for a deferral of its request at least until January.

Council deferred two additional items on its agenda. The site plan and tentative plat approval were proposed for a community of 171 townhomes, 18 live & work units, and 43,000 feet of commercial space on 18.9 acres. The property is east of Kingman Road, below North Canal Drive, and west of the Park of Commerce.

Another subdivision off Kingman Drive requested approval of “next gen” units attached to three of the larger model homes offered by the developer. City Code was written to prohibit rental units which would include this type of building but staff admitted that section was written for a different time.

The applicant’s attorney pointed out the one-bedroom, one-bath spaces are interconnected with the larger home and that community covenants already prohibit rentals. Two other local developments have been approved for “next gen” units. The City’s Planning & Zoning Board agreed to this plan by a vote of three to two.

Councilman Burgess and Shelley both pointed out that although there was a demand for the space, enforcement actions was left for others like the HOA to deal with. They also suggested there would be parking concerns with the designs.

After extended discussion, Council voted five to two to permit a Code variance allowing these new units. Councilmen Burgess and Shelley voted no.

Council also approved a modification to a 3,192 square foot clubhouse for the same development. The original site plan called for a 5,500 square foot clubhouse. The developer contended the 42% smaller footprint “was in keeping with current trends”.

Councilwoman Patricia Fairclough was reassured that the same amenities would be offered in the smaller space.

Councilman Burgess was told that full disclosure of the plan was made to those who already bought homes there.

Council unanimously approved the required rezoning of 301 Civic Court, the property across from City Hall being developed by Miami-Dade College as a new student center. It also approved the rezoning of six parcels of about an acre size in front of the Police Station for the expansion of a re-designed Losner Park.

City Manager George Gretsas repeated an earlier presentation on the need for increases in the City’s water and sewer rates. Even with the estimated ten percent increase in usage fees, Homestead would retain the lowest cost services of fifty-five towns assessed in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

Rates are factored by meter or pipe size and usage by thousand gallon increments. Charges also include an increase in sewer service charges.

The rate increases became effective immediately with passage by Council.

The City Manager also brought forward three budget amendments for consideration. Financing options for new market tax credits required an adjustment to last year’s budget (October 2017 to September 2018), and also to the current budget in order to conform increased revenues to expenditures. A further adjustment to last year’s budget for disaster relief services was needed in the amount of $10.8 million to reflect monies due from FEMA for

hurricane clean-up assistance.

City Council agreed to move forward with the demolition of the old sports complex for $594,900 under this year’s budget.

In other business, Council approved an expenditure of $90,000 for new lighting throughout the Harris Field parking lots.

A lighting upgrade for LED sports lighting at JD Redd Baseball fields also was approved at a cost of $320,000.

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