Miami Dade County Commissioners voted nine to three at a hearing September 10 to refer a request for expansion of the Urban Development Boundary (UDB) to state agency review. The state has thirty days to consider the issue before County Commissioners can make a final decision.
Developers want to move the UDB for the first time since 2013 to build warehouses on 800 acres of farmland near the Allapattah exit of the Florida Turnpike extension. The land in question is north of SW 268 Street, between SW 121 and 107 Avenues.
The project envisions the County’s largest industrial park with 9 million square feet of commercial/industrial space including a hotel and shopping center.
Mayor Daniella Levin Cava issued a statement on September 9 that said, “The area being proposed for development outside the UDB is at risk for hurricane storm surges and extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, and so the project poses a great risk to our local environment particularly Biscayne Bay.”
County Commission chair Jose Diaz did not allow county planning staff to make a presentation against the proposal at the hearing on September 10. Staff objected that the developers control not quite half the land in the proposed UDB extension area so there is no information on development of the rest of the land.
Southern Miami-Dade has enough vacant land for projects through 2040 according to the County’s Regulatory and Economic Resources Department.
Staff said if the area were developed it would take more than 100 years for all the space to be used.
Developers point out the area is already designated for future expansion if the County finds there isn’t enough land available for development inside the UDB.
An economist paid by developers to project job growth found the completed project would provide 12,000 jobs. Homestead’s Park of Commerce used 100 acres for a ‘vehicle recovery center’ that created one job. Based on those references, the 800 acres might provide between eight and 12,000 jobs.
The land in question is in District 8, home to County Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins. She voted no on the project, and so did Commissioners Eileen Higgins and Raquel Regalado. Commissioner Kionne McGhee in adjacent District 9 voted yes to send the expansion application for state review. Commissioner Keon Hardemon was absent for the vote.
Environmentalists object to commercial development in a coastal flood zone two miles west of Biscayne Bay. The vacant land acts as a filtration system for run-off to the Bay. The land is low-lying subject to storm surge and periodic flooding. Developers said at the hearing building sites would be elevated to protect against those risks.
Larry Ventura, spokesman for the Homestead Air Reserve Base, said they had concerns about the proposed expansion absent a detailed development plan.
He stressed the need for any decision on future land use to have details on all the acreage in the project area.
Miami’s UDB was originally crafted in 1975 to manage expansion outside the urban core to protect Everglades National Park, area wetlands, and the County’s agricultural land. The UDB is the land use part of the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP), eviewed every seven years, and available for amendment three times a year.
The latest CDMP for 2030 is the sixth updated plan since the original. The goal is to manage de velopment at a rate equal to projected population and economic growth for the next ten to twenty years. It also tries to maximize efficiency of public service and still conserve natural resources, according to the County Planning Office website.
Mayor Levin Cava said in her statement, “We should be charting a new, sustainable and climate resilient course for Maim-Dade, a path forward that strengthens our economy in a smart and sustainable way, not one that dismantles our history of important preservation.”
The Mayor has the ability to veto a Commission vote to expand the UDB. However, it takes nine Commission votes to approve a UDB expansion, and seven votes to override any mayoral veto.
The concept of a boundary to control urban sprawl grew from the English ‘green belt’ policies after World War II. Oregon was the first state to adopt land use planning laws in 1973. Beyond preservation of environmental resources and agricultural land, Texas uses the UDB concept to avoid cities annexing adjacent rural areas to expand their tax base.