Jerry Estrada

Jerry Estrada

Many issues on agenda at final Council meeting for 2021

Homestead City Council unanimously approved hiring Assistant City Manager Jerry Estrada as City Manager beginning February 8, 2022.

Last month, Current City Manager Cate McCaffrey unexpectedly announced her retirement to enjoy her pension benefits from long employments. She named her final effective date as February 8.

At the November meeting, Mayor Steve Losner briefly described a process for a national job search for a replacement while using an interim manager. However, Councilmember Larry Roth made a motion to promote Estrada to the position, supported by other Council members.

Councilmember Sean Fletcher requested a week’s delay at the COW meeting in order to meet with the candidate. Prior to the vote, he said, “I thank my colleagues for the additional time to sit and chat with Mr. Estrada and find out where he intends to move our City.”

Fletcher made the motion to approve the employment contract.

Mayor Losner said, “I support the man, not the process. There are also provisions in the contract that are overly generous and do not apply to someone who isn’t brought from the outside and uproots family to move here.”

The Mayor said he thought the fast track process came from fear of someone from the outside looking at the City’s structure and process. Yet, he praised Estrada’s work with the City and voted in favor Estrada’s employment.

Upon approval, the chamber audience erupted in applause for the popular Estrada which is expressly forbidden under the City’s decorum policy.

In a statement released by the city, Estrada states, “I am honored and humbled by this opportunity and the overwhelming support I have received from the Council, residents and staff. I look forward to continue to work with Council and staff to build on the successes of the past. Working together I know there is nothing we cannot accomplish for this great City.”

The statement continued, "Mr. Estrada came to the City of Homestead in 2004 as the Manager of Information Technology Services. He was promoted to Director of General services in 2008 and to Assistant City Manager in 2016. Through his role as he has supervised all City Departments and engrained himself into the Homestead community. He has worked hand-in-hand with the City Manager and City Council to implement an economic development plan in the city’s Historic Downtown District including the construction of a new City Hall, a new Police Headquarters, and the restoration of the Seminole Theatre, Homestead Station, Cybrarium and the Losner Park Expansion."

The long Council meeting included a report from Miami-Dade County on construction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) south corridor. Spokesman Gregory Haralson reviewed the fourteen stations to be rebuilt for BRT along with others on the route scheduled for rehab but not replacement. Preliminary construction has started but will be most evident by next summer with a proposed completion date by winter of 2023.

Before discussion of the two final proposals for development of the old city hall property site, the HTG developer read a statement withdrawing from the process. A delayed decision impacting financing was the probable cause. He urged the City to move forward with Related Urban as the developer.

Councilmembers generally praised Related Urban’s work on its existing projects in the County. Councilmembers again expressed their concerns – potential density of 26 units per acre with high-rise buildings, the possible competition with downtown redevelopment, a mix of affordable housing rather than 100% market rate units, and guaranteed continued management of the complex rather than a quick sale.

Related’s President, Al Milo, said an affordable unit mix was necessary to support tax exempt bonds for project financing. The County acceptance of the proposed density preempts Homestead’s process. Milo also said he was very aware of any possible downtown competition when planning the project’s commercial potential.

Council voted unanimously to have staff enter negotiations with Related to develop this premier City site.

Miami-Dade County Housing Authority owns Homestead Gardens public housing at 1501 SW 6th Street in Homestead. Council ultimately approved plans for the 8.744 plot to demolish the existing buildings of 150 units and replace them with buildings for 301 improved units, using federal monies.

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The Murphy Oil USA company asked to build one of its upscale convenience stores with twelve gas pumps on the western half of property subdivided from the old Red Lobster parcel. The Murphy Corporation brought the Raising Cane fried chicken franchise to develop the property’s eastern half that Council already approved.

Murphy also requested certificates to permit sale of alcohol for off-premise consumption.

Public comments included possible conflict with the 15 mph school zone on the opposite corner of the Campbell Drive and Turnpike intersection, requiring school board input.

Council voted four to three to approve the building, Fairclough-Staggers, Roth and Bailey voting no.

The alcohol sales certificate was approved six to one, Fairclough-Staggers voting no.

Council rezoned a 9.37 acre parcel south of the Turnpike, along Krome Avenue and SW 18th Avenue to permit development of single family homes. Portobello Estates was rezoned from B-1 (restricted commercial like professional offices) to R-1 family homes. Council noted that no site plan was filed.

Councilmember Erica Avila cautioned the project risked overdevelopment for that area if it sought her support.

Council unanimously approved two proposed amendments to the DRI master plan and to Park of Commerce plans to reduce by 27.8 acres land set aside for schools, leaving 9.1 acres. The 27.8 acre parcel would be permitted for light industrial or manufacturing assembly. The applicant plans a several hundred square foot warehousing distribution facility for the site.

Councilmember Julio Guzman proposed Homestead join the Economic Development Council of South Dade with a financial contribution of $10,000. Guzman said he was made aware of their work during his term as president of the local Chamber of Commerce.

The EDC’s mission is primarily job creation.

Mayor Losner ascertained that funds were available for the unbudgeted donation.

“If your focus is job creation, you refused to take side on the Copart project; as a result it took one hundred acres off the table for the creation of one single job,” said Losner. “For me, that colors my view of your organization.”

The final vote to contribute to the EDC was five to two, Bailey and Losner voting no.

The Keys Gate Community Association proposed to donate $136,500 in landscaping costs to beautify the median strip on Alex Muxo Boulevard in front of the Sports Complex park. They propose moving every other live oak tree to control the canopy between 152nd and 162nd Avenues and supplement those for a total of 183 oaks to create a shaded corridor.

Council unanimously approved the donation and the work.

Prior to the meeting, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Board, Council approved a $78,750 business incentive grant to assist Cirque Salon Studios with its rent for a proposed second facility at Homestead Station.

The business operates a successful facility in Key Largo. Twenty-five independent beauty salon operators would each lease space to operate the Studio, 24/7. The grant was premised on applicant’s build-out costs of $720,000 to prepare the space in Homestead Station.

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