In an effort to understand the needs of local farmers and the community in general, District 9 Commissioner Kionne McGhee held a special round table discussion at the Ag Extension Center in Homestead.
The meeting started with the audience introducing themselves followed by a bit of the Commissioner’s background. Most know that McGhee has a successful career as a lawyer but the audience was delighted to learn of the Commissioner’s ties to the farming community.
As noted, he and his parents actually picked pole beans and other vegetables in “the early days” (his first job). Thus, our New Commissioner has an appreciation and knowledge of the importance of farming to Miami-Dade County.
McGhee said, “My goal is to improve relationships between the county and the farming community.”
The floor was then opened for informative statements. Arnold Palmer stated that the Ag Patrol is now under the Homeland Security section, hopefully giving them the ability to have access to more resources. From there, the conversation turned to trash…that is illegal dumping. In the past, landowners have been responsible for clean-up and even fined for garbage dumped on their property, regardless of whether it was thrown in the county right of way. Discussion of how to best handle this type of clean-up and who should bear the cost was expressed. The general consensus was trash not attributed to the property owner should not result in fines or cost of removal to the property owner.
Next, discussion centered around the poor condition of our paved roads, filled with potholes, and barely navigable unpaved streets to get to farms and houses. The Commissioner stated, “We need to be specific on what is needed.” He added, “Potholes and roads in need of pavement need to be pinpointed so they can be addressed and fixed.”
The discussion moved on to housing and illegal trailers. From the conversation, it was deduced that code enforcement, in an attempt to follow the law, step beyond the intentions of the ordinance.
Example: Trucking and trailer tractors are being restricted on their hours of loading nursery and farm products. If a driver needs to stay in his truck overnight to complete loading the next day, the county needs to be more flexible.
Of course, no list of county problems is complete without DERM raising its “ugly head.” Discussion noted that DERM has decided to enforce an overlooked, existing ordinance declaring 100% of land as contaminated. This is being done to parcels without proof by DERM. When landowners provide a rebuttal by hiring outside professionals at their own expense, these facts are ignored. This is not only costly, but decreases the value of property, the farmer’s primary asset.
The discussion wrapped up with the farmers explaining that South Dade’s development is grossly outpacing the ability of our roads and compromised Rapid Transit System.
According to the Commissioner and agreed upon by those in attendance, “South Dade is growing faster than any other part of the county.”
Though the meeting ran well beyond the allotted time, it was felt that the efforts of Commissioner McGhee to begin a dialogue will hopefully be of benefit to our community.