Saturday, June 8th, the first of two meetings of the County Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) was held studying the possible future of expanding the Urban Development Line to include an additional 920 acres. Fifty-nine percent of that area is under agricultural use, in this Urban Expansion Area Study (UEA). This study is one of four areas in the County under expansion consideration.
Most of the 60 plus citizens attending this first meeting knew each other and came with the intentions of stopping the movement of the Urban Development Line westward in the Redlands. Soon after coffee and donuts were devoured, the program began with an informative presentation by Kimberly Brown, Supervisor of Long Range Planning and Jerry Bell, Assistant Director of Planning for Miami Dade County.
As the presentation continued, one could feel the tension of the crowd who expressed mistrust to the County’s proposal which had been rejected by a recent Task Force Study. Dr. Green submitted those findings in a report in October of 2017. That report, part of public records, unquestionably rejected attempts to expand the present UDB line.
Now, listening in good faith, the public maintained its poise until the presentation concluded and the floor was open for public comments. Comments from the floor included - Why is this coming up again? Who is responsible for getting this issue on the docket since it was rejected before? How many times will we have to face this?
Further accusations filled the room, “Is this expansion already a done deal?” “Has the County already sold the tranquility of the area to the developers thus feeding the machine (government) with more tax dollars?” “Are these meetings a futile exercise? If not, how can this issue be put to rest?” All were assured that these meetings are important in the decision making on whether to pursue or drop the issue of expanding the line. Feeling a bit more comfortable, the audience calmly opened up with individual comments to the expansion study: “Our transportation system is barbaric. Our streets and the public transportation can’t handle the present needs so why should an increase in population even be considered?” “What about the quality and supply of water?” "How about needed police and fire protection?” “Who will pay for additional schools?” “Doesn’t the County’s mission statement 'to enhance agriculture' have a conflict if additional farmland is allowed to be developed?”
From the pulse of this meeting it seems the issue of considering the expansion of the UDB is not in the wishes of the majority who attended though other questions were asked: "Why is the existing UDB line so erratic practically touching the Transit Corridor on Southwest 248th street in the Princeton area where high density abuts one house per five-acre zoning?"
After the meeting a retired farmer, grandfathered in on a two-acre estate, remarked in a personal conversation that his fear to expanding the UDB centers around traffic. He implied that a low density plan might be considered in the future but now is not the time.
Interesting facts were given at the second meeting Monday night, June 10th with over 80 new faces attending.
1) The UDB was established in the County Charter in the 1970’s but can be overturned by a majority vote of the Commissioners.
2) The present UDB line has enough area to build 19,000 to 30,000 housing units.
3) Only 9,000 units have been built, being built or are in the planning process.
With that in mind someone shouted out to the applause of the attendees, “With all those unbuilt units in the UDB why are we even faced with the proposal of expanding outside the line? An answer from an audience member countered, “greedy developers.”
Rene Infante, who owns property inside the UBD, is pro-farming and stated his objections to moving the line westward. He has been an advocate to preserve the rural area outside the present line and a fighter for better transportation. Infante was a big part of the Charrette conducted under retired Commissioner Katy Sorensen. That study helped set present guidelines to protect the area.
With the two-day meeting sessions completed, nearly 100% of the attendees opposed movement of the line. Also high on the list were complaints about the present transportation system and the “band aid” proposal for “an improved bus system.”
Future challenges against the present Urban Development Line will continue as time goes on with possible reconsiderations occurring every two years. As the meeting ended, those from the County took note and the audience was assured that all input will be included in the Board’s report to the Commissioners. It was further stated that the County Commissioners make the final decision on action, if any.
Two Commissioners represent South Dade, Commissioner Dennis Moss and Commissioner Daniella Levine-Cava. However, they are only two votes among thirteen, with the other Commissioners keeping the interest of their districts in mind first.
It was suggested that all interested parties attend additional County meetings downtown and at the Community Council 14, chaired by Mary Waters, at the Palmetto Golf Course Club House.