I went to Knaus Berry Farm recently in the Redlands to savor Miami’s best milkshake and to buy some fresh, locally grown produce. Although the drive is long, the tastes and sweets are well worth the effort. I’m no longer as phased as I used to be about the amount of new development I encounter along the way. Our land use is absurd and we’re swallowing precious farm land (and the whole Miami-Dade farming industry) at an alarming rate. Part of becoming a sustainable city includes retaining enough farmland so that a considerable amount of our produce can be grown locally. As it pertains to agriculture, sustainable describes farming systems that are “capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society indefinitely (Definition via National Agricultural Library.) The costs (and tastes) of locally grown produce are far superior to that of any import and the energy wasted in transportation is much less than conventional methods, making the whole process greener for our local economy. I’ve digressed…
So, we’re managing to pave over our precious farm land at an astonishing rate. Cut-rate houses are rising on lots far too small for the house size and whole neighborhoods are springing up around a road network better designed to handle cattle and tractors rather than soccer moms and minivans. The whole thing is quite a mess really and it’s rather disappointing to experience. The lack of infrastructure is incredible and the fact that so much development has already occurred or has been approved is quite disturbing. It’s only a matter of time before strip shopping centers prevalent in America as Suburban eyesores begin to dot the landscape, bringing with them total chaotic growth and congestion.

I was most in shock to see the size of the houses rising beneath the massive NBC radio guyed mast tower. These houses make the houses built in the 1970’s in cocaine alley look like shacks (no, I’m not implying that these houses too are funded by illegal activities.) The fact that anyone would spend the kind of money to construct these multiple thousand square feet houses miles from nowhere was shocking. I took a few pictures which failed to capture the magnitude of these houses, but luckily I found an ebay listing for the lots next door, selling for over $800k and touting the absurd immense houses rising in full view of the property. Here are some pictures and quotes from the listing:

BUILD YOU DREAM MANSION OR TWO ON THIS 5 ACRE PARCEL OFFERED AT $819,000.00, LOCATED IN MIAMI (REDLAND), FLORIDA. INVESTOR’S DREAM! OWNER FINANCING AVAILABLE

MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR MANSIONS ON EVERY CORNER! THIS VACANT AND FLAT 5 ACRE LOT IS ZONED AGRICULTURE AND YEARLY TAXES ARE $244.00. INCOME FROM PROPERTY CAN EARN $250,000/YEARLY IF USED AS A NURSERY, ACCORDING TO NEIGHBORING NURSERY OWNERS. THE LOT ALSO ALLOWS ZONING FOR TWO HOMESITES TO BE BUILT, AS SEEN IN NEIGHBORING PROPERTIES. PROPERTY IS LOCATED MINUTES FROM EXECUTIVE AIRPORT, PRIVATE GOLF&COUNTRY CLUB, MIAMI-HOMESTEAD MOTORSPORTS SPEEDWAY & THE FLORIDA KEYS.
The first of several hideous houses which initially caught my eye, I believe the architecture style is more commonly referred to as gaudy Miami or just plain ugly. This house rests just yards away from the base of the guyed mast and seemingly straddled between two of the anchoring cables. These people will be in shock the day they decide to sell this house and realize it isn’t worth anything near what they expected…
This was just the entrance to the house across the street. King Louis the XIV can be found somewhere in the chateaus (yes plural) in the background… Some of the surroundings, just waiting to be bulldozed and have some more McMansions or “affordable housing” built upon them…Another house, designed in the gaudy Miami style, still under construction…McMansions piled upon each other despite the amount of land available nearby… The ebay listing was far too childish and poorly written to be taken seriously, “Oh, Mansions!” but the construction occurring in this part of the county is undeniably genuine. The area will continue to explode if growth continues to be unchecked, bringing it with it more of the same suburban sprawl that plagues most of our city. The county will have to fund massive overhauls in the area to deal with the influx of residents while damage to the everglades ecosystem nearby and the disappearance of Miami’s farming will continue at an alarming rate unless we pro actively take measures to heed the advancement of greedy development…

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7 Responses to Paving over the Redlands, One Farm at a Time

  1. Verticus S. Erectus says:

    This is the kind of stuff that makes you want to hurl. Next thing you know, they’ll be complaining about the noise of agriculture and the smell of insecticides. Serves them right.

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  2. Ryan says:

    Shameful x100,000

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  3. Jeff says:

    Would you be happier if the developer bought a square block of Little Haiti, bulldozed 2 dozen semi-affordable multifamily properties, and built 4-6 massive estate homes facing an interior cul-de-sac where the alley used to be, with guardhouse at the entrance and 8 foot wall surrounding the whole block?

    The fact is, some people want really big houses and can afford them. In most neurotically-height-obsessed single-family Dade County neighborhoods, you can’t legally build a single-family home with more than 2 stories, which leaves exactly one direction to expand: horizontally. In other cities, the uber-wealthy build 3 and 4 story homes… and have basements, too.

    As long as urban land is kept artificially scarce through height and density limits that make it impossible to build 30 story condos with 10 12,000sf 3-story mansions stacked vertically in the middle of Kendall, wealthy people are going to keep heading west for the best cost-value ratio.

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  4. Ryan says:

    So you’re implying that it’s OK for any wealthy person/family to live in infinitely large mansions, even at the expense of an entire neighborhood, or in the case of this post, an entire region with millions of people?

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  5. Anon #2 says:

    i love the sunflowers! too bad they’ll be gone soon…

    A#2

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  6. Jeff says:

    Whether or not it’s “right” is irrelevant. They will. The only question is where. They can do it at the rural fringe where few Miamians will be impacted, or they can bulldoze poor neighborhoods where property values are semi-comparable, or even worse, consume lots of land near mass transit stations.

    You can’t have it both ways. If planners make it too hard to build mega-mansions out in the countryside, people will start bulldozing blocks of the inner city to build there, instead.

    Miami 21? Pleaze. D1 zoning allows 50% residential use for a single-family residence. The other 50%? It’s the 6-car garage theoretically used for his 16 year old son’s alleged car stereo installation business that never seems to have any actual customers, and second-floor workshop with $30k worth of power tools put there to make the zoning department happy that might get used to build a birdhouse or cat tree someday.

    Remember, single-family use is allowed by right under nearly every zoning code in the country… even the New Urbanist ones. A developer could stick up his middle finger at Power-U, bulldoze every lot he owns in Overtown to the ground, and turn it into a wealthy bayfront neighborhood full of huge estate homes, and opponents couldn’t do a thing to legally stop him. The ONLY reason they’ve derailed everything up to now is because they all involved projects that needed special permits, bonuses for density and/or height, or involved public funds or subsidies. Throw independently rich people with blueprints for single-family homes that can be built as a matter of right, and the opponents’ bargaining power instantly goes straight down the toilet.

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  7. Arian I. says:

    And some people just never learn. Just because you build a house on a piece of land does not mean you increase its value 100x. Not all land is good for residential use.

    My guess is that the County government thought that increasing property values would increase revenue collected and so a few politicians got in on it with the hopes that everyone involved would profit handsomely. The logic does follow, but diversification of tax levies always wins out in the end. Especially since most people will not buy any residence so far removed from the city, let alone a place of work.

    Some developers thought that they could sell hacienda-like residences out in the Redlands and make a killing. Unfortunately, an hacienda is not simply a semi-palatial residience like what one sees in a Mexican telenovela. It’s a private residence, farms, and horse stable + tool shed all packed into one property. In other words, a self-contained residence. If any developer wanted to build out in the Redlands, at least they should’ve gone for residences with agricultural capacity, or get together with someone who knows about agricultural land use and see how he can adapt his plans to local zoning practices. An actual hacienda would’ve been far more profitable than just a McMansion. Having a residence where you can make more money at home than what you pay out in annual property taxes is most gratifying. I am sure there are people who would love to live on and work in an hacienda, at least if they are taught how.

    Unfortunately, however, most people think that agriculture is nothing but hard manual labor under the hot sun for next-to-nothing wages. I guess it’s time for a change and increased agriculture awareness.

    The lack of foresight among these developers is not only appalling, but laughable. If they were going to build entire neighborhoods out in the countryside, at least they could’ve called in some of their buddies to secure contracts for a McDonald’s, a CVS Pharmacy, and other commercial outlets. If I were looking to buy a house and I came upon one that was 5 miles from a Publix or a post office, I would not buy it even with a cocked gun pointed to my head. At least one would have to think of how much gas would be consumed on a single trip to the store.

    Not only that, but an even more sensible move would’ve been to let a manufacturer or other productive business move in first. Create the jobs and they will come. Once a factory or other business is set up and running, it makes sense to build residences nearby.

    Otherwise, the Redlands should be only for those working on the farms and those that rely on the them for various services. It’s a bit surprising that none of the real estate speculators have gotten into selling agricultural land as agricultural land. (More profit IMHO.) In the long run, food is more important than shelter – especially when there is more supply than demand.

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