Lennar corp., a well-known developer of suburban tract homes, has its sights on pushing the bounds of Miami-Dade’s controversial urban development Boundary (UDB). Today’s Miami Herald article explains the politics, players and issues at play. Perhaps the most notable comment is that the ignominiously named Parkland, a 900-acre UDB busting “sustainable” development in question, is nothing more than a political greenwash.
Transit Miami could not agree more.
These types of growth issues–UDB or not–are common across the country. Ultimately, as Rey Melendi, president for Lennar’s Miami-Dade division points out, suburban expansion is typically not about enforcing a planning tool, but about politics. Sadly, that may be the only issue we can agree upon.
Fortunately, politics these days also include a strong contingent of well-informed people who see through this type of development for what it really is–suburban sprawl, something Miami-Dade County already has in spades. Indeed, much of which is currently unable to be sold.
I have many a comment to make, but will restrain myself to three.
1. Melendi says, ”It will be like Coral Gables or Miami Lakes.” This could be true–I have not seen the physical design of the community and how it proposes to be “mixed use,” “walkable” and “bike-friendly”– but based on the developer’s past work I could at best imagine a horizontal mixture, i.e., not supportive of transit, urban intensity or even civic beauty. Not to mention that even if “Parkland” were another Coral Gables, it is a development intended to replace much needed farmland near the Everglades.
My thought is the County should enforce its little known Transfer of Development Rights program (TDR) created during the agriculture land preservation planning effort of the late 1990s. This way the development rights for thousands of homes and business could be transferred to the more urban part of Miami-Dade where growth should occur. To make this feasible, the County should work with those cities that contain Metrorail stations and many vacant or underutilized parcels to upzone properties, especially along Metrorail and Tri-Rail sites. If done well, Lennar could stand to make a killing and our precious environmental resources would be none the worse. I admit, this is likely to be wishful thinking.
2. The Herald article states “Parkland’s developers say it would be different from the suburban sprawl that has clogged roadways and produced isolated bedroom communities. The project is designed to be walkable and bike-friendly, a self-contained community with a mix of uses that would encourage less driving — and perhaps inspire reverse commutes to the 2,550 jobs developers hope to create within Parkland. Melendi said.”
Let me point out the inherent contradiction in this most favorable description. Any city, development, subdivision or what have you that is ‘self-contained’ most certainly does not plug into a framework of urbanism. That is to say, cul-de-sacs and strip malls are self-contained as well. Thus, I am not convinced by such a hollow sales pitch, as sustainable urbanism is complex, connected and vertically integrated, not closed off. Not to mention all completed studies state that current traffic capacity, water supply and environmental issues make this project a no-go.
3. This last one is fantastic.
“Pino, one of the largest home builders in the county, said he currently controls more than 700 acres on which he can build houses inside the UDB…” “…The developers challenge county calculations that it has an adequate supply of developable land within the UDB.”
”They are overstating their numbers,” said Melendi, who argues the county has largely reached its buildable limits within the UDB.
So, let me get this straight. Said developer has 700 acres within the UDB, but finds it essential to build on 941 acres outside of it first? I am sorry, but this is infuriating. All I see is greed here.
Finally, Melendi states “I don’t see a trend of people moving closer to urban centers.”
Does he have his head in the South Beach sand? Demographic research shows, time and time again, that urban centers continue to grow and revitalize, while new suburban areas, especially right now, are seeing the largest property devaluations.
To be sure, the timing of this vote is sneaky, as it is designed to slip by constituents a day before our national Presidential elections.
We at TM say no. Call or email your County Commissioners and tell them you support smart growth in the existing cities of Miami-Dade.
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