Whoever said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” probably had the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners in mind. As if the recent real estate market crash was not enough of a wakeup call for our elected leaders, commissioners recently voted to expand the Urban Development Boundary – the line that separates agricultural and environmentally sensitive land from urbanized areas – for a 9.9 acre commercial development that adds to the existing stock of vacant and undeveloped land in Miami-Dade County. Apparently, some county commissioners didn’t get the memo that their love for suburban sprawl over the past decade led to the real estate market tanking, and to the bloated county government that they now seek to reign-in.
They must have overlooked the 2010 EPA report, “Growing for a Sustainable Future” that described an inventory of 16,140 acres of undeveloped land within the boundary. That amounts to 6% of the land within the urbanized area of Miami-Dade County – currently vacant. With so much land within the boundary unused why are commissioners adding more land to existing capacity? Is it that they want to further depress land values and our economic recovery? Some cite the need for jobs – oh jobs! The latest excuse for any project to be shoved down our collective throats is the promise of jobs. Want jobs? Here’s a stadium. Jobs you say? How about a humongous resort casino?
But, when it comes to the UDB amnesia sets in about the 16,140 acres of empty land within the UDB waiting for development. Let’s put this in perspective– 16,140 acres is approximately 25 square miles. The island of Manhattan – from Battery City Park to 218 street – is only 22.96 square miles. I would say that we have more than enough development capacity to last the next 100 years and beyond without having to touch the UDB – and that’s just with our undeveloped land. Take into account underdeveloped land and we should never expand the UDB again.
Critics argue that the line was never meant to be a solid boundary – but a flexible delineation between the reach of county services and the agricultural and environmental lands beyond. There may be 16,000 acres of undeveloped land in the city– but what about the residents of this suburban neighborhood? Don’t they deserve access to strip malls and warehouses and outparcels within close proximity? What if they need closer services? This particular property is already surrounded by developed residential land – what is 9 more acres of commercial land? Attorney for the project Miguel Diaz de la Portilla said, “You’re not talking about some land that’s out in the middle of nowhere. It’s contiguous with the UDB.” Of course this argument ignores an undeveloped 40 acre tract designated for commercial development, currently within the UDB, as well as the existing Hammocks mall, both within ½ mile of this site and with enough commercial capacity to serve the surrounding community for the next 30 years.
Commissioners might argue that they shouldn’t dictate where development happens. If a willing developer wants to build a Publix on what is currently farmland – so be it. Except they overlook the fact that in expanding the extent of county services, they put us all on the hook to provide those new areas with infrastructure, police, and life safety services. That single story Publix surrounded by a parking lot uses the same services as the 8-story mixed-use building in the urban core – only it provides a fraction of the tax base forcing commissioners to make a choice between two evils: reduce services for the rest of the county, or raise tax rates.
Last week County Commissioner Xavier Suarez wrote a column for the Huffington Post that critiqued Mayor Gimenez’ latest county budget saying that “absolutely nothing changed in the way the county does business.” The same day that column was published he voted to expand the UDB for an application that has been repeatedly criticized as unnecessary, and for which the County’s own professional planning department recommended denial because of the reasons noted above. Our leaders cannot simultaneously seek to reduce the bloated bureaucracy of county government and at the same time expand the extent of the county services. If Suarez and other commissioners want to break the business as usual attitude in county hall they should start with the UDB. The application has to come back to the commission for a final vote in the spring – let’s hope commissioners come to their senses and hold the line – indefinitely.
Subscribe via Email
Find us on Facebook
- Marta Viciedo on Making Miami’s Mean Streets Safer
- Rudy on Imagining Townhouses in Little Havana
- Mr. E. on Lackluster Mayoral Candidates Promise More of the Same on Transportation
- hello miami on How Miami Greets Its Visitors (and Locals)
- Mike Moskos on How Miami Greets Its Visitors (and Locals)
- Ken Arguelles on Miami Bungalow Love
CategoriesAccident Architecture bicycles bike lanes Bike Miami Days biking Biscayne Boulevard Brickell bus Climate Change Coconut Grove complete streets Downtown Miami FDOT High Speed Rail Metrorail Miami Miami-Dade County Miami-Dade Transit Miami 21 Miami Beach Museum Park News Parking Parks Pedestrian Pedestrians Pic o' the Day Planning Real Estate Development Rickenbacker Causeway Sprawl Streetcar Traffic Transit Transitography Transit Oriented Development Transportation Tri-Rail Uncategorized Urban Design Urban Development Boundary Urban Growth Urban Planning Walkability
- Liberating High-Quality Home Design December 5, 2013Does not having the money to hire a world-class architect mean you shouldn't be able to build a well-designed house? A new website seeks to make high-quality design accessible to the masses with open source architecture.
- Obama Takes on Inequality December 5, 2013In a major economic speech delivered yesterday, President Obama called America's growing inequality and lack of upward mobility “the defining challenge of our time”. Though he may have diagnosed the disease, did he prescribe an effective cure?
- Cincinnati Council's "Pause" Vote Imperils Streetcar Project December 5, 2013By a 5-4 margin, the Cincinnati City Council voted to pause the city's streetcar project in order to further study the costs of canceling it. If warnings from the federal government are to be taken seriously, the vote itself may kill the project.
- Could Amazon Drones Increase Urban Property Values? December 5, 2013Developers at Google and Amazon are among those working diligently to produce a near future full of autonomous cars and delivery devices. Economics professor Casey B. Mulligan suggests such advances will increase the value of urban land.
- Future-Proofing Underground Condo Parking December 5, 2013Declining demand for zoning-mandated underground condominium parking has Toronto developers and architects talking about ways to design flexible sub-surface spaces to accommodate the possibility of alternate future uses.
- "Can I Have a Road Usage Fee with that 15-cent Gas Tax Increase, Please?" December 5, 2013Don't ever accuse Rep. Earl Blumenauer of not thinking big. Accompanying his gas tax increase bill, he has proposed a bill to study ways to charge drivers by the miles they drive. One takes care of the funding problem now, the other in the future.
- Madrid Master Plan Prioritizes People over Cars and Development over Regulation December 5, 2013Completed about every 15 years, Madrid's General Urban Plan sets out a long-term vision for the city's development. The newest iteration replaces a "dud" from 1997 that has "dogged the city for years," reports Feargus O'Sullivan.
- Would Advanced Technology Have Prevented the Metro-North Derailment? December 5, 2013As federal investigators focus on the likelihood of human error being the cause of the Dec. 1 derailment that killed four passengers, attention has been placed on the federal requirement for all railroads to install positive train control systems.
- Front Runner Emerges to Succeed Amanda Burden December 5, 2013As Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio prepares to take office at the beginning of the new year, speculation is growing as to who will succeed Mayor Bloomberg's popular commissioners. The Real Deal floats several candidates to become NYC's next chief planner.
- Could Detroit Be "Blight-Free" in 36 Months? December 5, 2013Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager, has expressed his belief that the city can clear its backlog of 78,000 blighted buildings within the next 18-36 months.
- Liberating High-Quality Home Design December 5, 2013