Growing Pains: Recent developments in Dania Beach cause concern for residents

DANIA BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - A city in Broward County is pushing to be the new “it” place to visit, but some residents are asking if they will suffer growing pains. Brandon Beyer has tonight’s 7News investigation.

Dania Beach is the oldest city in Broward County. Incorporated in 1904, the city is best known for its downtown antique shops, a once-thriving Jai alai and a casino added just last year.

Longtime resident Tom Smitha loves his little piece of paradise.

Tom Smitha, resident: “I’ve lived in Dania Beach since 2004, and I lived in Sea Oaks since 2006. It’s a great community, it’s a great neighborhood, great quality of life.”

He says they have a bit of everything in Dania Beach, which is what makes the city so charming.

Tom Smitha: “Some people are snowbirds, other people are professionals, other people are retired. It’s a mixed community, which I really like.”

But the city is undergoing a major face lift, and some residents are angry about how city commissioners are handling the process.

Tom Smitha: “The city has lack of transparency and does not communicate to its residents.”

In the last few years, 35 construction projects were approved, including high-rises, new hotels and two entertainment complexes.

One of the most visible will be right here along Interstate 95, where the old wooden roller coaster used to be. The billion dollar Dania Pointe development is under construction and will include shopping, restaurants and other entertainment venues.

Marco Salvino, Dania Beach commissioner: “With the expansion of the seaport and the airport, we’re the first in line to the South and why would we let them drive through our city without having something to offer all these tourists that come into our city?”

Commissioner Marco Salvino says it makes sense for the city to be competitive for tourist dollars.

Marco Salvino: “I think people are going to be excited when they see the finished product.”

But residents worry the expansion is going to come at the expense of people already living in the city.

Tom Smitha: “We have a significant crime issue. We have a significant public safety issue. If we’re having these problems now, how is adding more people and more buildings without the infrastructure going to work out?”

Commissioner Salvino is concerned about public safety. In fact, he brought up the issue at a commission meeting in February with the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Marco Salvino: “It seems like all of a sudden, it’s just a lot going on? Is it that time of the year or is it more people here?”

Captain Marks: “No, we responded to over 37,000 calls for service last year. It’s just, there’s more people traveling to Dania, through Dania, the construction, the entertainment venues that are going up, it’s growing.”

And crime is up in Dania Beach according to NeighborhoodScout, a website which compiles nationwide crime data. It shows the city has 5.82 violent crimes per 1,000 residents per year.

For comparison, the statewide average is only 4.62, and neighbor Hollywood, which has five times as many residents, has an even lower crime rate at 4.36.

Commissioner Salvino says those statistics don’t bother him.

Marco Salvino: “Dania Pointe is putting in a fire station and Sheriff’s substation.”

But residents don’t understand how a substation on the other side of the city is going to cut down on crime in their neighborhood.

Tom Smitha: “As a citizen and a resident here, I expect my voice to be heard and listened to as much as any developer, or anybody else.”

Below, you can find the breakdown of the 37,000 service calls placed to 911.

RELATED LINK – Protect Dania Beach

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