MIAMI (WSVN) - Miami-Dade County commissioners have voted against a motion that would have extended a boundary line in South Miami-Dade that has been in place for decades to protect the Everglades and would have allowed a developing group to build an industrial technology district in the area over opposition from environmental groups.
The vote came near the end of a zoning board meeting that began at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday. Before commissioners was a decision about whether to move the Urban Development Boundary (UDB) line, which has not been touched since 2013.
At issue is a proposed industrial technology district that a group of developers want to build on 380 acres of land. It’s expected to bring thousands of jobs to South Miami-Dade.
The problem with the development is that it would be built outside the UDB line, south of the Florida Turnpike and just north of Southwest 268th Street.
Among those who addressed commissioners was Jeff Bercow, an attorney representing the developers.
“We heard you, we heard your concerns that were expressed at the time, and the applicants have decided to reduce the application,” he said.
The UDB is a border that was put in place in 1983 to limit where developers can build, as it is designed to protect the Everglades and the county’s dwindling farmland.
“We think there’s a crushing need for additional industrial land. Logistics companies cannot find enough industrial land in the South Dade area or in the county, for that matter,” said Bercow. “We see the vacancy rates are extremely low, the rents are sky-high and you just can’t find the land.”
But environments groups and area residents pushed back.
“The applicants still don’t have the votes, and at this point, it’s an abuse of tax dollars to continue to ask county staff to review an application that hasn’t changed,” said Laura Reynolds with Hold the Line Coalition. “Just changing the footprint size doesn’t solve the problems. It’s still in conflict with Everglades restoration.”
“I understand the need for jobs, but this is the wrong location,” said one member of the community.
Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins compared the proposed expansion to another part of the county in the last zoning meeting that took place on May 19.
“Key Biscayne is 798 acres, just four acres larger than the land that is in question here,” she said.
Environmental activists argued that expanding the boundary would create more urban sprawl or rather, the rapid expansion of the geographic extent of cities and towns, at the expense of the Everglades.
“It’s still a low-lying area. It still doesn’t have a need because we have industrial space inside the UDB that needs to be used first,” said Reynolds.
“These 800 acres are outside the UDB for a reason, and an industrial complex will decimate any chance of restoring this area,” said an opponent of the line expansion project.
Developers needed nine votes to approve the expansion of the UDB, but they were only able to secure seven votes at the commission meeting.
Five commissioners voted against the project to extend the boundary line.
“Nobody made the motion to approve this application today because they don’t have the nine [votes], at least as we stand here today,” said Cohen Higgins after the last zoning meeting.
Commissioners representing South Miami-Dade disagreed about whether this is the right project.
“Simply saying ‘reverse the traffic’ that we see individuals leaving from our communities day in and day out at 4 and 5 o’clock in the morning just to make it downtown by 9 o’clock,” said Commissioner Kionne McGhee. “Give us the opportunity to live, work and play within that very same area that we’re trying to build up.”
“I do implore my colleagues to not forget the long list of organizations, elected officials, government agencies, all of which were opposed to this application,” said Cohen Higgins, “and as I sit here today, I believe still are in opposition to this application. None of that has changed. The only thing that has changed is the scale and time.”
A new vote will be required to move the border line as former Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez was suspended on Tuesday.
According to The Home Rule Amendment and Charter of Miami-Dade, “any decision to include any additional land within the Urban Development Boundary of the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan shall require a two-thirds vote of the Board of County Commissioners then in office.”
County lawyers calculated that this move now needs eight votes instead of nine.
“Sustainable economic development for South Dade and for our entire county must be built on a foundation of protecting our environment,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
If Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints a new commissioner before the Oct. 6 meeting, then that newly appointed person will be able to vote.
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