Blight?

[The Committee] accepts the Study identifying approximately 2,146 acres within the unincorporated municipal service area (UMSA), which lie entirely in Commission District 9 represented by Commissioner Dennis C. Moss, to be slum and blighted.

Miami-Dade Legislative Item 142509

This month a Miami-Dade county committee approved a resolution from county commissioner Dennis Moss to designate the Richmond Heights pine rocklands (the largest fragement of pine rocklands outside the Everglades National Park and the only habitat of the Miami tiger beetle) along with the surrounding lands “a slum or blighted area.” This resolution stemmed from a county-commitioned study supplied by the firm Calvin, Giordano & Associates which built a tenuous case that slum or blight conditions exist in and around the Richmond Heights pine rocklands. The Committee forwarded the resolution to the full Board of County Commissioners for consideration:

It is recommended that the Board of County Commissioners … consider taking the following actions:

4. The Board declares and finds that there is a need for a community redevelopment agency to function and carry out the community redevelopment purposes of the Act; and

5. The Board directs the County Mayor or the County Mayor’s designee to prepare a plan of redevelopment for the Area, and to submit the plan of redevelopment to the Board for approval after notice and public hearing.

Should a community redevelopment agency be created, the Area covered will make it the second largest in the County, with only the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency larger at 3,540 acres. The Study includes the Zoo Miami, Coast Guard, and the former University of Miami properties.

Miami-Dade Legislative Item 142509

The goal in establishing the existence of slum or blight conditions and subsequent community redevelopment agency (CRA) is to create a special tax district¹ which will channel public funds into development of the site. The development in question is the $930 million theme park, Miami Wilds. As I have written previously the construction of this theme park (in its present incarnation) is a serious and unacceptable threat to the Richmond Heights pine rocklands and the survival of numerous endangered species, including the Miami tiger beetle, a candidate for emergency state and federal protection.

The developers, Miami Wilds LLC, have already received approval for an initial $13.5 million in bond funds to replicate the US Coast Guard communications tower array which currently stands in the footprint of the theme park. However, use of this land requires Federal permission and approval of the developer’s plans; approval which has not yet been given.

master CAMA LMP template 20030122

The Richmond Heights pine rocklands have survived comparatively unscathed since the since the early development of the site in the 1940s and these lands represent a major portion of the 1.8% of pine rocklands left outside the Everglades National Park. Any further development seriously jeopardizes the rocklands, chiefly by fragmenting the remaining habitat and stifling fires, a necessary ecological cycle for the continued health of the habitats.

IMG_8799

Proper management of pine rockland fragments includes prescribed burning (which can generate heavy amounts of smoke)… Construction of hospitals, schools, apartments, and hotels around [rocklands] should be discouraged because of conflicts with smoke generation during prescribed fires. URS Corporation et al 2007

These current plans for Miami Wilds and Coral Reef Commons will severely fragment the remaining Richmond Heights pine rocklands. Once these rocklands are surrounded by heavy development any prescribed burning will be extraordinarily unlikely.

… maximize open space and limit pollution runoff [around rocklands]. URS Corporation et al 2007

A secondary impact of any development is that without sufficient buffer areas around the rocklands the new fragments will be highly susceptible to pollution and encroachment of non-native and invasive animals and plants from the surrounding.

IMG_5854

The current plans for development do not adequately conserve these imperiled rocklands and are not a reasonable option for the continued survival of this unique habitat and its inhabitants. Over 98% of the Miami-Dade rocklands have been lost to development. There are better options for utilization of the non-rockland areas, options which do not fragment or destroy rocklands, alternatives which provide adequate buffers to facilitate the necessary management of the habitat.

The “blight” resolution has been forwarded to the Board of County Commissioners for consideration and a full public hearing on January 21st.

Local residents are planning a rally for the rocklands on January 17th

The Center for Biological Diversity has a letter to the Miami Board of County Commissioners which you can sign and send in support of preserving the pine rocklands.

View the resolution here. Read the Calvin, Giordano & Associates study here.

Also see the Miami Herald article on the this latest development.

Notes

¹In designating an area as a CRA governing bodies are afforded the opportunity to leverage public financing for the purpose of land acquisition, demolition, housing and infrastructure improvements, environmental remediation, neighborhood enhancement and other similar activities. This is accomplished through a funding mechanism known as Tax Increment Financing (TIF). From MetroZoo Finding of Necessity Study 2014 Update

References

URS Corporation, The Institute for Regional Conservation, and Muller and Associates, Inc. 2007. Miami Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program Management Plan, Part II: Management of specific habitat types, Chapter 1: The pine rockland habitat. Submitted to Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, Miami, Florida by URS Corporation. K.A. Bradley, G.D. Gann, M.J. Barry, contributors.

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6 responses

  1. al sunshine

    Chris, the Full Board DID NOT approve this resolution from Commissioner Moss. It was approved by a Committee which forwarded it for a Full Public Hearing before the Board of County Commissioners January 21st for possible consideration. Anything can happen, including the whole thing being postponed. Mayor Gimenez received a warning letter from FWS in early December advising the County their “Miami Wilds Project” would constitute a “Take” in a Federally Protected Area as proposed today, and would require an approved management plan to avoid possible fines and criminal charges. It also warned any additional land swaps between Miami Dade and the Federal Govt. would now require FWS approval. Miami dade approved upwards of $13.5 Million dollars in Bond Funding for the Coast Guard to move it’s base without knowing 1: If the Federal Government would ever give up the property or 2: What exactly the Federal Govt. /FWS would allow to be built or bulldozed there. In the meantime, there is an Emergency Petition before the FWS declaring that property a critically endangered Habitat for the Miami Tiger Beetle, which may well exist nowhere else….and was believed extinct. This land MUST BE SAVED from Development and the way it all started, with the UM getting the South Campus Lands rezoned with minimal Public Notice, and NO APPARENT NOTICE to even the BUYERS ..that the Richmond Pine Rocklands a year before, Aug of 2013…were slatted to be placed under Federal Protection under the Endangered Species Act as critically endangered habitat. Both projects need to be fully investigated by both the Miami Dade Grand Jury and U-S Attorney’s Office for possible criminal violations, IMHO. We could be witnessing a major Environmental Crime taking pace before our very eyes.

    December 30, 2014 at 12:39 am

  2. Thanks Al – I have updated several points in the post to reflect your comment

    December 30, 2014 at 12:52 pm

  3. al sunshine

    Keep the pressure on. This cannot be allowed to happen.

    December 30, 2014 at 1:07 pm

  4. New post on the way – stay tuned

    December 30, 2014 at 1:15 pm

  5. Smeecree

    Please help me understand what it means when the Resoluation 142509 is signed on 1/21/15, but wasn’t on the commission adgea for that date? Does it mean that they approved it? I see it is scheduled for a 3/3/15 public hearing. What Can I do to keep this from going forward. The development of this area would be environmental genocide.

    January 21, 2015 at 3:04 pm

  6. SunshineNews

    Dennis Moss introduced this resolution woth public notice or comments several weeks ago before the Dade health and Social Services Committee. It passed without opposition. It is now scheduled fro a public hearing and final vote March 3rd, having been rescheduled from January 21st. If approved, it declares the entire Richmond Tract a blighted slum, and sets up a CRA to offer tax breaks, finance bond sales, and streamline development there as well as offer tax breaks for businesses moving there. I believe it also eliminates many environmental regulations. He’s trying to “end-around” the public process similar to how this rezoning for UM got slipped in with NO NEIGHBORS aware of what was going on, and only realized what happened AFTER it was too late to appeal the decision. This whole deal stinks and I believe the Dade Grand Jury and Federal Prosecutors need to look at it very closely.

    Here’s the Blight Study that cost us $39,000 to produce and DOESN’T MENTION 1 ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN or that most of the area is now Federally protected, Critically Endangered Habitat..

    >

    January 21, 2015 at 7:46 pm

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