Islamorada Council against massive development in south Miami-Dade

Islamorada Village Council is sending a message of disapproval against a proposal that would see massive development of property in south Miami-Dade near the Homestead Air Reserve Base. 

In a 5-0 vote, council members approved a resolution that urges the county to the north of the Keys to deny an amendment to its comprehensive development master plan, which would expand a boundary that allows for development to include almost 800 acres of land. Last month, Miami-Dade Commissioners voted 9-3 to send the expansion request to state agencies for further review. 

Aligned Real Estate Holdings LLC, owned by Jose Hevia, and South Dade Industrial Partners LLC, an affiliate of Coral Rock Development Group, filed an expedited comprehensive development master plan amendment with county officials on March 8. The land is located on the south side of Florida’s Turnpike and north of Southwest 268th Street, between Southwest 122nd Ave. and Southwest 107th Ave.

Expanding the urban development line would open hundreds of acres of land for warehouses, retail and other projects east of the Florida Turnpike and adjacent to an environmentally sensitive area. It’s drawing concern from many organizations and elected officials, including Islamorada Councilman Mark Gregg, who brought a resolution before council at its Oct. 14 meeting. 

Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary is designed to protect Everglades and diminishing farmland by creating a development buffer for housing, malls, warehouses and other projects. Those concerned with the proposal fear that moving the boundary and more development will bring more strain on the environment and vital resources. 

Councilman Mark Gregg.

“It’s going to have a tremendous impact on the population and the business activity in that area, which in my view is going to have a spillover effect toward us,” Gregg said. “There’s going to be 11,000 to 25,000 jobs that are created when this is built. There’s going to be 10 million square feet of warehouse space and retail space and some residences. There’s going to be an Amazon Fulfillment Center. It kind of ties into the conversation with FDOT about the extension of the turnpike on U.S. 1. I can’t see how it can be good for the village and the Keys.”

Gregg said he used to live about 2 miles from the site as a kid. He hunted fish and camped on the property, and he knows it to be a sensitive environmental area. 

“It was beautiful back in the day. It was all farmland and woods, and part of the reason to have that (urban development) boundary is to preserve some of that area,” Gregg said. 

Several public speakers voiced their concern to the dais on the Miami-Dade County Commission’s initial approval. Kelly Cox, director of Everglades policy with Audubon Florida, said it’s bad for the Florida Keys in several ways.

“We think it will drive up the cost of housing for many of our members of our blue collar workforce in the Keys. It’s going to increase congestion on our already hyper-congested highway where no one can ever make a left-hand turn,” Cox said. “It has the ability to adversely impact drinking wells. This expansion of the urban development boundary is doing the opposite of what the urban development boundary set out to prevent.”

Cox added that Homestead Air Reserve Base and National Parks Service are concerned about the project. In addition, Cox said Miami-Dade staff members recommended denial of the application to county commissioners. Cox concluded by stating that the proposed development in south Miami-Dade would affect Everglades restoration projects, which have huge implications for the Florida Keys. 

“It presents a barrier for us to continue to send water south to Florida Bay. It puts us at continual risk of seagrass die offs and even fish kills or fishery collapses,” Cox said. 

Florida Bay Forever Executive Director Emma Haydocy said the proposed megaplex in south Miami-Dade will directly affect everyone downstream in the Florida Keys. Most importantly, Haydocy said it has potential to undermine ongoing Everglades projects across the southeastern Everglades and Florida Bay.

“We are now six years out from the last seagrass die-off that irreparably harmed our communities here in Islamorada,” Haydocy said. “But we should not be quick to forget that until we see full restoration of the Everglades, our village, residents and communities will be vulnerable to the same ecological catastrophe. We are at a make or break point for Florida Bay.”

Moving the Urban Development Boundary requires a two-thirds vote of the Miami-Dade County Commission. Per the application, moving the line and providing for development would “provide much-needed employment opportunities in south Miami-Dade, where many residents have long commutes to work. The county’s main employment centers are further north along traffic-clogged highways.”

“Creating jobs across our community is needed now more than ever, especially in South Dade, whose population continues to grow,” Hevia said in March. “With consumer retail logistics becoming increasingly important in today’s e-commerce-driven economy and the tech sector looking to South Florida as a hub, the creation of this special district will enable South Dade to meet growing demand for logistics, tech and office space, while creating nearly 25,000 new jobs in the next decade and beyond.”

A second vote on the matter would take place among the Miami-Dade County Commission once state agencies review the proposal. A specific date isn’t known and could take months. 

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