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We need jobs in South Miami-Dade, but expanding the urban boundary isn’t the solution | Editorial

·3 min read

An unusual proposal to expand Miami-Dade’s urban boundaries in South Miami-Dade is the can commissioners keep kicking down road. They had a chance to nip it in the bud Thursday, but, once again, they deferred the issue.

In April, the County Infrastructure Operations and Innovations Committee was lukewarm about a resolution by Commissioner Kionne McGhee to expand the Urban Development Boundary, the invisible line that separates development from rural and environmentally sensitive land. The committee postponed the issue until Thursday’s meeting, only to again grant McGhee’s request that the proposal be deferred, this time indefinitely.

Let’s hope “deferred indefinitely” means never.

In April, it seemed commissioners were trying to give McGhee, who’s new on the commission, a chance to improve his plan.

Instead, they should consider another proposal he also put forward, but that was also deferred.

It would increase development density within two miles of the South Dade Transitway, a 20-mile corridor that, once completed, will connect the Dadeland South Metrorail Station to Southwest 344th Street. Spurring commercial and residential building along the corridor would increase access to public transportation and alleviate traffic.

This resolution is preferable, but not perfect, however. That two-mile radius includes areas that are currently outside the urban boundary, according to the Hold the Line Coalition, but this issue could easily be amended by the commission.

This project might help McGhee achieve his stated purpose — creating more opportunities in jobs-deprived South Dade — without allowing development in environmentally sensitive land. That’s important because there’s another pending application filed by developers to expand the UDB, just north of his District 9. That proposal poses problems for nearby Biscayne Bay, according to the Hold the Line Coalition, which fights attempts to expand the UDB. Unless developers can prove there is a real need for more industrial areas, the commission should reject it as well.

While McGhee’s intention, creating jobs, is on target, we also know that the minute farmland can be developed, its value will skyrocket. There’s nothing wrong with allowing farmers to profit from selling their land. But that shouldn’t happen through a haphazard proposal.

First, the proposal to expand the UDB attempts to sidestep the cumbersome and $350,000-plus process developers are required to go through to ask for land to be added within the boundary.

Second, although McGhee carved out land that’s going to be used for an Everglades restoration project, the parcels that remain in his plan could still be needed for another project to restore the Biscayne Bay and they serve as a buffer for the estuary. That land is also at high risk of flooding.

No developers have come forward with plans to build an industrial complex there, which makes his pitch even more unusual. What’s more, a county analysis showed there are already 565 acres of industrial land sitting empty in District 9.

Given these facts, why expand our urban footprint into land that we should try our hardest to preserve?

And who would truly benefit from the UDB’s expansion — workers or landowners? This much is certain, though — the area’s environmental health would be the big loser.