Builders, school officials at odds over zoning influence
By Sherri C. Ranta
Builders and a Miami-Dade County school officials are at odds over which should have a say in zoning and comprehensive plan changes.
The Miami-Dade County Working Group on Public Schools Overcrowding Relief is considering a proposal to give the school district a non-binding voice. The group is expected to issue its final report Oct. 27.
Group co-chairman and Miami-Dade County School Board member Marta Perez supports the proposal, but the Builders Association of South Florida wants to change the language to include builders' participation in the process.
Ms. Perez said the district should have leeway, as does the Broward County school system, to make non-binding recommendations to county and city officials on whether zoning changes would have an impact on overcrowded schools.
Miami-Dade school officials, she said, through the Interlocal Agreement for Public School Facility Planning, supply cities and the county with data reflecting a developmental proposal's impact on district schools.
"Half the time," Ms. Perez said. "the interlocal agreement is not followed. They don't call the school board. The school district needs to have a voice from the beginning."
The builders association wants its members and other stakeholders to have a voice, said Truly Burton, the association's governmental-affairs director.
"Builders already step up to the plate in a very major way," she said, referring to payments of millions in impact fees and donations of land for schools.
"Our concern is there is an interlocal agreement that lays that out," she said. "It only discusses the fact that the school board can issue a report, not recommendations.
"There's been no discussion of what the criteria will be. It's not as simple as it's laid out to be."
Ms. Burton said the builders want to amend the interlocal agreement, establish criteria that everyone would agree to and discuss the issue of making recommendations.
She said the builders group doesn't want the district to leave builders responsible for building 45,000 student workstations district officials say they need. "Our shoulders aren't big enough to wipe out that deficit," she said. "That's the school board's deficit."
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson, co-chairwoman of the working group, said the school board could change its policies or the interlocal agreement could be changed to solve the dispute.
"The school board can change its own policies," she said. "They can do that without this recommendation."
Having the school district made recommendations could be helpful in some ways, Ms. Sorenson said. The builders would work with the schools early on, she said, because they wouldn't want to get a negative recommendation from the school board when trying to get zoning and comprehensive plan changes.
A change in the interlocal agreement could take years to implement, she said.
"I just want agreement on this," Ms. Sorenson said, "so we can move forward to implement the report's recommendations."
The Miami-Dade County Working Group on Public Schools Overcrowding Relief, a joint effort of the school district and the county commission, is expected to meet for a final time and issue a report at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 27 in the School Board Administration Building.