County Thwarts Fisher Island Bid To Incorporate
Written by Suzy Valentine on September 15, 2005
By Suzy Valentine
Money can buy you anything – except independence.
Fisher Island residents, the nation’s richest, are to remain inhabitants of unincorporated Miami-Dade County after commissioners thwarted their efforts to form a city.
The 216-acre island is second home to a number of celebrities. But just 293 residents are registered to vote, giving the commission cause Thursday to reject a bid for a study on increased self-governance.
"It really seems absurd to have a municipality of this size. Most of the people that live there aren’t even voters," said Commissioner Katy Sorenson. "They live elsewhere most of the year. Probably a homeowners association is more democratic because most people are not voters."
Following a commission vote July 7, 25% of registered voters – in this case, 74 people – would have to approve the move toward autonomy.
Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, whose district includes Fisher Island, reminded colleagues the request was for an investigation of municipal status.
"We’re going through the motions. We’re going through the process, and I just want to have the opportunity to fully analyze and weigh the issue up before me," Mr. Barreiro said. "We’re not at the point of a charter or of a vote."
On hearing that the 2000 census recorded 467 residents in 218 households, Chairman Joe Martinez quipped, "I’ve had more people in my house just living there."
"They’ve built several new buildings since then," said Mr. Barreiro.
"Indian Creek is a municipality," offered County Manager George Burgess of a village with 41 residents established in 1939.
The county boasts Florida’s smallest city, Islandia, on coral-reef islands east of Homestead, with a population of 6.
The 2000 census recognized Fisher Island as having the highest per-capita income in the US – $236,238. Commissioner Dennis Moss, who seconded the motion, said its residents’ contribution to tax rolls shouldn’t be overlooked.
"What I see happening," Mr. Moss said, "is getting very exclusive neighborhoods with high-price property values that goes on resources that will still be coming to the county that help with all of our other concerns and issues."
Commissioners voted 6-3 against creating a municipal advisory committee for the island, a decision that frustrated Mr. Barreiro.
"This is just a process of them going through the motions, analyzing it," he said after the vote. "I think not to have the opportunity is really unfair."
Dredgers created the island through land reclamation 100 years ago. South Florida’s first African-American millionaire, Dana Dorsey, owned it. Carl Fisher bought the land for development in 1919. The Vanderbilt family used it as a winter residence in the 1920s. Access today is by ferry, helicopter, seaplane or yacht.
Director Mel Brooks and "Cagney and Lacey" star Sharon Gless are among celebrities who own property on the island, which has its own post office and fire and rescue service.