County OKs study of Fisher Island incorporation
By Suzy Valentine
Amid fears that Fisher Island could become too exclusive a community if it were incorporated, the Miami-Dade County Commission agreed Tuesday to allow residents to investigate the possibility.
Commissioners voted 6-4 in favor of creation of a municipal advisory committee and directed staff to conduct a study into the viability of a move toward municipal status. On Sept. 8, the commission vetoed a study of municipal status but two weeks later voted to revisit the idea.
Dissenters expressed concerns over the size of the proposed municipality there are 467 residents, of whom 293 are registered voters and how the richest community in the US, according to the 2000 census, would operate as a city.
"I'm not going to support it," said Commissioner Dennis Moss, "because I don't see the sense in creating a city of 293 people."
The county is home to Islandia, a city with six residents, and Indian Creek, a village with 41 residents anomalies Mr. Moss acknowledged.
"We have cities with fewer people, and we perhaps need to find ways to undo those cities," he said. "They were created at a time when cities were being thrown around willy-nilly."
"When this becomes a city, is it going to be a city that we can all visit?" said Commissioner Javier Souto. Access to Fisher Island currently is restricted to residents and invited guests. "Can I go there? Is this a real city or a private city?"
Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, whose district includes Fisher Island, said Mr. Souto's questions would be answered in time.
"That's a very important question that has to be answered through this process of the committee," Mr. Barreiro said. "That goes to the heart of this incorporation. The way that question is answered will determine whether the residents want that."
The county attorney corroborated that view.
"You cannot have a private city," said Murray Greenberg. "If this becomes a city, it will be open to the public like every other city, and that would be a condition of moving forward with it.
"If it's a city, access to that city, whether by boat, swimming, helicopter or any other means, cannot be restricted to residents of the city. If anybody were to try to go and be denied access, there would be a cause of action against the city."
In Broward County, residents of one city sought to exclude outsiders. "They did that in Southwest Ranches," said Chairman Joe Martinez. "Apparently, they blocked the road and denied access. Even police and fire services had to go round."
"The difference is, up there, there was still access to the city," said Mr. Greenberg. "There was just one road that was blocked. It's a different setup from Fisher Island."
It's a setup Mr. Souto said he feared lends itself too easily to exclusivity.
"This is America, and everyone is the same," he said. "I don't want to create a city that has different standings for the rich and beautiful and at the other end the poor. I've been to that place a couple of times, invited by the beautiful people, and I've had a beautiful time. I'm anti-ghetto, and this is a ghetto-type proposal."