Commissioners seek review of zoning near airports
By Dan Dolan
After the Miami-Dade County commission approved a $200 million housing project that borders Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport last week, elected officials called for a complete review of the county's airport buffer zoning.
Although the 446-home, 68-acre development by Century Builders was endorsed by the county's building department, commissioners said they were concerned about safety issues raised by building in a designated airport buffer area.
County officials also called existing buffer zoning — which both bans and allows new homes and other projects — contradictory, confusing and unenforceable.
"We need to come up with a very clear determination about land use around our airports," Commissioner Barbara Jordan said. "On one hand, it's OK to build a hospital, hotel or an office building in a buffer zone, but homes are ruled out in some instances. It doesn't make a lot of sense."
Ms. Jordan said she wasn't delighted to green-light Century Builders' development, a mix of single-family residences and townhouses expected to sell for $275,000 to $350,000.
She said was she worried about the safety of people living in the airport's flight path and health dangers related to high noise levels.
"But the existing ordinance didn't give any of us a place to hang our hat if we wanted to reject the plan," Ms. Jordan said. "There has to be a change in zoning. We have to clarify all this."
Commissioner Carlos Gimenez and Chairman Joe A. Martinez said they also want airport zoning reviewed and clarified. As it stands, new homes are allowed in the airport's runway safety area but banned in what is called the buffer zone, where accidents are less likely to happen.
Mr. Martinez said he, too, had reservations about the Century project but decided it was the best use for the land, as did many people who live in the area.
Originally, the site to become a business park. But neighbors opposed that plan and approached developer Sergio Pino, owner of Century Partners Group, with a proposal to have homes built instead.
"They're my neighbors. I've built 3,000 homes in the area, so I listened to them," Mr. Pino said. "By building homes, there'll be 70% less traffic in the area than would be generated by a business park. Besides, there is a need for affordable housing. The community is better-served with this project."
Mr. Pino said the development, named Century Gardens, will be sold out by January even though construction won't begin for several months. He said Century Gardens will generate 200 jobs over two years.
"We made the best use of this property, which was designated as an industrial area 40 years ago," Mr. Pino said. "The county has changed since then. Land is at a premium. We have to look at everything to make sure we do what's right for our community."
Commissioner Katy Sorenson cast the lone vote against Mr. Pino's project. She was worried about noise levels and residents' safety.