Miamidade Miami Prep For Court Battle Over Sawyers Walk
Written by Yudislaidy Fernandez on March 19, 2009
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Miami and Miami-Dade County are getting ready to square off in court over the future of three Overtown parcels once slated for housing developments.
More than a year has passed since Miami-Dade reclaimed the land from the hands of the city. During this time, the two governments tried to reach an agreement but failed, city officials say.
Miami’s Chief Financial Officer Larry Spring said while both sides tried to work out a "mutually beneficial" agreement, it did not materialize. "I think we’ll be moving forward with litigation."
City Attorney Julie Bru confirmed that the city and county are going to trial, but said no court date has been set.
She said each side is in discovery — the investigation period before a trial begins that allows both sides to request evidence, conduct interrogatories and take depositions.
County commissioners voted to take back the land to seek new project proposals with more affordable and elderly rental and homeownership units.
County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, whose district includes Overtown, had criticized Sawyer’s Walk, one of the planned projects, for what she deemed a lack of required affordable housing.
The city responded with a lawsuit against the county for snatching back the land and impeding the city-approved housing projects from moving forward.
Two parcels were designated to developer Crosswinds Communities’ Sawyer’s Walk, a long-planned project with 1,050 for-sale units — some designated affordable and others with the option to be sold at market rates.
The third parcel had received the Community Redevelopment Agency’s OK to build Gatehouse, a mixed-use development that would bring Overtown its first large-scale grocery store.
The pending lawsuit has halted both of these projects planned for Overtown, a neighborhood that district city Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones has focused on revitalizing since she began her term.
Late last year, city and county officials met to reach a settlement that would please both sides — but no agreement resulted.
Mr. Spring said the city is asking to regain ownership of the parcels but would agree to the city and county jointly approving projects on those lots before moving them forward.
"We want to come up with a final solution that is mutually beneficial."