County To Study Use Of Land Near Homestead Base
By Sherri C. Ranta
Controlling encroachment from commercial and residential development, Homestead Air Reserve Base advocates say, will help ensure the military’s presence in Miami-Dade County.
When residential development gets so close that residents start complaining about noise from the base, "it can get to the point where the military starts looking to move elsewhere," said Mike Richard, president of the Vision Council, South Miami-Dade’s economic development agency.
A joint land-use study financed by a $75,000 federal grant funneled through the Miami-Dade Defense Alliance and the Beacon Council is to identify ways to prevent encroachment and identify compatible uses. The study, under discussion, is to take 12 to 18 months.
South Dade, particularly Homestead, is undergoing a boom in residential development. Lands next to the 2,200-acre base and its no-fly zones are zoned for agricultural and industrial uses.
Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray said he hopes to see current zoning stay in place. Encroaching residential development can lead to problems for the track, about a mile from the base, he said.
"We’re compatible," he said. "We both make noise."
An Air Force installation compatible-use zone study of data gathered from air bases around the country recommends uses for surrounding land, Mr. Richardson said, with most being commercial or industrial that do not generate high concentration of people. The zones are about 1 mile wide extending 3 miles from the ends of runways on the base.
The military industry, Mr. Richardson said, is the third-largest industry in Florida in terms of economic impact, generating $44 billion a year. Homestead’s share of that is about $146 million. The base is home to several commands, including the 482nd Fighter Wing and US Coast Guard and Customs.
"The military is still a major element of our economy down here," he said. "The federal government is the third-largest employer here, following Miami-Dade Public Schools and Florida Power & Light."
The joint land use study’s 17-member policy committee, led by area landowner Steve Shiver, owner of Global Technology Partners, will meet at 2 pm Tuesday at Homestead City Hall.
The group is expected to approve a request for proposals to find a private consultant to conduct the study.
Mr. Shiver, a former county manager, said he hopes recommendations from the study could be forwarded to the Miami-Dade County commission and Homestead City Commission for inclusion in comprehensive land-use plans and zoning regulations.
Residential encroachment is the biggest concern for Homestead-Miami Speedway, said Mr. Gray, president of the track and a member of the study’s policy committee.
"The existing land use, what it’s permitted for, is fine with us," he said. "It’s when you start changing land use to get more residential property in the area – that’s when it concerns us." Homestead-Miami operates 260 days a year.
"These JLUS things are pretty serious stuff," he said. "It can determine the future of the base. One thing the military doesn’t seem to do is put up any kind of fight for land use.
"They state their case," Mr. Gray said, "but they won’t fight for things. If the land use changes or isn’t compatible with what they do at the base, they’ll shut the base down."
Diana Gonzalez, Miami-Dade Defense Alliance coordinator, said the 601 acres of former base land now deeded to Miami-Dade County as a result of the base’s conversion to a reserve base has significant restrictions.
"The development of the property already has to take into account what is in the best interest of the base," she said. "Our property abuts the airfield. There are already limitations on height of buildings, on economic development."
Private-sector development, Ms. Gonzalez said, is in limbo because of a lawsuit filed in January 2001 by Homestead Air Base Initiative, an investment group that hopes to build a commercial airport on the land.
"Until that is settled," Ms. Gonzalez said, "we’re very limited in what we can do with the private sector on that land."