County Moratorium On Incorporation Leaves Five Communities On Hold
By Suzy Valentine
Five neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County investigating incorporation must put plans on hold following a county commission vote Feb. 7.
Officials in Biscayne Gardens, Fisher Island, Goulds, Plant and Redland were planning to join 35 other communities, excluding the unincorporated municipal-services area, that incorporated before a moratorium was ordered last week.
Each neighborhood installed a municipal advisory committee to conduct a feasibility study, which precedes approval from residents.
Community officials must sideline plans after commissioners froze incorporations amid concerns that three municipalities reneged on obligations to pay fees to Miami-Dade and undermined the county’s authority by taking their dispute to Tallahassee.
At issue were the actions of officials from Doral, Miami Lakes and the Village of Palmetto Bay.
"They went to the state of Florida contrary to the county’s charter," said Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, "in a bid to stop the mitigation. Our feeling is that if a community incorporates in a wealthy area, it has an obligation to support less-privileged parts of the community."
Mr. Diaz said Miami Lakes and Palmetto Bay officials have withdrawn their objections. That leaves Doral, which county budget analyst Odell Ford said owes Miami-Dade at least $7 million in unpaid fees accrued since it incorporated in June 2003.
Fees payable by the municipalities fund countywide activities that include the bomb squad, hurricane evacuation, homeland security and rescue services including Air One, the county’s emergency helicopter.
"My principal objection is that taking this issue up with Tallahassee undermines Miami-Dade’s home rule," said Commissioner Sally Heyman, "but then there is also the issue that the entities became cities under terms agreeable at the time, challenging the integrity of entities making deals they didn’t intend to keep."
Commissioner Natacha Seijas was to have established a group to review the mitigation issue Tuesday at the Infrastructure and Land Use Committee she leads but decided to leave the matter in the state’s hands.
"I declared my intention of setting up a panel of respected citizens and experts to assist us in developing a fair and reasonable formula for the continuation of our mitigation policy," said Mr. Seijas at the start of the meeting. "This panel will not be established until the Doral bill challenging our home rule is off the table in Tallahassee. Until then, the freeze on incorporations remains in place." Advertisement