County Adopts Plan For South Dade Watershed
By Eric Kalis
Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday unanimously accepted a growth-management plan for South Miami-Dade’s watershed, putting a temporary end to five years of study and debate on the region’s future.
The commission approved Commissioner Natacha Seijas’ measure to create a blueprint for the environmentally sensitive watershed after the South Miami-Dade Watershed Task Force citizens’ study group spent five years and $4 million to create a report.
Ms. Seijas directed environmental consulting firm Keith and Schnars in January to publish the task force’s findings and at the same time disbanded the group.
It is time for commissioners to begin implementing the 68 recommendations in the 3,200-page report even though the group failed to reach an 80% consensus on any of the recommendations, Ms. Seijas said. "I am thankful to those who spend many hours in trying to find a consensus," she said. "They didn’t find it, but I don’t think that wipes this out. Once we accept this, [the report] can be shredded to see the good and bad and move on it."
In the report, the task force shows the voting breakdown for the recommendations for controlling growth in a 370-square-mile area stretching from Tamiami Trail to Monroe County. Sections would be set aside for small multifamily developments and other areas would be designated for population densities that exceed anything that currently exists in the county.
Suggestions include a lock on the county-imposed Urban Development Boundary, which limits westward growth in relatively undeveloped areas. That proposal led to fierce opposition from the Builders Association of South Florida, which urged commissioners to reject the report earlier this year.
"There was much debate and discussion and a wide range of opinions in this," said Assistant County Manager Roger Carlton, chairman of the task force. "At the end, we knew we had to finish. We expended money and time.
"The best thing to do is turn this over to the staff and bring back recommendations for each item," Mr. Carlton said. "Five years is an awfully long time."
Some task-force members asked commissioners to avoid accepting the findings until the group votes on the report in its entirety. "We never considered the entire plan — it is disturbing to see," said panel member Carter McDowell. "I remain extremely disappointed that we were unable to carry through with the entire plan. The end product is that we were forced to vote on the plan in a way that did not make sense."
Having task-force members vote on individual recommendations instead of the entire report gives commissioners the opportunity to deliberately examine each finding and take action, said Commissioner Dennis Moss. "This is not an easy issue," Mr. Moss said. "Now we can take the report out and look at it in a conscientious and methodical way. You do not just allow a $4 million study to sit on the shelf."