El Portal is looking into buying the Little Farm Trailer Park, an 15-acre property on Biscayne Boulevard. The village has assessed $6.3 million in liens on the site for code violations ranging from lack of an adequate sewage system to improper connections to electrical lines, and the village manager is looking for a way to solve these longstanding problems.
At a meeting last week, the Village Council directed Village Manager Jason Walker and attorney Joseph Geller to research the possibility of buying the trailer park, 8500 Biscayne Blvd. in El Portal.
The park includes roughly 220 trailers and about 1,000 residents, Walker said. Owners pay between $250 and $400 a month to rent lots. The current owner is Biscayne Park Acquisition Group LLC.
Walker said the village could apply for grant money if the council decides to pursue the purchase.
“We are researching our options to bring the property into compliance and deal with the life, health and safety issues that exist on the property,” he said.
But, Mayor Daisy Black wasn’t sold on the idea.
“My thing is with the county having such an up-and-down budget crisis, they could find something, but they could come back next year and tell us we don’t have money and you will have to fund it yourself,” she said after the meeting. “I don’t want to get the village involved because our budget is not that high.”
According to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser’s office, the assessed value of the land was more than $1.4 million last year. Walker said the asking price for the property is $15 million.
The village already has slapped a number of fines on the park. Some of the violations charged include: failure to obtain a permit or occupational license for a business, failure to provide a drainage system, and failure to comply with requirements that plots be at least 25 by 35 feet. Also, there have been fines based on unsafe/unsanitary buildings (sewage), fire extinguishers and unsafe electrical conditions. There are fire hazards such as illegal connection of electricity from Florida Power & Light poles to multiple units. As of April, the village had assessed more than $6.3 million in liens against the property, said Walker.
Also, in the past, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue cited the park for fire violations because trailers are so closely bunched together that firefighters cannot drive through to respond to 911 calls. Miami-Dade’s Department of Environmental Resources Management sued Little Farm to force owners to hook the park’s trailers up to a sewer system.
Walker asked the council what their suggestion would be regarding the piece of land, which is zoned for mixed use. The height limit is 8 stories. He suggested two options, one being to wait and see what the owners would do or look into foreclosing the property.
Luis Alberto Paniagua has been living in the trailer park for eight years. He said he isn’t concerned about talk of the village buying the park.
“The people hear about the rumors. They don’t want to pay where they live because they think this place will shut down,” he said while sweeping in front of his trailer on Sunday, “but, I think that is a lie. It will probably be sometime and some people are jumping the gun.”
He has gone to the park office, but the owners don’t take the initiative of fixing any issues. He spent cash on adding two speed bumps because cars speed through the narrow streets of the park.
“I spent $200 to install it,” he said on a Sunday afternoon while sweeping his front lawn. “There are a lot of kids that play around these streets and it is dangerous.”
Black suggested seeing if someone else would be interested in purchasing the land.
“If we can get a venture capitalist to come, then that would be OK, because it is not our money. I don’t want us to go in debt,” she said.
Walker said that 15 trailers already have been removed at the expense of the trailer park management company. The park has an outdated and overburdened septic system, which was installed to serve 64 trailers.
At the council meeting, residents brought up the subject of Walmart being interested on the land, but Walker said he was unaware of any applications submitted by the corporation. Black said she wouldn’t support a major store.
“I would like offices and housing,” she said. “I am not big into a Walmart because I don’t think we have space for parking.”
But, it is too soon to determine what the village can build on the land.
“We will not know until we go through a design charrette with community input/involvement,” said Walker.
She also added that before the council makes any moves she would like to hear from the community.