West Kendall

Shopping center proposed in West Miami-Dade’s Horse Country

 

A developer has asked the county to allow commercial development in a rural oasis of West Kendall, but faces an uphill battle. The controversial issue will be discussed Thursday.

jdeleon@MiamiHerald.com

For decades, Horse Country has been an island of pastures, plant nurseries and large-lot homes surrounded by a sea of suburban West Kendall sprawl.

Now a developer wants to bring a shopping center or other commercial development to Horse Country — and neighbors are not happy.

Pan American Companies Inc. wants Miami-Dade County to change its Comprehensive Development Master Plan — the county’s constitution for land use — to designate the southeast corner of Miller Drive and Southwest 127th Avenue for business and office use rather than for agriculture. The County Commission also has to approve the change.

But before that, on Thursday night, the West Kendall Community Council, an elected board that makes land-use decisions for the area, will discuss Pan American’s request.

The development company is owned by Carlos C. Lopez-Cantera Sr., father of Miami-Dade Property Appraiser-elect Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

According to the application, a shopping center would make sense at the intersection of two, two-lane roads on the western edge of Horse Country, satisfying a need for more commercial land in the area. And, the application says, the neighborhood “has very little classic agriculture,” consisting mostly of plant nurseries, schools, churches and homes.

Ron Weeks, who has lived in Horse Country for 52 years, said an attorney for the developer visited the neighborhood and told residents that a grocery store and bank were possibilities for the site.

The residents didn’t think that would be a good fit, he said.

“Horse Country is an amazing area, two square miles of agricultural area,” Weeks said. “It has farms, nurseries, ranches, lots of homes, churches and schools.”

Rural area

Based on the recommendations of studies adopted in 1975 and 1981, Horse Country has remained the only agriculturally designated area within the county’s urban development boundary. Its current status allows plant nurseries, landscape supply companies and horse-riding and boarding academies.

If the land were redesignated for business and office use, it would allow such commercial enterprises as auto body shops, department stores and private clubs.

According to a county staff analysis that recommended rejection of the requested change, five shopping centers already exist within 1 ½ miles of the proposed site: Birdgate, in the 12700 block of Bird Road; Birdside Center, in the 12800 block of 42nd Street; Bird Point Plaza, in the 13300 block of 42nd Street; Miller Plaza, in the 5600 through 5800 blocks of 137th Avenue; and Miller Square, in the 13800 block of 56th Street.

Foot in the door?

But while Horse Country is surrounded by suburban subdivisions and shopping centers, residents view the neighborhood itself as an oasis.

“This would be the first commercial zoning,” Weeks said. “We are concerned that if this is approved, there will be more requests for commercial zoning in the area.”

The Community Council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Kendall Village Center, 8625 SW 124th Ave.

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