Still, the possibility looms in the minds of residents.
In its appeal, the county chided the federal government for not notifying neighbors about the Miccosukees’ request, or giving them an opportunity to have a say. The county recently contacted Michael Rosenberg, president of the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations, to spread the word about the new designation.
At a beauty salon in a small strip mall across the street from the golf course, none of the patrons knew about the county’s spat with the federal government over the Miccosukees’ request. Yet, unprompted, they asked about gambling.
“But if they wanted to build a casino, that wouldn’t even be the spot for it,” Marla Ruiz, a 29-year-old medical biller who lives in Kendale Lakes, said last week.
“This is a community of older people,” said Lissette Velasco, also of Kendale Lakes. “A casino would disturb things.”
County Commissioner Javier Souto, who represents the area, said in an interview that he has not spoken to tribe leaders about the property. But, he warned, “There’s a casino fever in town.”
“I don’t know if they want to convert that into condominiums, or if they want to have casinos, or a combination of both,” said Souto, adding that he is not against “controlled” gambling. “We need to expect the worst, hope for the best, ask the questions, be prepared, be on the alert.”
Even if the property were to remain a golf course, the county argues, Miami-Dade would lose its say over a slew of regulatory and municipal services currently provided there.
The horseshoe-shaped, 27-hole golf course wraps around single-family homes, town houses and low-rise apartment complexes. Most are across the street from the course, but a few sit on the edge of the property — and use the golf course to drain storm water. The county fears it would no longer be able to oversee that drainage.
It also says that environmental regulators won’t have authority over the lakes on the golf course that are linked to the county’s canal system, which helps prevent flooding.
“It is essential that these properties would continue to be regulated by local land use agencies to protect the rights of those in the immediate vicinity, as well as those in the community as a whole,” Burgess wrote.
Any potential development on the golf course would not be required to follow compatibility regulations, or meet standards for new roads, schools, green space and other improvements the county imposes on new construction. The Miccosukees would also no longer have to pay nearly $65,000 in property taxes.
And the Miami-Dade Police Department would lose sole jurisdiction over the area.
The department and the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office would have to work with Miccosukee police, a relationship that has been strained in the past when the tribe has cited its sovereign-nation status to block local law enforcement efforts.
Both the county and the state attorney’s office noted the concern in 2003. The police department warned it “would no longer routinely patrol the area.”
But the Miccosukees disagree, according to Trickey, the federal official, who said that jurisdictional challenges arise every time property becomes part of a tribe’s trust.