West Miami-Dade

Neighbors oppose construction of new school

 

A proposed new daycare center and school is attracting opposition in West Miami-Dade.

If you go

What: Westchester Community Council meeting

When: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 19

Where: Ruben Dario Middle School, 350 NW 97th Ave.


mcaceres@MiamiHerald.com

One more daycare is one too many for a group of West Miami-Dade residents.

The group of residents is petitioning against the construction of a new private school, daycare and six residential units on vacant land at Southwest 147th Avenue and 15th Street. They think the project will cause traffic congestion and noise, and reduce home values.

But an attorney for the landowner, Julmar 147 Investment LLC, said the school is a good fit for the residential neighborhood. Also, county public works staff said the project will not worsen traffic at nearby intersections. County staffers are recommending that the Westchester Community Council approve the project at next month’s meeting.

Julmar hopes to sell the 2.34-acre property to Anper Corp, which would run the school.

The Community Council considered the proposal in December but delayed action until Feb. 19. To build the school, the owner needs several approvals from the council, including a zoning change from agricultural to residential use.

“It’s going to greatly affect both the residents and the businesses in the neighborhood,” said Ernesto Frye, 31, a neighbor and business owner who is leading the opposition to the project.

The proposed school, which would be called “New Horizons,” would enroll up to 200 children from infancy to age 8. The school would employ 16 teachers and include 11 classrooms and 34 parking spaces.

So far, the petition has collected over 145 signatures from residents, business owners and other owners of neighboring daycares.

One of the signees, Raul Pino, 47, wonders about the safety of children in a school that could have significant traffic issues.

“As a parent, I would be concerned about having a daycare in that location,” said Pino, who has a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old and lives two blocks south of the property.

But Melissa Tapanes Llahues, an attorney representing the landowner, said her client’s application to build a school on their property is completely compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

“Schools are a community use that are commonly used in residential areas,” Tapanes Llahues said. The Community Council’s professional staff agrees, and is recommending that the council approve the project — subject to some limitations to offset possible effects on the neighborhood.

The conditions call for the property owner to grow a 6-foot hedge to separate the school from adjoining single-family homes, limiting school hours to 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, and assigning staff to direct traffic during arrival and dismissal times.

At a Dec. 5 zoning hearing, 700 signatures by supporters of the school construction were presented by the school operator to the Community Council, an elected board that handles land-use decision in Westchester and surrounding neighborhoods.

Although county officials say the project won’t make traffic worse, nearby intersections already are badly congested. Traffic engineers use school-like grades to rate intersections, and those near the school have ratings of “D” or worse, indicating long delays to get through.

Frye says the supporting signatures are misleading since most are from supporters who do not live nearby.

“It just doesn’t make sense to have this daycare smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood that will not accommodate traffic, parents, students, or staff for that matter,” he said.

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