The charming cities of Miami Springs, Medley and Virginia Gardens, hereinafter jointly known as Pleasantville, are moving fast to annex light industrial and commercial land. They contend that these annexations will allow them to sustain and serve the annexed areas while providing a greater value to their current residents.
That sounds great, as long as you are not a business owner who owns property in the areas to be annexed. In your case, you probably feel that these cities are converting your unincorporated light industrial or commercial land into property tax ATM machines to fatten bureaucrats, feed lobbyists, and grow government.
So, what can you expect as business owner if you are annexed? In general, your new city will now provide the services of police, public works, and code enforcement, which are currently provided by the county.
In some instances a city could better provide these municipal services. However, in this case, the businesses in some of the areas to be annexed serve as the main hub of warehouse space for the Cargo Gateway of the Americas — Port Miami. Therefore, cargo security is a major priority and business owners should be concerned with losing Miami-Dade County Police (MD-PD) as their first responder.
No disrespect to the police of Pleasantville but they do not have the capacity or infrastructure of the Tactical Operations Multi-Agency Cargo Anti Theft Squad headed by MD-PD. All truck hijackings that occur in unincorporated Miami-Dade County are assigned to them for investigation and the squad recovers about $30 million in stolen property each year. The Pleasantville police will have to gear up to provide that level of service and business owners can be assured that will come at a price.
This leads into the major issue with this annexation — the near immediate increase in property taxes the business and landowners will bear once annexed. If they are owners of large warehouses and offices, they can expect significant increases in property taxes when annexed. Unfortunately, the loss of revenue due to increased property taxes, compounded with the mandatory implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act in 2014 will cost jobs.
The greatest misfortune of this whole thing is that business owners have no say in the matter — they have no public vote. This annexation is tantamount to taxation without representation for the business owners and job creators.
So what to do? Well, packing commission chambers wearing ugly colored T-shirts and holding signs that say “Annexation Kills Jobs” is tacky, un-neighborly, and desperate.
The best thing to do is get organized, know the annexation process of the Miami-Dade code of ordinances backwards and forwards, create a cohesive narrative about the business owners’ concerns and needs, and visit with the policymakers before this goes to a commission vote. Most important — try to craft a pleasant alternative to the hyperbole I spewed above.
If annexation seems inevitable, your group needs to find common ground with your new city. For starters, try to negotiate the continuation of MD-PD as a first responder in the cargo-sensitive areas. Next, advocate a scaled introduction of the higher millage rate over a period of 10 years for your business’ budgeting purposes.
I assure you, good things will happen if you meet with the right elected officials and let them know what’s outside of Pleasantville.
Luis Andre Gazitua, a lawyer specializing in government affairs, authored the strong-mayor charter amendment approved by the voters in January 2007.