The county abruptly deferred a July 11 annexation hearing as Miami Springs grapples with a lawsuit that could halt its bid for land and a $5 million tax windfall.
“We are trying to get an injunction,” said Tom David, president of the Airport West Business Association, whose firm represents members who filed a lawsuit last month to keep the city from scooping up 1,300 acres of land from under their feet.
The taxable value of this land is more than $800 million, according to a July 11 memo to the county commissioners from Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The annexation of the land would mean an increase of $3.9 million to city coffers.
“Miami Springs would no longer be a sleepy little town,” David said.
The one-square-mile parcel of unincorporated property rests within a designated industrial and commercial business district that includes warehouses, a bus and train maintenance center, a jail, and a new mega adult strip club.
“The average property owner [in the annexation area] would pay an additional $4,804 [yearly] in taxes if this annexation is approved,” the memo shows.
The area is bounded on the north by the Northwest 74th Street Connector, on the south by Northwest 36th Street, on the east by the Hialeah Rail Yard, and on the west by the Palmetto Expressway. The area is entirely commercial, and there is no residential development within the area.
Miami Springs had hoped to join its neighbors Doral, Medley and Virginia Gardens, and make its land pitch before the Miami-Dade County Planning Advisory Board on July 11. The board, which makes recommendations to the Miami-Dade County Commission for approval, voted unanimously in 2010 against Miami Springs’ annexation plans.
“The Miami Springs charter only permits annexation of lands ‘contiguous’ to its geographic boundaries,” states the complaint dated June 19. “As a result of the removal of the FEC property, an enclave is created between the municipality and the annexation area.”
Miami Springs voters had cast ballots in April 2009 to approve the proposed land boundaries. However, these boundaries have since changed after the city adopted an ordinance, in 2010, that removes the Florida East Coast Railway property from its proposed annexation boundaries.
“This fact alone should render the [annexation plan] unlawful and requires that the court grant the plaintiffs the relief requested,” the complaint says.
The city feels that the lawsuit is without merit and should be dismissed.
“The county has already passed on first reading an ordinance that basically removes that [enclave] ordinance from the county code,” city attorney Jan Seiden said at a June 24 council meeting.
The Miami Herald searched county records and found that no final action to repeal the ordinance has yet been taken.
A request for a special hearing was filed by attorneys representing the airport businesses on July 10, just one day before county officials abruptly deferred the annexation hearing “for further consideration at a subsequent meeting,” the memo shows.
On July 23, a county judge is expected to hear arguments related to the city’s annexation plans.