River Cities Gazette

Miami Springs

Miami Springs mayor: ‘Annexation is not dead’

LAND GRAB: Former Medley Town Attorney Michael Pizzi, at a Feb. 19 special meeting, shows council members the land that Medley has proposed to annex.
LAND GRAB: Former Medley Town Attorney Michael Pizzi, at a Feb. 19 special meeting, shows council members the land that Medley has proposed to annex.
Theo Karantsalis / Special to the Miami Herald

Special to the Miami Herald

Miami Springs’ mayor says he will try again to annex a one-square-mile industrial area east of the city, after a Miami-Dade County committee deadlocked earlier this month on whether to recommend the plan.

But he will have to wait at least six months, under county rules.

“Annexation is not dead," declared Mayor Zavier Garcia, at the Oct. 14 City Council meeting. "This is not the city that gives up just because there is a roadblock before you."

Annexation of industrial areas means more tax revenue for cities but without the demands for service — or need to have a referendum — that come with annexing residential areas. Industrial property owners, however, are not so keen to have their municipal tax rate increased from under $2 under the county to Miami Springs’ rate of $7.671 per $1,000 of taxable value.

A group of county commissioners held a hearing on Oct. 10 and quickly nixed Miami Springs’ plans to annex an unincorporated area between the city and the Miami International Airport..

The result: Ambitious plans by city leaders to increase services and lower property taxes through a $5 million tax windfall, have withered.

“I would like the opportunity to go before the full BCC [Board of County Commissioners] to discuss this issue,” Garcia said at the Oct. 10 hearing. “We have been doing this for 12 years.”

Miami Springs wants land that is part of the airport business district west to the Palmetto Expressway.

A motion by Commissioner Audrey Edmonson that the annexation matter be forwarded to the entire 13-person commission with a favorable recommendation was seconded by Land Use Committee Chairman Jose Diaz. Barbara Jordan and Xavier Suarez dissented.

This 2-2 tie deemed the matter “laid on the table.” Commissioner Lynda Bell was absent.

After a crushing loss in 2010, when a seven-member county committee voted unanimously against annexation, Miami Springs regrouped and tried again. Last spring, the city went on a marketing blitz which included mailing residents glossy fliers that announced an annexation “lift-off.”

“The long-term push to annex the light industrial areas along with our western border is again on track,” the mailer stated.

Aside from an extra $5 million in taxes, the city had planned to raise a small fortune through other fees. In one case, if the city was successful in annexing land west of the airport, it stood ready to collect billboard sign permitting fees ranging from $750,000 to $1.5 million.

“The property owners were completely left out of the process,” said Tom David, president of the Airport West Business Association, whose firm represents members who also filed a lawsuit over the summer to preclude Miami Springs, Virginia Gardens, Medley and Doral from annexing surrounding land.

Business owners wore anti-annexation T-shirts, as they did three years ago, and many signed up to speak for two minutes. No one, other than city officials, spoke in favor of annexation.

David warned last summer that Miami Springs would no longer be “a sleepy little town” if it annexed the one-square-mile parcel that includes the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center and a new supersized strip club.

David also opposed three neighboring cities’ plan to annex too.

The scorecard for surrounding cities was as follows:

• Virginia Gardens’ resolution also was tabled due to the tie vote. The village had looked to annex an area across Northwest 36th Street that includes the airport business district west to the Palmetto Expressway, as well as some frontage road near Miami International Airport.

• Medley’s motion to forward to all county commissioners with a favorable recommendation died due to the lack of a second. The town had hoped to annex several square miles of property in different pockets in unincorporated Miami-Dade that would also extend its boundaries.

• Doral’s motion also died for lack of second. It had sought to annex property at the south and west sides of the city. Doral had previously been interested in annexing the Dolphin Mall, but Sweetwater beat Doral to the punch, annexing the shopping center in 2010.

These decisions come less than one year after voters amended the county charter, in 2012, which mandated commissioners to consider whether these annexations were being conducted merely bolster city’s tax base. This was because past annex bids were seen as nothing more than land grabs.

“We appreciate the county commission’s decision to spare our members a crippling tax increase,” said David. “We hope this is the end of this bad idea.”

County rules do not allow annexation proposals to come up again for at least six months.

“It was purely political,” Garcia said. “Nothing we could say was going to get them to change their minds because they [the business owners] will have to pay more taxes.”

“If we continue to push, we can get it done.”

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Miami Herald

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