Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Don’t expand Miami-Dade’s UDB

Unbelievably, the latest attempt to move Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary line westward proposes encroaching on the county’s most important and most pristine drinking-water reservoir and the long-established rock-mining area. It’s a preposterous idea that thumbs its nose at county regulations and policies adopted long ago to limit urban sprawl, conserve water resources and preserve the mining industry, which provides half the limestone used for construction in the entire state.

And all to build a water-theme park and yet another mega mall in the Doral area.

How crazy is this idea? Very. A part of the development would be located less than 200 feet away from mine operators’ blasting, according to the mining industry. Are children’s rides and dynamite explosions really compatible? Hardly.

Even more outrageous is the idea of putting major development inside the county’s Northwest Wellfield Protection Area. This is the county’s future drinking water we’re talking about. What’s more important? Another big mall (in an area where two such shopping centers already exist) and a theme park or protecting the next generation’s water source?

Yet here come the lobbyists for Turnberry Associates declaring that there are no “issues” whatsoever in mixing shoppers and park goers with heavy rock-mining trucks and equipment on local roads in a sparsely developed area.

And the blasting? Why, say the lobbyists, the mall and park buildings would be designed to withstand the explosions’ vibrations. What about the stability of permanent rides in the theme park? Can the lobbyists absolutely guarantee that ongoing blasting won’t weaken the rides’ foundations? We doubt it.

Most outrageous of all is Turnberry’s assertion that another mall and the theme park are “absolutely” needed. The Turnberry folks cite a county study that supported development of an entertainment district in the Doral area. But that’s a gross mischaracterization, since county planners only looked for sites for such a complex inside the UDB — and planners found plenty of developable land was available without moving the development line a single foot.

Another reason why this proposal deserves to be soundly trounced by the County Commission Wednesday is that it would violate the painfully crafted and carefully regulated Lake Belt Zone agreement that excludes urban uses to protect the wellfield and the mining industry.

The Lake Belt agreement, covering 79 square miles in west Miami-Dade, was long in coming, fraught as it was with litigation and intricate negotiating, but it’s in place now and working. It allows mining operations to continue, but with regulated safeguards in place to prevent miners from contaminating the wellfield.

Nobody but Turnberry seems to support this proposal. County planners and the planning board oppose it. Environmentalists have joined with the unlikeliest of allies, the mining industry, to push for its denial. County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is strongly against it. And with good reason. Such a development in such a location makes absolutely no sense and defies county policies and existing agreements.

There is plenty of room for a mall and theme park on land already earmarked for development in the county’s western environs.

There’s only one sensible, responsible choice for commissioners: A firm No that discourages this and other unwarranted attempts to move the UDB.

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