West Kendall residents were skeptical at a meeting last week to discuss the possibility of incorporating their area as a city. But many also were willing to consider the idea.
The Municipal Advisory Committee tasked with gathering information and weighing the pros and cons of incorporation held its second public meeting at the Kendale Lakes Library on May 21.
The committee will study incorporation of an area called Section 1, bounded by Southwest Eighth Street on the north, Southwest 187th Avenue to the west, Southwest 88th Street to the south and Southwest 147th Avenue to the east, with northern portions extending to Southwest 127th Avenue and Florida’s Turnpike.
About 50 people attended to hear presentations from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and the county library system. Both agencies told them that their services would not change if residents vote to become a city. That led some residents to question why cityhood was even being considered.
Resident Mauricio Cabrera noted how past discussions to make some portion of Kendall a city have led to nothing.
“If it was shot down once before, chances are it will get shot down again,” he told the committee early in the meeting.
The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners lifted a five-year moratorium on incorporation and annexation in 2012, which opened the door for the creation of two municipal advisory committees that cover sections of Kendall last summer.
The committee for Section One is already meeting. A separate municipal advisory committee will study cityhood of another section of Kendall once the community members have been appointed to the board.
Raul Andres Pino, chairman of the committee, assured residents the committee is working to carefully study the possibility of incorporation, not ram it through the process.
“Any adverse effect would impact us individually as it would you,” he said.
The committee has two years to hold public meetings, gather information, hold two public hearings just for residents to comment on the topic and eventually make a recommendation to the county.
County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, who represents much of the area under consideration and favors incorporation, appointed members to the seven-person committee.
Teacher and committee member Monica Colucci told residents the committee is made up of volunteers who want to act in the best interest of their neighborhoods.
“I’m a teacher. I have no aspiration to be a politician,” she said. “I decided to do this because I’m a resident here like you are. I’m going into this with an open mind.”
Kendall homeowner Joe Diaz echoed Colucci, adding that he’s heard becoming a city can improve the quality of life.
“I have friends who live in Palmetto Bay who love the fact that they incorporated,” he said. Palmetto Bay incorporated in September 2002.
Mark Neumann, who retired from the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser’s officer in 2008, favors incorporation but wants to expand the area to include more commercial real estate because he believes the tax base within the proposed boundaries would not be enough to sustain a city.
“You want an economic engine in the area,” he said.
The committee will study issues like what impact cityhood would have on police services, how much of a tax base exists, whether taxes would increase and what a budget for the city would look like.
Then if the committee recommended incorporation, residents would have the final say at the polls.
“This is not up to us, it’s up to the voter,” Colucci said.
In other communities that have incorporated in recent years, selling points have been greater local control over land use — what gets built where — and more attention from police, especially for property crimes such as vandalism and car burglaries.
In most cases, incorporation has meant higher property taxes, although that varies depending on the wealth of each community. The county charges about $1.93 per $1,000 in taxable home value for municipal services (excluding library and fire, which are the same in all cities served by the county). Working-class Miami Gardens, which incorporated in 2003, charges $6.94. But Palmetto Bay charges $2.45, and Aventura charges $1.73 — less than the county.
By the end of last week’s two-hour discussion, residents were eager to continue attending the meetings and seemed open to hearing the positives and negatives before taking a firm stance.
The next meeting is scheduled for the evening of June 18 at the Kendale Lakes Branch Library, 15205 SW 88th St. All of the committee’s meetings are open to the public.