Palmetto Bay may soon get one of two long-awaited new fire stations to address inadequate response times on the east side of the village, according to a presentation by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department at Monday’s council meeting.
“This is one more positive step in Palmetto Bay meeting the needs of its residents,” mayor Shelley Stanczyk said after the meeting.
Palmetto Bay is now served by two stations – one housed within the village at 9788 Hibiscus St., and the other at 9201 SW 152nd Street. The county fire department has long wanted to put two other stations in the village – one in the southeast, the other in the northeast – but several attempts to secure sites have been frustrated by concerns such as high property prices, neighbors anxious about noise, and environmental considerations.
Now the fire department is looking to buy a 1.4-acre parcel at 14200 Old Cutler Rd., planning section supervisor Carlos Heredia told the Village Council. He said the site is ideal for its ability to lend coverage to northeastern parts of Palmetto Bay and southern parts of Pinecrest, but also for its easy access to Old Cutler Road and Southwest 144th Street. The fire department is envisioning a one story, 10,500 square-foot, two-bay station for the site, Heredia said.
Pinecrest, too, has long needed better coverage on its eastern side, and has been exploring the possibility of creating its own fire department since last year. Pinecrest Village Manager Yocelyn Galiano Gomez confirmed that the fire department would be speaking at Pinecrest’s council meeting June 10 to brief the council about the site, and whether or not this would adequately meet coverage needs in Pinecrest.
The station will need site-plan approval from Palmetto Bay – the single-family home on the property will need to be demolished and the station built from scratch – and also a land-use amendment, since the parcel is in a residential area.
The fire department is committed to making the station compatible with its residential neighbors, Heredia said, by using landscaped buffers and an attractive building.
According to Palmetto Bay zoning director Darby Delsalle, rezoning would take an ordinance change – and so two official readings, or council meetings, to complete. If rezoning is being done with a particular development in mind – as would be the case with the fire station site – the site-plan is typically submitted for approval at the same council meeting as the rezoning receives its second reading.
Since the Village Council won’t meet in August, even if the fire department submits their rezoning applications to zoning in time for July’s council meeting, the matter will have to wait until at least September for final approval.
According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue CFO Scott Mendelsberg, the department is in talks with the property owner, and believes the department can afford something in line with the $724,000 asking price, but will probably wait until it’s time to submit a site-plan to Palmetto Bay zoning before putting in an official offer on the property.
Scott Silver, a limited partner in the Palmetto Bay Village Center, the 80-acre office complex in the southeastern corner of the village, said that a fire station there is also coming down the pike.
He says he’s been redrafting a rezoning request for some months now so that the fire department can buy an approximately 60,000 square foot parcel in the northern part of the property on Old Cutler. The fire department envisions a two-story, 13,000-square-foot, two-bay station on the site, according to Silver.
“We totally intend to proceed. We’re OK on pricing. Everything should take place. … I would say that we struck a deal in principle several months ago,” he said, adding that he hoped to submit a finalized rezoning request “in the next couple days,” and in time for the next council meeting.
This is good news for the village – and potentially bad news for some political campaigns. Two contenders in the mayoral race, Eugene Flinn and Peter England, have made the village’s alleged inaction on the fire stations into election issues.
Fire stations are especially central for England, who told the Miami Herald last month in an interview that “right now, not only is there no progress, there’s not even any discussion of either site, and ... frankly I think that’s appalling.”
His campaign website still lists the fire stations as one of three major items on his platform, and still reads that “The current council has shown no effort to resolve the issue of two new fire stations which are vital to our safety.”
He spoke to the council on Monday to say he was “delighted” a station was in the works, but when reached for comment on Tuesday, he reiterated he believed the village had failed – if not in working toward stations for the village, then in communicating progress to residents.
“Up until last night there was no discussion. There was nothing ... to suggest that there was anything going on,” he said.
In other action Mponday, with council member Patrick Fiore away, the council postponed items regarding lighting in the village until the July 7 council meeting.