Miami Lakes sits about five miles east of the planned home of America’s largest mall, and the town’s mayor is eager to air his concerns about the project. But his plan to preside over a special meeting about American Dream Miami’s proposal will have to wait.
After emailing residents last week about a special meeting he called for Tuesday night to address the six-million-square-foot retail theme park, Mayor Michael Pizzi now is spreading the word that the Sept. 20 session has been canceled. A member of the Town Council who had agreed to secure a quorum for the special meeting has since said he can’t stay late for the event. That prompted the town clerk on Monday to cancel the session, which was scheduled to start after a budget meeting also being held Tuesday.
“I’m disappointed,” said Pizzi, who describes himself as “gravely concerned” about the planned theme park. “The people have a right for us to hold a forum to publicly discuss the impact on our community.”
The last-minute call for an American Dream Miami meeting sparked some tension between Pizzi and municipal staff and fellow council members. Alex Rey, the town manager, declined Pizzi’s request to make a presentation on the project at the meeting, saying only the county officials who are handling the permitting process had the expertise needed for the talk. Tony Lama, the council member who backed out of the special meeting, complained Pizzi was trying to using the forum as part of his reelection bid.
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“It’s election time,” said Lama, who said a last-minute evening flight for work forced him to scratch his appearance at the mall forum. “What he wants to do is score political points.”
The political flare-up offers a preview of a broader debate likely to ramp up in the coming months when Miami-Dade County planners are expected to issue their first recommendation on the project. That recommendation will start a process heading toward a showdown vote at the 13-member County Commission, probably in 2017.
At issue is a 200-acre theme park by the owner of Minnesota’s Mall of America, but with the Florida version slated to be twice as big — large enough to offer submarine rides, skiing on an artificial slope and more retail space than can be found anywhere in the country. A representative for developer Triple Five did not respond to an interview request Tuesday.
Miami Lakes has no authority over the project, since it sits outside of town limits in the unincorporated area of Miami-Dade. But as one of two municipalities nearby — Hialeah sits south of the project site — Miami Lakes is sure to play an outsized role in the debate over American Dream Miami.
Lama said he’s happy to sign up for a special Miami Lakes meeting on another day, and that he’s not satisfied with the information coming from Triple Five as to why Miami Lakes should embrace the project. “I get that they’re bringing in five-star hotels, and we’re going to have submarines and waterfalls,” he said. “That’s all wonderful. What is this going to do for the quality of life in Miami Lakes? I’m still waiting for that data.”