Members of the Miami-Dade County Planning Advisory Board voted Monday to push forward a controversial land-use amendment application involving a stretch of abandoned railroad land known as the Ludlam Trail.
The board recommended that the County Commission approve the application, which would carry out a longstanding vision for the 6.2-mile corridor to become a bike and pedestrian trail running from Dadeland Mall to the Miami International Airport.
But to sustain the trail, Flagler, the company that owns the land, wants to build homes and commercial buildings along the corridor, which runs through neighborhoods, industrial malls and parks.
For residents, that’s where the controversy comes in.
Many are worried that the application doesn’t assign enough priority to the trail. Most want the company to withdraw the application and start from scratch with more resident involvement.
“I think that this community and this company, if we work together, could do better than that,” said Victor Dover, a local urban designer and board member of the Friends of the Ludlam Trail, a nonprofit group formed to support creation of the bike and pedestrian path.
But the planning board thought Flagler’s plan was innovative and that residents were asking for too many details too early in the process.
“I have fought to see some kind of park, some kind of development,” said board member Carla Ascencio-Savola. “But honestly, the only way that this is going to happen is with private/public input.”
To ease resident and county staff concerns, Flagler issued a seven-page draft of application clarifications at the meeting.
In it, the company guarantees the creation of a continuous, public trail on at least 25 percent of the property, which is 100 feet wide and narrows to 50 feet in some places.
It also ensures that the residential and industrial development will be compatible with the areas around the corridor.
Development will be concentrated where there is already high-density development — around Dadeland, Blue Lagoon and Bird Road, according to the draft. The section of the trail running from Southwest 80th Street to Miller Road, which is surrounded by single-family homes, will only be allowed up to 2 1/2 units per acre of development.
Board members and Flagler representatives emphasized that this is the earliest stage in the development procedure, so many details — such as who would maintain the trail — are undetermined.
“We know that what we’re proposing can be built,” said attorney Joseph Goldstein, who gave Flagler’s presentation during the meeting. “We know that what we’re proposing makes sense from a planning standpoint specifically.”
The next step for the amendment to stay afloat is approval by the County Commission, which is meeting to hear the application presentation on Nov. 19 and will make a final decision at the beginning of next year.
Then, Flagler would have to go before the county again with a more-detailed plan during the zoning process.
“They have a right to develop this property,” said board member Raymond Marin, addressing the residents in attendance. “This is not a zoning hearing. This is strictly planning. If you show half the gumption that you’ve shown here, you might get what you want at the end of the day. But you’re not going to get it from me today.”