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Update: Ilegal work site cleared out

A Construction worker walks pass the mound of asphalt from Biscayne Blvd construction on Thursday, April 7, 2011.
A Construction worker walks pass the mound of asphalt from Biscayne Blvd construction on Thursday, April 7, 2011. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

An illegal construction site between Wynwood and Overtown that has been the subject of resident complaints for the past year was shut down Friday.

Code Enforcement Director Sergio Guadix and Miami City Commissioner Richard Dunn met Wednesday with concerned residents about the construction site, a vacant lot at 2238 NW Second Ave. Residents of the neighboring New Horizon Square Apartments and Wynwood Lofts had been complaining about dust and construction noise from the unpermitted work, which was being performed by American Engineering.

By Friday, crews were leveling the ground, and the last truck pulled out by 2:30 p.m. American was using the site as a staging area as part of their $16 million contract with the Florida Department of Transportation to perform the work on nearby Biscayne Boulevard.

Both project manager David Guerra and the property owner, prominent Wynwood developer David Lombardi, had previously set deadlines to stop the work but then failed to meet them.

Liz Fate, a lawyer who lives in the building that borders the Wynwood side of the site, started going door to door last month to organize a campaign against the work and began gathering signatures and contacting media. Many residents have said they have been trying to get the city to address the issue for the past year but didn’t see any response until Fate’s efforts.

“I have been calling since I moved in here almost a year ago, and I kept getting transferred from one place to another. But finally, Liz was able to get in touch with Dr. Dunn,” said Shelia McNeil, whose main concern was her 10-year-old granddaughter, who hasn’t been able to go out and play because she has bronchitis. Dunn said that while residents have previously stated they have called his office to register complaints, the calls were actually directed to county Commissioner Audrey M. Edmonson, whose district does not cover the area. Staff members with City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff’s office have also said they were contacted by residents.

In an e-mail, Fate said that she had contacted Dunn’s staff on numerous occasions and only contacted Edmonson when Dunn didn’t respond. Dunn has insisted that he did not know about the issue until he was contacted by reporters.

“Once the problem came to me, then I was able to respond,” he said.

Guadix said that the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management visited the site several times last week to test the air quality and found no contamination. However, the dust has not been the only problem.

Many residents surrounding the construction area have also been complaining about noise during the night and early mornings. If the construction site were permitted, city code would have permitted the work to start at 8 a.m., but residents said the work crews often began dumping asphalt and moving dirt between 5 and 6?a.m., Monday through Saturday.

“I work in the hospital, and they keep me up all night with all the noise,” said neighbor Annette Ownes. “I really hope they stop this time.”

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