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Miami Gardens delays vote on two churches’ zoning

The Miami Gardens City Council again has postponed voting on two churches’ applications for zoning changes on their properties.

The vote is now scheduled for March 26 to allow more discussion between church leaders and their neighbors.

The Harvest Fire Worship Center, 18291 NW 23rd Ave., and Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 21311 NW 34th Ave., are both on land zoned for residential use, which must be reclassified to “neighborhood commercial” to comply with city law. Antioch voluntarily asked for more time to make changes to its application and to reach out to the community.

Residents of the neighborhood around Harvest Fire have been more vocal, and were prepared to raise their concerns over the application when Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro intervened.

“I am proposing the deferral based on my perception that there could be a meeting of the minds,” Ighodaro said. “What I see and what I’ve heard is an unreadiness on both parts.”

Mayor Oliver Gilbert, who was absent from the initial zoning hearing on Jan. 22, said he wants the issue to be resolved at the next meeting.

“If you all have to get together, get together, but either way on March 26 everybody come prepared to make their arguments,” Gilbert said, “either with a resolution that everyone agrees with or just making your arguments before this council.”

At the first meeting about the proposed zoning changes, residents near Harvest Fire said their homes’ property values would decrease and that they were not given advance notice about the church’s application.

The city approved new land-development regulations in 2010, and because both churches are planning new developments — including new parking lots and new buildings — they must obtain the zoning change to remain compliant. Neighborhood commercial zoning in Miami Gardens allows for such uses as banquet halls, parks, schools and offices.

If a church wanted to make a major change in use, neighbors would likely get advance notice and the chance to share their views with the City Council. Cyril Saiphoo, the city’s planning and zoning manager, said at the January meeting that if either church wants to make changes that require special exceptions, they would need the approval of the City Council and the planning and zoning department.