Miami-Dade County

Ludlam Trail owners and Miami-Dade residents to hash out concerns at town hall, open house

The owners of the Ludlam Trail want to start developing the 6.2-mile stretch of land after it's sat vacant for years following railroad abandonment. This is a stretch of land located at Southwest 70th Avenue and Bird Road, looking south, Wednesday, Oct. 08, 2014.
The owners of the Ludlam Trail want to start developing the 6.2-mile stretch of land after it's sat vacant for years following railroad abandonment. This is a stretch of land located at Southwest 70th Avenue and Bird Road, looking south, Wednesday, Oct. 08, 2014. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The company that owns a 6.2-mile stretch of abandoned railroad corridor through the heart of Miami-Dade County has a vision for the land, combining mixed-use development with a bike and pedestrian trail.

But since representatives introduced the vision at a series of county meetings over the last month and a half, Miami-Dade residents have criticized the company for what they view as neglecting public input.

The parties will have a chance to hash out their concerns at a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at South Miami Senior High School, hosted by citizen group Friends of the Ludlam Trail, as well as at an open house from 4-8 p.m Monday at Gables Banquet Hall hosted by Flagler, the subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries that owns the land.

If you haven’t been following the issue, here’s what you’ve missed:

▪ Flagler filed an application with the county in May proposing a new “Ludlam Trail Corridor’’ designation to the county’s master plan that would allow for the mixed-use and trail development on the land, which runs from Dadeland Mall to Miami International Airport.

▪ The application went before the three community councils with jurisdictions that the corridor runs through — Kendall, North Central and Westchester. All three recommended that the County Commission deny the application, after extensive input from dozens of residents who attended the meetings.

▪ Flagler presented the application, along with a seven-page draft amendment, to the county’s Planning Advisory Board, which recommended the opposite — that the commission approve the application.

Since the application’s conception, Flagler has drafted numerous amendments to address what company executives have defined as three major concerns residents and county planning staff have expressed about the wording: that it didn’t commit to designate land for the trail; didn’t have enough detail about how the mixed-use development would be compatible with the adjacent properties; and didn’t include plans to coordinate with the City of Miami about a segment of the corridor within city limits.

The updated language guarantees that a minimum of 25 percent of the land would be designated to a continuous, public trail on the corridor, which is 100 feet wide but bottlenecks to 50 feet in some places.

Flagler has not yet determined who would maintain and operate the trail. Without the designation of such an entity, Flagler’s ability to develop the land would be limited, said FECI Executive Vice President Rafael Rodon.

Under the current land-use designation for the corridor, Flagler can build up to 1,345 units — what kind would depend on surrounding properties — plus another few hundred on the segment through the city. But by going through the land-use amendment process, Flagler could build up to 2,600 units — as long as the bike-and-hike trail happened.

“Only after documenting with the county that an entity or contract or agreement is in place — including funding — only then will we be able to develop beyond the baseline,” Rodon said.

Regarding density, the new wording splits the trail into four subcategories: primary neighborhood places, secondary neighborhood places, neighborhood places and City of Miami.

The three primary neighborhood places would contain the highest density development and pop up where high-density development already exists — at Dadeland, around the Bird Road intersection and at Blue Lagoon.

The secondary neighborhood places would have moderate density levels and fall at three street intersections on the north side of the trail — Coral Way, Tamiami Trail and Flagler Street.

The lowest density development would fall in the spaces in between, where surrounding properties are mostly single-family homes on large lots.

Many residents, such as Friends of the Ludlam Trail member Mari Chael, are still calling for a more detailed plan. Chael, an architect, brought along hand-drawn renderings of trail design options to Flagler’s first open house earlier this week.

“It took me a day to draw all of this up. It’s not that hard,” she said. “The neighbors need assurances.”

However, Rodon and other Flagler representatives have emphasized that the level of detail residents are requesting will come during the county’s zoning process, which can only begin if the application is approved by the commission.

“This is just setting the stage for the zoning process,” Rodon said.

Upcoming meetings

  • Friends of the Ludlam Trail town hall meeting: 7 p.m., Nov. 12, South Miami High School — 6856 SW 53rd St.
  • Flagler open house: 8 to 4 p.m., Nov. 17, Gables Banquet Hall — 7360 SW 24th St.
  • County Commission meeting: 9: 30 a.m., Nov. 19, Stephen P. Clark Center — 111 NW First Street, second-floor commission chambers