Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade should create new cities, report says

A few dozen residents attended Thursday's special County Commission meeting to talk about annexation and incorporation.
A few dozen residents attended Thursday's special County Commission meeting to talk about annexation and incorporation. jflechas@miamiherald.com

Most of unincorporated Miami-Dade should be annexed or incorporated into cities so the county government can focus on regional issues, a recent report recommends.

But that’s easier said than done.

Creating new cities requires residents to meet for at least two years to study the pros and cons of cityhood before voters decide. Annexation applications from existing cities can lead to tussles between cities.

Miami-Dade commissioners, meeting Thursday, agreed to accept, though not yet endorse, a consultant’s recommendations for the county’s unincorporated land. The report prepared by Broward-based firm PMG Associates suggests that, wherever financially feasible, unincorporated areas inside the urban development boundary should become a municipality or get annexed by an existing city.

Such a move would get Miami-Dade’s county government out of municipal-level decision-making, like planning and zoning matters, and leave county commissioners to address regional issues.

Commissioners were quick to point out that they were looking at suggestions, and the topic will be further discussed in-depth at a future special meeting. Some of the overarching questions: What would happen to Miami-Dade’s police and fire departments? How would this affect residents’ tax bills? How would the county retain regional planning power for large-scale issues like sea level rise?

“This is probably a lot deeper of a conversation than what we’re going to do today,” said Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo.

The county’s tax base had contracted after a wave of new municipalities incorporated in the 1990s. Many of the first communities that incorporated were among the county’s most affluent, including Key Biscayne (incorporated in 1991), Aventura (1995) and Pinecrest (1996). Palmetto Bay incorporated in 2002, Doral and Miami Gardens in 2003 and Cutler Bay in 2005.

County leaders grew concerned, prompting them to enact a five-year moratorium of new cities in 2007. In 2012, the ban was lifted.

Groups studying cityhood are called Municipal Advisory Committees (MACs). Two groups in Kendall started weighing pros and cons two years ago. Since then, commissioner Juan C. Zapata has been pushing for a West End North and West End South.

Others got started before the 2007 ban and have had to wait years before trying to proceed to cityhood. On Thursday, some of those stymied by the moratorium went to County Hall.

“Let us go to a vote,” said Mack L. Samuel, a member of the North Central Dade MAC that has contemplated becoming a city for more than a decade.

Incorporation can lead to lower or higher property taxes, depending on property values. Some argue a new city benefits residents, as zoning matters would be decided locally and police services would be more local. Others says they are fine with their services and don’t want a higher tax bill.

“I don’t think we need another level of government,” said Kendall resident Marshall Ives. “If any group or individual feels they’re not getting services from the county, just have a better dialogue with the county.”

Claude Fabre, a resident of the Fontainbleau neighborhood south of Doral, has been involved with the area’s MAC for more than a decade. He has believed Fontainebleau should become its own city ever since an idea for Sweetwater to annex the area sputtered. But after residents started to pursue cityhood, the moratorium was enacted.

Now, 86-year-old Fabre hopes incorporation will happen during the next few years.

“I would like to see this before I croak,” he said.

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