As a kid, Ed MacDougall remembers running rampantly through endless acres of pine rocklands, buzzing by blimp hangars and an abandoned naval air station.
Now the mayor of Cutler Bay, MacDougall is standing up for the land and its many natural inhabitants, proposing a resolution opposing development of 88 acres of the land located along Southwest 152nd Street and Southwest 127th Avenue.
“I brought it forward,” MacDougall said. “I grew up down here. This whole area was pine rockland. There is only two percent of that type of pineland left down in South Dade. It’s just a shame that the federal government gave this to the University of Miami and they’ve turned around and sold it.”
The resolution, which passed unanimously at the Aug. 20 Town Council meeting, could be just one of many put in front of other Miami-Dade County municipalities.
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“I think it was a wonderful resolution,” councilwoman Peggy Bell said. “I recommend it and we all agreed that we should send it along to every city in Miami-Dade County to get them to join in, because it’s not in our city.”
The University of Miami sold the land, northwest of Cutler Bay in unincorporated Miami-Dade, to Ram Realty Services, a Palm Beach County developer, last month for $22 million.
“It’s shameful for the University of Miami to have sold this,” MacDougall said. “I am absolutely shocked that they would do this. What they should do is cancel this contract, give the money back, and the university put it toward the use where it was intended for the people. To make a commercial gain out of this I believe is the wrong thing to do.”
Along with a Walmart, the developer is planning for an LA Fitness, Chick-fil-A and Chili’s restaurants, and 900 apartments. Ram agreed to keep 40 acres for a preserve.
“It is an important piece of property that we would hate to see cemented over and become a Walmart or any business instead of a natural piece of land that has been there for a long time,” Bell said.
On Aug. 11, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced two rare butterflies will be added to the endangered list while thousands of acres in Everglades National Park, and other land around Zoo Miami, including habitat within the Ram land, would be designated as critical habitat. But the listing and designation will not stop development.
“I think that they need to slow down,” MacDougall said. “They need to find out if there are endangered species, which they say there are. At the end of the day, we need to preserve some land that’s natural. We cannot just take everything and concrete over it.”