Homestead - South Dade

Homestead speedway jumps into controversial golf course proposal

The future the Keys Gate Golf and Country Club in Homestead just got more complicated.

Last week, the nearby Homestead-Miami Speedway hired legal counsel to challenge developer Wayne Rosen’s controversial proposal that currently has the golf course’s renovation in limbo.

Rosen’s hope for the past several months has been to overturn a decision made by Homestead’s planning and zoning board, which would give him the green light on rezonings to build single-family homes near a beer warehouse and a noisy air base and speedway.

In exchange for a passing vote, Rosen has vowed to renovate the decrepit golf course — only if City Council members approve his housing project.

But for months the speedway has been vocal about its discontent with Rosen’s proposal to build single-family homes so close to the race track. On Friday, The race track’s vice president of operations, Albert Garcia, told the Miami Herald he believes developer’s plan will eventually lead the neighbors to complain about noise and traffic.

“Residential encroachment will definitely impact us negatively,” Garcia said. “Residential encroachment has had a devastating impact on similar race track across the country, leading to operating restrictions and closures.”

Rosen’s plan calls for:

▪ Taking about 11.4 acres off the perimeter of the course and using the land to extend the backyards of surrounding homes that would soon be built. The rezoning would also allow for more homes. Jim Fazio, the designer who would potentially be rehabilitating the course, says the extra acres aren’t needed for the golf course redesign and that using them that way would be “a waste of land.”

▪ Rezoning about 20-plus acres in the Park of Commerce, just east of Kingman Road and south of Canal Drive. That land is adjacent to a Budweiser warehouse and less than a mile from the hazard zones of the Homestead Air Reserve Base and the speedway.

Right now, the land is zoned “mixed use.” which doesn’t allow for single-family homes to be built. Rosen wants it changed so that he can move forward with his plan to build 91 single-family homes.

Across the street from the Budweiser warehouse lie 36 acres that are currently zoned for school use. Miami Arts Charter School occupies nine of those acres. Rosen is asking to change the remaining 27 acres to mixed-use.

Garcia said the race track is also questioning the validity of Rosen’s application in general, which stems back to 2012, when the city was under then-Mayor Steve Bateman, who was shortly thereafter indicted on corruption charges. Bateman was found guilty in 2014.

“We are investigating to see if a traffic study was warranted, along with all the other data required, to move an application like this forward and give it proper consideration and review,” Garcia said. “We are not sure that that was done, and if it was, then we want to see it.”

On March 9, a Coral Gables land-use attorney representing the speedway filed a records request with the city clerk, asking that the city provide numerous documents regarding area traffic and Rosen’s initial Development of Regional Impact (DRI) for his property. A DRI is a giant development that is given approval by the state.

“Our land-use experts are in the process of analyzing [the impact] to our year-round operation and championship races,” Garcia told the Miami Herald. “Only after completing this review will we know all the problems with this rezoning and our basis to challenge. Without a traffic study, we wont know the actual and total negative impact.”

Typically, when a traffic study is needed, the developer would conduct one and then the city would review it. However, city officials say that in this case it’s not warranted because the 2012 rezoning application has already been approved by the state, per the city’s code. A traffic study linked to the current DRI, is being used as the basis for this current rezoning request. Also, the city does not require a traffic study for a rezoning, only for a site plan.

City officials say nothing would stop the speedway from conducting a study. They can range from $15,000 to $20,000. Garcia agrees, but said the crux of the issue falls back on whether the application was processed and approved the right way to begin with, considering Bateman was in the picture.

Both Rosen and his affiliates, along with and the speedway have been huge contributors to past and current Homestead council members’ campaigns.

Some residents agree with Rosen’s terms and backed him by way of an online petition, asking neighbors to support his project in return for a new golf course. For weeks, many residents contacted council members, putting pressure on them to pass Rosen’s project.

Other residents, however, think the project and the golf course renovation should be independent of each other, fearing that the development will cause density, infrastructure and traffic issues.

Some have called it a “delaying tactic” by the speedway.

Shortly after the speedway hired attorneys last week, Rosen postponed — for the second time — the golf course discussion that was slated to take place at City Hall on March 16 with council members. At present, the council is scheduled to discuss it on April 20.

Last month, Rosen promised the Keys Gate community that he would at last improve the golf course — a shuttered, overgrown expanse he owns in the city’s southeast section. That promise came two months after he angrily vowed to let the golf course “go brown.”

Rosen made that earlier vow after he endured some ridicule following a news article reporting that he had asked Homestead for $3.5 million in federal anti-poverty dollars to improve the country club — and that the City Council had given its OK.

That story in the Miami Herald led to blistering blog items and a critical piece on the Daily Beast website about well-to-do people using public money meant for the poor. Rosen said his young daughter read the items and asked him why he was doing that. Stung by the criticism, the developer told the city to keep its money — which would have come in the form of a low-interest loan.

Two months later, Rosen was back and promising to fix up the golf course after all. But the promise came with a condition — that the council overturn a decision made by Homestead’s planning and zoning board.

Rather than tap the city’s $3.5 million in community development block grant money, Rosen said the $12 million needed to revamp the Keys Gate Golf and Country Club at 2300 Palm Dr. would come from his and his brother’s pockets.

Monique O. Madan: 305-376-2108, @MoniqueOMadan