Miami Springs voters have approved a measure annexing a sliver of commercial and industrial land in the business district around Miami International Airport.
The city has been trying to acquire the area for 16 years, but the passage of the measure — which won more than 60 percent of the vote — doesn’t make it a done deal: A pair of lawsuits hangs over the annexation attempt, which also requires a lengthy process to gain county approval.
The land in question amounts to only 1.59 square miles and has only 10 residents. But taxes from the area would generate $4.7 million, according to the city’s estimates, and would allow the city to lower its tax rate from $7.35 to $4.94 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Miami Springs began its annexation effort in 2002 and spent $283,000 over the next decade on related expenses. Its initial attempts were stymied by conflicting annexation applications from Virginia Gardens, Medley and Doral. The four municipalities reached a compromise in 2009 and resubmitted applications.
Last fall, eight property owners sued Miami Springs and the county over the annexation. Their complaint argues that the most recent application wasn’t approved by voters and wasn’t a new application as requested by the county. The complaint also claims that the annexed area isn’t contiguous to the city — a Miami Springs charter requirement — except for a narrow band of land at the northern end. And it argues that the annexation would violate county code by creating a new “enclave,” the thin sliver of land between the city and the annexation area. That enclave consists of the Florida East Coast Railway’s Hialeah Rail Yard, which was removed in response to FEC’s protests years ago.
“The area to be annexed is not appropriate for annexation under the county’s rules,” said Christopher David, an attorney representing the property owners. “It’s an effort by the city of Miami Springs to raise revenue off of the backs of non-residents.”
This February, a Miami Springs resident who owns property in the annexation area sued the city on similar grounds.
The Miami-Dade County Commission still has the final say on the city’s annexation. To make matters more confusing, the multi-step process means plenty of opportunities for the proposal to be halted or to fizzle out.
Both the county’s office of management and budget and its planning advisory board review annexation applications, then the planning board and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez give recommendations to the County Commission. Once a proposal passes a vote by the government operations committee, the full commission makes its decision in a public hearing.