Pinecrest mayor discusses expanding borders in state of the village address

Pinecrest mayor Cindy Lerner urged her small, residential south Dade village to think outside the box on Friday during her annual State of the Village address — by giving serious consideration to expanding village borders.

Lerner told residents she believed the village should “go west … the land of opportunity for us” — that is, west of US-1, between Dadeland Mall and the Falls shopping center — which would dramatically boost the village’s commercial tax base, which now only accounts for about 13 percent of village tax revenues.

A study was presented to the Council in October considering the pros and cons of several different areas west of the highway, and found that in all cases, the village was either breaking even or making money when expanded services were weighed against new revenues. According to the report, the Falls and its surroundings would bring the village the biggest surplus.

But the report didn’t just talk about new revenues — a larger municipality, it argued, would also enjoy more influence at the county and state level.

According to Lerner, the county appears amenable to annexation and incorporation, having also recently commissioned a new study on the best way forward.

Amy Goodhart, who has lived in the village since 1965 — decades before its incorporation — said she would “probably” be in favor of annexation after hearing the mayor’s speech.

“It could bring in a lot of money — they’re talking about Dadeland over to the Falls,” she said.

Lerner’s address also celebrated recognitions the village had recently snagged in several of its ongoing campaigns to go green, enhance cultural offerings, and further engage residents with their police department.

She noted the Sustainable Government Award given to the village by Sustainable Florida, and the Most Outstanding Green Elected Official recognition awarded to herself just last month by the U.S. Green Building Council.

She pointed to a doubling of crime watch groups this year, with 19 groups now active throughout the village.

Lerner also applauded Pinecrest Gardens director Alana Perez, who has been slowly building the Gardens from a simple botanical garden into notable south Florida cultural institution. The Gardens just won a $75,000 Knight Arts grant — and booked a six-month exhibition of Philip Haas’ monumental Four Seasons sculptures, arguably the artist’s most internationally acclaimed work.

Lerner also noted ongoing challenges — notably, the roughly 1,000 village homes still on well water.

“Although state and federal funding had dried up for several years after the economic downfall, now that there is a surplus in state economic picture, we have renewed our efforts… to assure we are recipients of state grants,” she told the crowd.

She ended with an anecdote about a recent League of Cities event.

“I learned how important it is to advocate with a unified voice,” she said. “At one of the state League of Cities meetings recently, someone said to me, ‘Oh Pinecrest, that’s the small town with the big reputation.’ We work hard to deserve that big reputation, so you have much to be proud of and much to celebrate.”

The full annexation study is available on the village website here.