Seeking control

Miami Gardens wants what other cities in Miami-Dade County have: The ability to set its own course, its own direction, its own destiny.

But it can’t, not fully — not yet. There’s hope, though, that that’s about to change, and it should.

There’s not one, but two 800-pound gorillas in the room: The first is Miami-Dade County, which has retained control over the football stadium that sits within the city’s borders and property around it. The second is the Miami Dolphins, which, though a good neighbor, is understandably looking out for its best interests.

According to Miami Gardens’ charter, Section 9.6: “In recognition of he fact that the stadium properties...have significant importance to the economy and well-being of all Miami-Dade County, jurisdiction over the properties says that the stadium properties for purposes of zoning and building approvals, water and sewer installations, compliance with environmental regulations, street maintenance, and utility regulations shall remain with Miami-Dade County.”

That’s a mouthful, but that was the “ransom” the county demanded for agreeing to let Miami Gardens incorporate, and it is what advocates agreed to “pay” to be allowed to stand on their own. However, after 11 years, the city is still being held hostage to this clause, and its leaders say that it’s time to make a clean break of it.

The agreement means that the city cannot go ahead and make planning and zoning decisions for the undeveloped — and no doubt, desirable — areas surrounding the stadium, much less have any say over what happens on the stadium property itself. The lack of control continues to result in lost opportunity, lost revenue and the inability to do what every other city can — determine the use of property within its borders. That’s patently unfair.

The city charter also references the date “Dec. 31, 2012,” a projection of nine years from the time the county inserted the provision into the city’s charter. Miami Gardens and the county disagree as to whether it indicates when this charter provision was to end. The city said: “Of course!” The county responded: “We don’t think so.”

The city, in July, sued. However, as Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert told the Editorial Board last month, he and the county planned to sit down and see what negotiations could yield, in spite of what he called the “inartfully crafted” language in the charter. They did. Smart move.

On Sept. 3, the Miami-Dade County Commission agreed in principle to let Miami Gardens control building and zoning in the stadium area. This is where city leaders want to nurture development of a hotel, restaurants and businesses that entice football fans and concert goers to spend some cash.

However, the jury is still out on whether the city will take control of the stadium — and the lawsuit still stands.

Miami Gardens is a growing and dynamic city — the third-largest municipality in the county after Miami and Hialeah. Incidents of violent crime and rogue police officers have made the front pages, but municipal leaders and residents make clear that the city is much more than what headlines portray.

In a show of confidence in its elected officials, residents this year approved a $60-million general obligation bond that will help improve parks, build recreation facilities and make public-safety enhancements.

Miami Gardens is a city on the move. The county should get out of its way.