The principal difference between an economically cohesive modern city and the disjointed traffic-jammed nightmare of urban sprawl that we call Miami boils down to two things:
A central planning regime that takes unique local conditions into account, and the discipline to enforce it vs. chipping away at planning protections meant for the greater good in order to benefit a few.
Greater Miami has a holistic plan for development, and we have even embraced other efforts, such as seven50, which was endorsed by Miami Dade County. The planning department has also identified the best areas for growth within the Urban Development Boundary near current transportation corridors 10 feet to 14 feet above sea level.
Conversely, we see elevations of 3 feet to 6 feet on the western edge of the county where the Urban Expansion Areas are with no transportation corridor to offer. It is easy to see this is not the place to invest limited tax dollars; nor is it the place to encourage people to live, work and play.
All we need now is the discipline to stay the course that was set decades ago. There is no need to always have a supply of vacant land; that formula will never incentivize infill investments. As we bring online the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) plan and other public transit measures, we no longer will have a need to move the UDB. Instead, we can convert surface parking lots and vacant lots into future growth and offer vibrant multiuse areas accessible by public transit.
We must start making the right decisions so that we can continue to acquire insurance to protect our families and 30-year mortgages and maintain home and land values. Moving the line six times during the past 25 years has gotten us into the traffic mess we have today. We cannot continue to erode the plan any further. We have already lost 52,000 square miles of land that could be helping to recharge our aquifer and grow our food, which ultimately would make us a more stable and resilient community.
Losing more land is not an option.
Moving the UDB incentivizes sprawl. On June 13, what we’ll see with Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz’s resolution at the Government Operations Committee is just a backdoor move to ultimately move the UDB — again. The measure intends to correct the symptoms of past sprawl by expanding a road at what some hope will be the future edge of our community. This in turn, will inevitably incentivize even more sprawl farther to the west, so as to take advantage of this new infrastructure. It’s claimed that this will be a multimodal option, but who will be taking a rapid bus on the edge of the Everglades? All the while, the money that could have gone toward expanding public transit in the interior is squandered on this project while the taxpayer burden for road construction, water and sewer and maintenance grows ever higher.
The Urban Development Boundary encourages the compact and walkable urban centers we desperately need, strengthens the viability of agriculture, protects unique and environmentally sensitive lands, and preserves restoration projects that will aid the county’s resiliency against sea level rise and salt-water intrusion into the aquifer.
Miami’s population now stands at almost 3 million. Residents should contact county commissioners and the mayor to demand that they not change the comprehensive master plan by allowing a road to be built in the swamp and a rapid transit bus project to nowhere. Let them know this is a back door to moving the UDB and encouraging sprawl that will only serve to worsen our problems.
Laura Reynolds is environmental consultant for Friends of the Everglades.