Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Krome Gold and its pleasing fenestrations, by gimleteye

Eyeonmiami is a window, a "pleasing fenestration" if you will, to the zoning manipulation and other acts of political largesse passing as Chamber of Commerce values that The Miami Herald and other mainstream media will not criticize, notwithstanding the McClatchy corporate claim on its website: "speaking truth to power".

I couldn't have come up with "pleasing fenestration" on my own. The phrase is hoisted from the application to Miami Dade County Planning and Zoning of a development project, Krome Gold, represented by Holland and Knight attorney of zoning requests to move the Urban Development Boundary, Juan Mayol.

Krome Gold proposes to change the underlying zoning on 466 acres of land, to provide for a development oriented toward equestrian activities and 5 acre ranchettes outside the Urban Development Boundary. The project includes a plan for 58 multimillion dollar homes and a 173-acre fish stocked lake. "The residences and the clubhouse have been designed with elevations that mimic the characteristics of ranch-style rural residential homes designed with architecturally pleasing fenestrations such as decorative dormers and decorative brick facings on the chimney."

Krome Gold turns out to be the best example how powerful lobbyists, bankers, and real estate speculators use local government zoning processes to socialize risk and privatize profit, and in doing so cause the quality of life in Miami Dade to be diminished one zoning application at a time.

Krome Gold was born of the irrepressible optimism of the housing bubble. Today, homebuilder sentiment may be at record lows, as lending tightens closer than the sphincter of a land speculator stuck with property bought at the height of the building boom, but builders and development interests who own properties like Krome Gold, at the western fringe of Miami Dade County bordering the Everglades, are frantic.

Miami New Times reports that the investors (more of that, later) bought the property in 2005 and 2006 for $58.5 million, or, $125,000 an acre. An informed source advises its current value is less than half the price, as agricultural land.

The Krome Gold partnership includes a virtual who's who of Miami suburban sprawl advocacy.

When it became clear to the owners of Krome Gold that their original plan for suburban sprawl would not pass muster, they reformulated their strategy to create an "equestrian center" and 5 acre ranchettes around a lake. Why market ranchettes, when Lennar's Savannah Estates-- also marketed to the equestrian crowd-- are going begging?

The point is the lake. And not the lake--because these excavated lakes are really algae ponds--, but the limestone that will be dredged to form the lake. Surely some infrastructure project can be found by the politically connected owners to suck up the limestone, providing some cash flow to carry the project until the market for suburban sprawl bounces back?

Or, perhaps the limestone could be used for another project-- 7,000 homes planned next door by Parkland, a partnership between Lennar and Ed Easton-- that requires fill pads because the land is in a flood plain. But I'm getting ahead of the story.

The process to rezone the Krome Gold land outside the Urban Development Boundary for new uses including rock mining began in December 2007. It will finally be heard by the unreformable majority of the Miami Dade County Commission two weeks after the August 26 election.

What a convenient fenestration this example provides. It proves, among other points, why returning the choice to voters on changes to land use maps that govern development will become state law when-- finally-- Florida Hometown Democracy is allowed on the ballot to change the Florida Constitution. (The very interests that push developments like Krome Gold forward are desperate to keep Florida Hometown Democracy away from voters.)

But this fenestration provided by Krome Gold is only about Florida Hometown Democracy through the side view window. Here is what looking through the windshield finds you:

No finer description of a Potemkin Village ever masked the political means to convert Florida farmland and open space to suburban sprawl, the wealth creator until the housing bubble burst. The ownership society turned out to be a model of financial destruction.

Of course, the slow motion implosion caught such projects as Krome Gold and its investors stranded like dancers in a strobe light. Ed Easton, the original assembler of Parkland, is a major Repubican campaign contributor who, in this election cycle alone, has combined family contributions of nearly $100,000 to Republican causes and candidates. Sergio Pino, a prime force within the Krome Gold partnership, has hedged his bets and those of his family (more than $60,000 in total, this cycle) among Democrats with dozens of contributions, weighted in favor of Republican candidates 3-1. (date source: Opensecrets.org)

Krome Avenue fronts as a major transit corridor for the remaining 70,000 acres of farmland in Miami Dade County. To comply with state law requiring “concurrency” of infrastructure along with zoning and building permits, roadways must offer adequate service capacity. As a two-lane road, Krome Avenue needed to be widened in order to unlock the vast wealth in converting nearby farmland, at the edge of the Everglades, to suburban sprawl.

In 2003 (when farmland acres in Miami Dade County was closer to 90,000) the environmental group Friends of the Everglades wrote about the plan to widen Krome Avenue, since approved by the County Commission: “The argument by proponents is that the road will be safer. Originally opposed by the Florida Department of Community Affairs because it violated state regulations designed to prevent sprawling development at urban edges, the project won approval after advocates led a successful effort to approve the widening on the grounds of safety. But what doesn’t fit the widening for safety argument is that most of the deaths on this road happen at the northern end, a 20 plus mile stretch from Kendall Drive north to Okeechobee Road.”

Rodney Barreto--the chairman of the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission and political appointee by former Governor Jeb Bush--is another key investor in Krome Gold. Barreto was also the main force behind inthe effort to widen Krome Avenue, the westernmost transit corridor flanking the Everglades, generating widespread sympathy based on traffic fatalities on the unlit, rural road. In none of these hearings to widen Krome Avenue to provide "desperately needed safety" did it occur to question whether Mr. Barreto was also a land speculator on lands adjacent to Krome Avenue.

When environmental groups sued in state administrative court to object to the widening of Krome Avenue, as a matter of violating state growth management law, county planners settled by agreeing to stipulate that Krome Avenue would not be used in future applications for the purposes of concurrency. The majority of Miami Dade County Commissioners rejected the settlement.

County planning staff have recommended denial of Krome Gold's application, but the County Commission ignored its earlier advisories to reject two applications to move the Urban Development Boundary that the State of Florida recently rejected, citing the county's own planning staff. The result? Miami Dade taxpayers, who strongly oppose moving the Urban Development Boundary-- on the order of 70 percent according to recent polls-- are now funding county legal staff to pursue litigation against the State of Florida.

The State of Florida, in rejecting earlier applications to move the UDB, is very likely to take the same course-- of rejecting local land speculators-- notwithstanding the massive amounts of campaign money that have been spread about, and mostly to Republican candidates as a perfunctory matter of greasing the development wheels.

It doesn't seem to register to investors-- at least from a distance-- that the great suburban sprawl development machine now lays rusted and broken on the side of the road. Its drivers are kicking the metal and the busted wheel rims, pouring gasoline on burnt out hulk, wondering why it just won't get up and go. This is not a view that the Krome Gold investors would embrace, on the hook as they are for approximated $25 million-- the difference between current value and purchase price-- but it is nonetheless a fenestration through which the antics of the housing boom will not return any time soon.


out of sight said...
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out of sight said...

It is BIG picture time:

I suggest that you Google the West Kendall turnpike area northwest of MetroZoo and follow the train tracks.

Over near the airport out there the tracks split and amazingly (not) the train tracks follow a path to the south of the airport, west towards Parkland's east corner and then towards Krome Gold and on up to the concrete plant area on the west side of Krome Ave and Kendall Drive. I may be off a bit in its exact location, but the track is close enough to serve the purpose of certain people.

Do not forget to calculate the dollar value of the fill that is removed.

Fill that is removed off site creates a rock mining issue. Where is DERM on that?

What about airport encroachment? Does that matter, or is it okay to squeeze out the executive airport and push the Homestead Reserve Base into BRAC? And who would that benefit? Would the status of the HARB lawsuit come into play here?

Don't people who buy homes (and commissioners who allow the developments to happen) expect planes to fly to, and around an airport? Airport encroachment matters. That airport is one of our county's valued assets. The county officials should protect it.

How come our commissioners do not ask the tough questions that serve the community?

Anonymous said...

The BOYZ, with their "business school manners" as you so brilliantly have characterized the Mercedes/good grooming crew, want to "Krome it out" and won't stop till they drop. Haven't they heard that the music stopped?

out of sight said...


Gimmey, great photo!

I hope people realize that all those brown and green patches are farm parcels. It doesn't look as neat (or as farm-like)from the ground as it does from the air, mainly due to the wind breaks that are allow to grow up and the fallow land.

Even the Homestead development crew got in on the Parkland deal. That should make us feel good about that application.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone should show the commissioners a few pics of the 5 acre "ranchettes" that comprise Ranchos del Sol out on 217th Ave.There can't be more than a half dozen houses that are occupied and they are beginning to look a bit disheveled.Or maybe a pic of Lennar's million dollar homes also located on 217th Ave-all of them empty.Even the land around the houses that had been cleared for crops has grow up into lovely stands of grasses that will soon block out the view of this fallow development.

Anonymous said...

FDOT conducted 2 Citizens Advisory Committees to "design" the new Krome Avenue.
Krome North went from 136 St north to Okeechobee Rd and Krome South from 136 St south to 296 St.
The selection of the members was political but Krome South yelled long enough to broaden the membership. Krome North did not care. The committee was largely rock miners and Rodney Baretto (land owner). It also had 1 resident (1 member replacing another) both up the butt cheeks of Joe Martinez; first Jeff Wander later replaced by Lawrence Percival.
Krome South met for over a year asking questions and demanding facts. They were stonewalled by FDOT. Krome South also had on their committee former banker Bill Losner and lots of Farm Bureau developers in overalls. The battle was brutal but FDOT followed their marching orders and decided the ONLY answer was a huge 4 lane road through farmland.
Krome North met 2 or 3 times and gave FDOT the nod to do a grand 4 lane road through environmentally sensitive lands. No opposition there.
The horrible thing is that Krome Ave is probably the most poorly maintained road in the county. Two cramped lanes, no shoulders, pavement drop offs, pot holes, no signeage, no enforcement, zip nada nothing. FDOT refused to admit that the accidents were due to their own neglect and they refused to seriously consider road improvements. This despite experts who pointed to the condition of the road as a factor in the accidents. Four lanes was the agenda and it was what the developers wanted! So, logic and common sense aside, it was done.

Anonymous said...

I walked through Ranches Del Sol the other day. Thieves have already stolen the A/C motors. The mosquitos were so bad that I ran back to my vehicle. The weeds are penetrating the brick pavers and the tall grass is obscuring the view of the backyards. The cost of insurance out there alone must be unaffordable.

Same can be said about the Lennar property up the road on Campbell Drive. I saw the fire dept training in there the other day. I didn't see any fire hydrants though.

out of sight said...

Ranches del Sol sounds like a great place to take my kid paint balling.

Anonymous said...

The Krome Golds, one on Krome and one on 200 St, are both outside the UDB where the land use is agriculture. The Krome Gold groups of investors took advantage of the one house on 5 acres allowed to avoid a "move the UDB" battle. What they did was to make each 5 acre lot part of the lake so the dry land is less than 5 acres. Perfectly legal? Yes and no. The Master Plan says that the predominant use outside the UDB is agriculture and housing/business is secondary to agriculture. So is a 5 acre homesite, allowed, half under water secondary to agriculture? Of course not. In fact it removes land from ever being farmed making farming secondary to residential; a situation that will never be reversed. In the meantime the "investors" get lots of rock/money for Parkland and probably years before any houses are built, if ever. These applications may be appear legal but they are illegal according to the master plan.
Joe Martinez has been pushing for the rail out west to be a commuter train, by shear coincidence it would serve both Krome Gold and the planned Parkland.Traffic consultant to the connected, Kathy Sweetapple, manages to get the rail in all her projects including Parkland, Krome Gold and a leg to the new boondoggle Disneyzoo.
Will the commission spit in the face of Baretto (they sure did not on Krome Avenue)and his connected cronies or follow the law?
I know the answer but what do you think?

out of sight said...

Will the commission spit in the face of Baretto

Let's see, to answer your question:

No, nein, non, 化, Nr, Αριθ, NÃO, НЕТ, رفض

It all is NO, no matter what language you post it in.