Monday, April 26, 2010
3 Days to D Day: Who wants to move the Urban Development Boundary and will you come to the County Commission on Wednesday to watch? by gimleteye
Who wants to move the Urban Development Boundary? Supermarket chains, Lowe's Home Improvement: more homeowners, more stores. It is a model perfectly suited for land speculation fueled by cheap debt and the power of derivatives. Its advocates included the former president of the Latin Builders Association, Willy Bermello, who wrote in The Miami Herald in 2005 dismissing critics of the housing boom, "This bubble is not made of latex. It is made of stainless steel." Bermello was also giving voice to his colleagues; land speculators who control County Hall through zoning lobbyists and campaign contributions.
Come down on Wednesday. Join the public to express what you feel about the costs of growth that have resulted in whopping billion dollar infrastructure deficits, not to mention current deficits. It should be an interesting meeting. It's much better than television, the same way that going to the ballpark gives you a view of the game that encompasses so much more than who is batting or fielding, throwing or catching. You have to see the side-glances, the way that staff look at each other or bury their faces in the crook of their arms when lies and demagogues take flight at the microphones. Watch Katy Sorenson in her final CDMP zoning hearing as a county commissioner. Will she say, "I told you so", about overdevelopment to her colleagues on the dais? Will they ignore her? Will Natacha Seijas and Joe Martinez turn away as she speaks, or Dorrin Rolle pick up his Get Smart phone? Will Pepe walk down from the dais to talk to his lobbyist friends in the audience? Will Dennis Moss, the chairman of the commission, take the opportunity to explain to his colleagues how he has watched history unfold in the last decade at the Urban Development Boundary, and that none of the arguments in favor of destroying farmland and bending to the will of speculators bear the stamp of legitimate need? Come down and watch the zoning attorneys say to their surrogates on the county commission: "you have to take control, today, because Florida Hometown Democracy is coming in November."
A representative sample of land speculators who strenuously oppose Florida Hometown Democracy could be drawn from this group: the directors of US Century Bank. Some are better known than others, but together they are dedicated to the growth model called suburban sprawl that has been gathering rust since the housing bust.
Ordinary homeowners who can't make their mortgage payments are forced into foreclosure, but it is not clear that the same is true-- or always true or only sometimes so-- for large landowners holding property purchased as speculative investments when they own the bank. Based on the carnage from so much overdevelopment fueled by cheap debt and greed, it is safe to say that unless the advocates for sprawl were also shorting the market at the same time (like Goldman Sachs) that here and elsewhere the Growth Machine chewed up the Florida landscape billionaires are now only centimillionaires, centimillionaires are worth only tens, and some who own banks are only worth as much as the federal government permits them to guess-timate.
What is clear is that land owned outside the Urban Development Boundary is a ticking time bomb if the bank that owns the bank comes calling; if collateral or capital infusions to stave off takeovers requires liquidation at fire sale prices; if new financial institutions are not so warm and cuddly to the locals.
Take a drive around the forsaken perimeter of the Urban Development Boundary today: all you see are "for sale" signs. The boundary in Miami-Dade is where suburban sprawl dropped dead, or, only exists because federal tax policy-- shaped by the homebuilders in Congress--is still spitting out incentives for first time buyers.
If you come down to the County Commission on Wednesday, this is the subtext of the urgency to move the Urban Development Boundary. For instance, take the application by Ferro. To understand why the Ferro application is important, you have to study who owns the land AROUND the Ferro application. Neighbor, CMH Investment, Inc. is Jose Machado, Jorge Correa, Emiliano Herran and Agustin Herran. Out of the 9 Board Members of U.S. Century Bank, 4 of them, Agustin Herran, Armando Guerra, Sergio Pino and Ramon Rasco, have property ownership surrounding this property. And, not very far from here also outside the UDB line, a fifth U.S. Century board member, Rodney Barreto, has property. You also have D.R. Horton waiting a couple of properties away, the mega production home builder that calls itself: "America's Builder".
Move it for Ferro today, move it for the others next time around. It is difficult to estimate how much money is tied up in the adjacent land, now farmland stretching to Krome Avenue. Immediately adjacent to Ferro, we could count up $150 million that moved into developer hands since 2003. Someone owns that land and someone wants it freed up by a zoning change for more suburban sprawl.
What is interesting, of course, is that there is no need for zoning changes at this time. Not for commercial space. Not for residential. Every argument that the Growth Machine and the engineering cartel used in the past, is now dead in the water. Housing costs, too high? Not anymore. Not even Habitat for Humanity is building new structures. County statistics no longer valid? Need to accommodate the "tidal wave" of new residents? That is so yesterday.