Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Part Two: Big Bad Sprawl Is Back ... by gimleteye

On the celebration side: for the first time in the county Comprehensive Master Development Plan, climate change and sea level rise are called out and the plan will require that development decisions and infrastructure planning take them into account.

The plan updates the coastal high-hazard zone to the latest data. (Not sure if this means the Terry Murphy/VNS effort to throttle accurate sea level elevations throughout the county has made it into county plan or not...) The plan calls for exploring new sources of revenue for transit projects, including MDX revenues and road impact fees (Not sure if this paves the way for a whole new group of carpetbaggers -- the old ones, dressed in new suits -- calling for the expansion of SR 836 to Lennar, DR Homes and Parkland). It provides for dredging of Miami River tributaries. It promotes housing design that supports conservation and preservation of areas with specific historic, architectural and cultural value. For parks, it requires the county to develop a plan that assures that every resident can walk or bike to a park wherever they live so that there is equity in the distribution of park facilities in all neighborhoods.

 These EAR amendments were advertised and the text and map changes were available for review on the County’s website. One might hope for stronger language (more ‘shalls’ and ‘requires’, fewer ‘considers’ and ‘take into accounts’), but community activists and environmentalists have few friends among elected officials.

At a previous workshop the Growth Machine, predictably, questioned the Department’s population projections. Generally the higher the projection, the more pressure to move the Urban Development Boundary and (surprise) they thought the projections too low. It brought back the awful memories from 2005 when attorney Jeffrey Bercow and the same phalanx of subcontractors and planners assaulted the county planning department for failing to recognize that the building boom was based on a permanent, rapid inflow of population. The famous Neisen Kasden powerpoint presentation showing endless blue skies requiring endless expansion of build-able area. Awful.

The Growth Machine are now using outlier statistics (like the boom years) in a series (or imagine basing future population projections on out-migration after Hurricane Andrew, or, if calculation Miami’s household income figures were based on an average that included all the Miami Heat Players and Norman Braman rather than on a median, average income.) To the extent there is a plan for the future, it is all in the hands of county number crunchers; especially now that state standards for changing growth management have been burned in a dust broom closet in Tallahassee.

“Who knew?” that well paid lobbyists would take advantage of the governmental processes and the innocence (?) of the Planning Advisory Board members to dramatically expand the Urban Expansion Area to – get this – include the lingering development of Parkland? (See, Part One and if you want to understand the politics and political influence behind Parkland, use the Eye On Miami search engine.)

The staff-based EAR amendments made some changes in the UEAS and one UDB change. The UDB expansion involved the area at the NW corner of the Turnpike and State Road 826. This is a pretty big expansion but completely predictable after the unfortunate, untimely approval of the Beacon Lakes complex that left this area as an enclave. (Search on “Beacon Lakes”, too.) On the other hand, this site has been identified as a nesting site for wood storks – an endangered species. Then, on the other hand, the builders and developers are lobbying to have the wood stork removed from the endangered species list.

That’s how it always went, but it’s going faster now that arguments for “jobs” are a solvent on anything glued together over the past half century to protect our environment.

Most dangerous wetlands creature (photo by Mark Renz)

Other adjustments to the UEAs could remove areas for expansion that have development constraints. Yes – we do not want to expand into areas that are part of wellfields, Everglades Restoration areas and coastal high hazard areas. It is only smart to remove these from consideration. But, making the argument that the EAR throws the whole land use map into play, the lobbying lawyers made a case to EXPAND the UEA.

Granted they did not – this time – ask to go all the way to the Everglades, but what they did is bad enough. Of course they say, with false sincerity, that the actual UDB expansion would only occur if and when the time is right and the data calls for the expansion.

Hmm – could that be when the financing is all in place? Yes people have invested in this area. Yes they did so expecting that they would be able to develop it. But YES that is called speculative investment – gambling – and there is no vested right to anything but the current land use.

It’s hard to fight off the speculators, when so little was done to hold any accountable after the housing crash. You see, the small homeowner gets foreclosed with a computer algorithm in a heartbeat. The big developers and their big loans with banks get white glove treatment in comparison. The banks are desperate to “monetize” their stale mortgage inventory. They don't foreclose (think, Jorge Perez) because they don't want their own careers marred by signing off on millions if not hundred of millions of losses.

Depending on how much cash they have burned through in the recent past, the builders and developers may just want to get out at the highest price today, before sea levels rise and wash it all away. PT Barnum would have been right at home in 2013.

Anyhow, one Miami Dade activist writes, “You may have the money – you may have the patience – but we can be patient too. And we will bring out all of our green shirts to fight you on this. You are out of line thinking that this will be a cake walk.”

Think back to all the tax dollars you spend to support patterns of growth that clearly we cannot afford. Why should you care? As the wise woman once said, if you don’t do politics, politics does you.


Pat Milone said...

“Three Minutes”

You have 3 minutes to address The Board
With any concerns you want to report.
Too much Toll Money spent on trees!
And what about those Maintenance Fees?!
They’ll say that’s included in their Budget,
And then Raise Toll Rates to Fund New Projects!

MDX has your Future all Planned,
The 836 they want to Expand!
Westward to the Agricultural Land,
Urban Development Boundary be Damned!
They’ll make a proposal to the County Commission,
And with Developers Lobbying, might get permission.
Oh, you'll have your 3 minutes to voice Opposition,
But will MDX and County Commissioners listen?

Terry Murphy said...

Dear Gimleteye:

If you want to use my name in your blog, please be accurate. You and I both know that DERM, with the support of Commissioner Sorenson’s staff, resisted the request for LIDAR maps. The DERM Director insisted that existing elevation maps were adequate for the purposes of the Climate Change Advisory Task Force. You were at the CCATF meeting when I challenged the DERM Director’s position. He was concerned about the cost, and offered weak excuses as to why LIDAR mapping was not needed. The CCATF went along with the DERM Director. If I recall, you were a voting member of the CCATF at the time.

The Chair of the Government Operations Committee repeatedly asked for LIDAR mapping, for the simple reason that any land use policies based on sea-level-rise would require legally defensible elevation maps. Adopting land use policy using DERM maps stitched together from various sources would not survive the first court challenge. I believe the county still needs the LIDAR mapping, and would be glad to join you in petitioning for LIDAR mapping to be inserted in Mayor Gimenez’s next budget.

You are also wrong in your assertion that “for the first time” the CDMP takes into account sea-level-rise. On February 2, 2010 the County Commission adopted Ordinance No. 10-10 relating to the CDMP to “require certain drainage information be included in the analysis of CDMP amendment applications.” Of course, you have a reasonable explanation for wanting to overlook that particular Code change – your favorite Commissioner sponsored it.

In the future, please refrain from associating my name with errant information. I generally find your theories entertaining, but I do not appreciate your unfounded and reckless attacks on my integrity. As a citizen of Miami-Dade County, I remain very concerned about our future and am committed to encouraging sound public policies. Your personal attacks against me being published on a blog site are simply unacceptable. If you have some personal gripe with me, I am very interested in knowing the source of your aggravation. Shalom.