Miami-Dade Commissioners to weigh creating first new city since 2005

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Miami-Dade has contemplated incorporating Biscayne Gardens since 2003.

There hasn’t been a new municipality established in Miami-Dade County in more than 16 years. That could soon change with Biscayne Gardens.

County Commissioners are to decide Sept. 1, after a public forum, whether to let voters decide on incorporating five square miles abutting four existing cities in the northeast.

If OK’d by area voters in a special election on Nov. 2, the new town would be Miami-Dade’s 35th municipality and the first since the Town of Cutler Bay incorporated in January 2005.

Biscayne Gardens would keep the neighborhood name locals have used for decades.

Bounded by Northwest 167th Street to the north, Northeast 18th Avenue to the east, Northwest 128th Street to the south and Northwest 17th Avenue/State Road 9 to the west, the area has long been considered for incorporation.

Miami-Dade Commissioners created the Biscayne Gardens Municipal Advisory Committee in September 2003 to examine the possibility. Those activities were put on hold two years later when the county imposed a moratorium on incorporations. That lasted until April 2012.

During that time (and since), county voters and officials have sunk all attempts at incorporation. Recent examples include an effort to form a new city between Aventura and North Miami Beach in 2018, which failed 51% to 49%, and another in South Dade the next year never reached a vote. The sponsoring Commissioner, Dennis Mossyanked it from consideration after facing vocal opposition from residents and his peers on the dais.

The area in question now contains nearly 35,000 residents, of whom more than half are registered voters. The Miami-Dade Elections Department estimates holding a special election on whether to incorporate would cost $94,000, a price the county would cover, but the town would repay upon incorporation.

A conglomeration of contiguous, unincorporated spaces between North Miami Beach, North Miami, Miami Gardens and Opa-locka, Biscayne Gardens is 56% residential, with less than 4% commercial and industrial development.

A map of the proposed Town of Biscayne Gardens. Image via Miami-Dade County.

Just 3% is undeveloped land. A quarter of the area is occupied by transportation, communication, and utility facilities, according to a memo Jorge Fernandez Jr. from the county’s Office of Management and Budget sent BGMAC Chair Wayne Rinhart and other members Sept. 30, 2020.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for redevelopment.

According to the Biscayne Times feature report, plans are progressing for three large apartment complexes totaling 861 units, a megachurch, and flood-stressed estate homes.

A 2014 analysis by economic management and marketing consultant PMG Associates, which envisions a council-manager form of government with a five-seat council that includes the Mayor, proposed a millage rate of 4.00 — more than twice what residents there pay now under the county’s rate for the unincorporated municipal services area (UMSA).

That could prove a deal-breaker for voters, as the area’s $44,100 median household income in 2018 falls short of the county average of $51,347, which is lower than three years ago.

“It is possible that the millage rate can be set at a slightly lower rate if the elected officials so decide,” PMG personnel wrote. “However, this action will reduce the surplus and resulting contingency amount. The officials must be cautious to ensure that the new municipality does not incur financial difficulties.”

A late 2020 breakdown showed more than 20% of the population, 6,919 people, live below the poverty line. Those numbers may have grown since the pandemic, as may have the area’s 7% unemployment rate, which was higher at the time than the county is now during the pandemic-driven economic downturn.

Biscayne Gardens is 69% non-Hispanic Black, 19.5% Hispanic, and 7.2% non-Hispanic white. The average value of a home there is just over $197,000.

Thirteen public schools would serve the town, including seven elementary schools, four middle schools, and two high schools.

A Miami-Dade revenue analysis found Biscayne Gardens to be a recipient community. Upon incorporation, UMSA would gain about $2.9 million per year from providing fewer services to Biscayne Gardens.

In a memo to Commissioners, Miami-Dade Finance Director Ed Marquez noted that if incorporations resume throughout the county, services to UMSA residents will eventually be cost-prohibitive.

“As annexations and incorporations continue to occur, at some point in time, it will no longer be financially feasible for UMSA to exist,” he wrote. “It is difficult to say with certainty when UMSA will reach this point; it depends upon what areas incorporate, the timing of those incorporations, annexations of areas, and what is left to fund the services for the remaining UMSA. As less revenue is available to fund the services, the remaining areas will pay more for (them) and/or departments will be required to reduce service levels and/or personnel.”

The area contains a county water and sewer pump station, trash and recycling center, and a $60 million mobility complex whose construction the Florida Department of Transportation now expects to complete by fall. All are anticipated to remain under Miami-Dade control, pending an interlocal agreement with the town.

The town would also have three parks, including Oak Grove Park, which features a 20,000-square-foot community center that costs roughly $1 million yearly to operate and maintain. That cost, which was not included in a pro forma PMG drew up, would fall to the town if incorporated.

Biscayne Gardens would still receive Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, county library, and solid waste collection services “in perpetuity,” Marquez wrote.

The town would also need to contract with the Miami-Dade Police Department for local patrolling for at least three years, agree to the county retaining much of its power over-restrictive zoning covenants, adopt the county’s workforce housing development program, assume responsibility for its pro rata share of debt service for outstanding county bonds, and affirm the county’s continued jurisdiction over a community redevelopment area between Northwest 135th and Northwest 165th streets along Northwest Seventh Avenue within the theoretical town’s bounds.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime, whose district encompasses Biscayne Gardens, directed county attorneys to draw up the resolution that, if approved, would call for the special election.

While Monestime is the face of the movement in county government, the driving force on the ground has long been Bernard Jennings, a Biscayne Gardens resident who has already drawn up a sample town charter, formed a pro-incorporation political committee, and created a website, among other activities.

But as The Miami Times reported, there is strong opposition to the move, represented in part by a counter-website and protesters who will undoubtedly fill Miami-Dade County Hall to voice their objection Wednesday.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


9 comments

  • Richard Hoard

    August 28, 2021 at 6:02 am

    Work for 2-3 hours 1n your spare OO time and get paid $1200 0n y0ur bank acc0unt every week…

    Get more information 0n f0ll0wing site… .http://moneystar7.gq/

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    August 29, 2021 at 8:35 am

    Nothing more than a power/money grab by those who would gain in both areas by creating yet another layer of government. Poor people would lose…again.

  • Elizabeth Judd

    September 1, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    Miami Dade Commission agrees to allow Biscayne Gardens to hold election in November, 2021, on the question of the right to incorporate. The key points to consider is do you want to be annexed by; North Miami, North Miami Beach, or Opa Locka?
    That 4% will look like pennies compared to overnight payment of 7% to 9% as an alternative if annexed by the aforementioned cities…

    • Harold Balz

      September 2, 2021 at 9:53 pm

      Elizabeth, you have been stating that same scare tactic for the past 18 years. Since Biscayne Gardens is a recipient community in which the County provides almost $3 million more in services than they collect in taxes (per this article) other cities are not interested in annexing Biscayne Gardens. That’s why it hasn’t happened and never will. There is no way that the new city of Biscayne Gardens can operate at the 4 mil rate when the city has no infrastructure and no equipment. Then there’s the $1.1 million Rec center that is not included in the budget that the county currently pays for. It would be transferred to the wallets of the residents who would have to pay for it in the form of a millage increase in their taxes. Miami Gardens started out at 3 mills ten years ago, now they are up to almost 8 mils when debt service is included. And then there’s the current MD Police Dept. staffing of 60 police officers that will be cut down to 32 with the new city because the County won’t be subsidizing Biscayne Gardens with their $3 million donation. Finally, the 4 mil tax rate only allows a total of 30 city staff (plus 32 police) to run a city of 35,000. An unrealistic low number. There isn’t a comparable city of 35,000 that has that few staff. More $$$, Less Police, Less Services. The Bait and Switch fix is on. This will devastate low income families when their rent goes up because of the need to support a new level of expensive government cheese and homeowners will be squeezed even more by this new city tax on top of increases in their property taxes and insurance. As Charlotte stated, there is no need for this money grab. Just vote it down.

    • Jason Meade

      September 3, 2021 at 3:04 pm

      Elizabeth is one of the community organizers spreading false information about incorporation for years. Everyone knows she wants a city job at taxpayer expense. Vote No Incorporation on November 2, 2021 to keep people like her from raising our taxes.

  • Jose Urena

    September 3, 2021 at 6:00 am

    There has to be a vote to annex and the residents opposing incorporation will also vote no to annexation.

  • Jason Meade

    September 3, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    Incorporation will immediately bring higher taxes, fewer services and invites corruption to our neighborhood. Those supporting incorporation seek elected or appointed city jobs (like the earlier comment from Elizabeth Judd) at the expense of taxpayers. Vote no incorporation on November 2nd, 2021. Visit BadTax.net to join to opposition.

  • Nancy Hopkins

    September 4, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    What is really a telling statement of who these people pushing incorporation are concerns their timing. Good neighbors would not have pursued this life changing proposition for thousands of people, who could possibly loose their homes, in the middle of this health and economic crisis.

  • Donald Bartels

    September 4, 2021 at 9:10 pm

    I attended the meeting on 9/1 2021. It was an unprofessional “Dog & Pony” show. They deliberately manipulated the agenda so as to reduce public input to 1 minute instead of the agreed upon 2 minutes. Go to this link for entire meeting, then scroll down to item 5FF. https://miamidade.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=6857

Comments are closed.


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