Miami-Dade Commission overturns Mayor’s veto, reapproves expanding development boundary
Image via Miami-Dade County.

SouthDade Project
It's the first expansion to the county’s Urban Development Boundary in nearly decade.

Miami-Dade Commissioners disregarded Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s plea for conservation Tuesday, overriding her veto of legislation expanding the Urban Development Boundary (UDB) that protects agricultural and protected lands, including the Everglades, from residential and commercial development.

The move, approved by an 8-4 vote, is the first expansion of the boundary in nearly a decade and will allow a 379-acre industrial complex to rise on farmland just west of Biscayne Bay by Homestead.

Commissioners initially OK’d the “South Dade Logistics & Technology District” project north of Southwest 268th Street by the Florida Turnpike on Nov. 1, nine days before Levine Cava vetoed it.

Chair and Vice Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Oliver Gilbert III, as well as Keon Hardemon, Kionne McGhee, Jean Monestime, Raquel Regalado, Rebeca Sosa and Javier Souto voted for the item, while Danielle Cohen Higgins, Sally Heyman, Eileen Higgins and René García voted “no.”

Those votes remained the same Tuesday — García retroactively cast his vote after arriving late — to override the veto by a required two-thirds majority from the Commission dais.

The vote ended a process dating back more than a year that included numerous deferrals and impassioned testimony from members of the public and environmental groups seeking to stop the cluster of warehouses and other commercial facilities from being built.

Regalado, who originally opposed the project, changed her mind after developers increased the amount of wetlands it would buy and donate to offset the project’s impacts. The switch provided the necessary vote for a supermajority.

Proponents of the largely undefined project pointed to its employment potential, creating anywhere from 7,000 to 17,000 new jobs, in an area long in need of local industry. They cited a commitment developers Stephen Blumenthal and David Brown of Coral Rock Development Group and Jose Hevia of Aligned Real Estate Holdings made to purchase and give the county 622 acres for preservation.

In an October guest column in the Miami Herald, Blumenthal and Hevia said a “large percentage” of the project site — which they have under contract from multiple entities — contains soil contaminated with arsenic, the cleanup for which was estimated to cost $47 million.

A digital rendering of the South Dade Logistics & Technology District near Homestead. Image via Coral Rock Development Group.

Following the veto override, a spokesperson for them released a statement saying, in part, the South Dade Logistics & Technology District “is one step closer to bringing thousands of good-paying jobs to the fastest-growing community in all of Miami-Dade County.”

Detractors of the project, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, bashed the project for its potential to reverse restoration efforts in Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. Hold the Line Coalition, a group dedicated to keeping the UDB in place, noted determinations by independent experts and county staff that there is “sufficient land near existing infrastructure” elsewhere to build the project.

It also doesn’t take into consideration how to move people in and out of the area, according to a local transit union of county workers.

“Choosing to expand the UDB and encroach on nature with no viable or sustainable transit plan for its residents in place is both socially and environmentally irresponsible,” Transport Workers Union Local 291 President Jeffrey Mitchell said in a statement. He added that the union stands behind the Mayor’s decision to veto the plan “not only in the name of protecting our environment but also our quality of life.”

Moving the UDB “threatens all the work” the county and state has done to fortify communities against sea level rise and restore the local ecosystem, among other things, Levine Cava said.

She argued the project “brings no guarantee of jobs for South Dade residents while setting a dangerous precedent to allow irresponsible development in the areas most at risk for flooding and sea-level rise.”

“Our bay is in peril. Our federal and state agencies say this land is critical to protect it and our future,” she told Commissioners moments before they overrode her.

“This is not about politics. To vote for this project is to vote against the future of (Biscayne Bay), our clean water, our farmland and our people. It opens the floodgates to sprawl and unsustainable development that threatens our economy and our health. That’s why the application has faced overwhelming bipartisan opposition from federal, state, local and tribal leaders.”

Speaking to Diaz, Heyman, Monestime, Sosa and Souto, for whom Tuesday marked their last meeting as Commissioners due to term limits, Levine Cava continued, “The truth is that this project will benefit a few at the expense of the many, at the expense of our shared economic prosperity and our precious, natural environment. This Commission has done so much for our economy, for our transit, for our environment. Don’t let this last vote be your legacy.”

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.


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