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County, city are at odds over land use

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http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/...st/10420013.htm

DORAL

County, city are at odds over land use

Doral officials and residents plan to show up at a meeting of the Miami-Dade County Commission today to object to plans for a new community on land within their city that is controlled by the county.

BY JENNIFER MOONEY PIEDRA

[email protected]

Plans to build some 3,000 housing units on land in Doral that the county controls has drawn opposition from city leaders who plan to attend a County Commission meeting today when the project will be discussed.

The one-square-mile tract, dubbed ''Section 8'' because of its location in the county's plat books, falls within the city's boundaries. But when Doral incorporated in 2003, its charter allowed the county to retain zoning control over the vacant land that is bounded by Northwest 90th Street to the north, Northwest 74th Street to the south, Northwest 107th Avenue to the west and Northwest 97th Avenue to the east.

At the center of the dispute is an application from Flagler Development on behalf of Century Homebuilders to create a ''traditional neighborhood design,'' also known as a ''TND.'' The fairly new development concept encourages pedestrian-friendly environments. Residents would have schools, shops, libraries, grocery stores, recreation facilities, parks and churches within walking distance of their homes.

But the plans call for building 2,998 residential units, including condos, single family homes and town houses, in a 200-acre community. That could be mean an additional 10,000 residents, city officials said.

Doral currently has 10,692 residential units, City Manager Yocelyn Galiano Gomez said. City officials object to being excluded from the process and cite it as an example of why all zoning issues should be controlled locally. Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez said incorporation leaders had been pressured to let the county keep zoning control over Section 8, and the new city has been calling for a referendum to change the charter.

''`The final arbiter should be the city of Doral,'' Bermudez said. ``We want to make sure zoning changes go before our city government to ensure that they meet our criteria.''

Bermudez says he is not opposed to development but wants it to conform to the rest of the city in terms of density and architectural design. Members of the City Council, he said, would be more responsive to the needs of the city when making zoning decisions because they live in Doral.

Sergio Pino, president of Century Homebuilders, which wants to develop the land, said the project would benefit the city.

''This is going to be a very picturesque community with a lot of amenities,'' Pino said. ``It's an amazing project.''

Two charter schools are included in the plans and would relieve some of the overcrowding in existing public schools in the city, Pino said.

Another benefit, he said, would be the convenience for people who want to live and work in the same area.

''This makes sense for the future,'' Pino said. ``We're running out of land, and people don't want to be driving far away.''

Pino is hoping differences between the city and county will not scuttle the project.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz, whose district includes Doral, would not speak on the Flagler application, but he said when making a final decision he will be looking out for all residents in the county, not just those in Doral.

''I have done everything I can for that city and I will continue to work for them,'' Diaz said, ``but we have to be very fair. There is a process.''

Doral leaders and residents have accused Diaz of not supporting them on pressing issues for the city, such as Doral's bid for ownership of Miami West Park and their objection to a plan to expand the rock mining industry just west of the city.

Opponents of Diaz say he caters to special interests rather than the needs of his constituents and cite the dispute over the Section 8 land as an example.

The commissioner rejects that claim.

''This was agreed to when Doral became a city,'' Diaz said. ``There's no hidden agendas here.''

Doral officials hope the county has a change of heart and allows them to go after the land. But that cannot happen overnight. First, a referendum must go before voters to amend the city's charter.

Bermudez said the city has been calling for the referendum since July but the county has been stalling.

Doral resident Oscar Puig-Corve, president of the prominent community group One Doral, plans to attending the meeting today to speak against the Flagler application.

On Sunday, Puig-Corve sent a mass e-mail to residents urging them to write letters to the County Commission expressing their dissatisfaction with the plans for Section 8.

''If we want to keep Doral the premier place to live, learn, work and play, we need to stop these projects from being approved,'' he wrote in the e-mail.

Puig-Corve said he supports development in Doral -- with limitations.

The Flagler development, he said, is ``unheard of.''

''This is not right and it's really going to affect us,'' Puig-Corve said in an interview. ``All of our schools are already overcrowded, we don't have roads that can sustain that kind of traffic and there aren't enough parks.''

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