spence-jones_web.jpgMIAMI – Some residents of Lemon City, one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods, are voicing concern that the Miami City Commission may be poised to change its name and erase its more than 150-year history.

Peter Ehrlich, a business owner in the area, says that City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones is leading an effort to rename a section of Miami as Little Haiti, including Little River, West Little River and Lemon City.   The idea of the renaming is “beyond rational and reasonable comprehension,” Ehrlich said in an email to South Florida Times.

“Renaming any of the neighborhoods would be a complete travesty and would show complete disregard for and disrespect of and to the history of The Magic City,” Ehrlich said.

Enid C. Pinkney, president of the Lemon City Cemetery Community Corp., drafted a resolution and delivered it the City Commissioners voicing displeasure at hearing that Lemon City’s name may be changed to Little Haiti.

“Our history is being obliterated. So many people sacrificed to make these neighborhoods what they are today,” said Pinkney. “We welcome the new people but they can’t disrespect the people who made Miami what it is today. They can call it whatever they want but they don’t need to legally change the name.”

Spence-Jones’ aides said she wasn’t commenting on the claim, despite several requests for her to explain her position. Her chief of staff, Cornielius Shiver, disagreed with Ehrlich, saying he did not see what the fuss was all about.

“As I understand and read the agenda item, it is a discussion item on requesting the Planning Department to conduct a study on boundaries for a cultural and/or neighborhood conservation district for the Little Haiti community,” Shiver said in a written statement.  “I am perplexed as to the negative sentiment and disinformation related to and concerning any recognition for the Little Haiti community.”

The issue is due to come before the City Commission meeting this Thursday at City Hall in Coconut Grove.  According to Spence-Jones’ office, the proposal is to study the feasibility of a Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD). 

An NCD embodies a set of regulations for land use which are applied to a particular area or neighborhood as a zoning overlay.   Essentially, NCD designation is intended to protect certain neighborhood characteristics for the purpose of preserving its identity.  This is particularly important when the identified area lacks a certain degree of significance culturally, historically and/or architecturally to earn a Historic Neighborhood classification. 

Shiver said the agenda item will be “a discussion on directing the Planning Department to come back with boundaries for a cultural district or a conservation district for Little Haiti.”

Spence-Jones is scheduled to introduce “a resolution establishing boundaries  … designating the Little Haiti planning study area and in so doing to direct the planning and zoning department to conduct a study and prepare a report to establish the Little Haiti Neighborhood Conservation District to provide development guidelines …”

Ehrlich  contends that this will ultimately mean official recognition of the area to be studied as “Little Haiti.”

“Many people know and love Lemon City.  Many people were born in Lemon City or they had relatives who were born in Lemon City.  Lemon City’s history goes back to 1850 and Lemon City features prominently in the history of the City of Miami,” Ehlrich said. “We would like to see Miami’s historic names remembered and respected.”  That, Shiver said, is not accurate. He criticized what he called “the concerted  effort to mislead the public by disseminating  the City of Miami NET Neighborhood Map as the proposed  boundaries for the Little Haiti community.” “Have we reached a point in our city where coexistence is not acceptable?” he said.