NORTH CENTRAL MIAMI-DADE – A dispute over the future of the Westview Golf and Country Club property was scheduled for an administrative hearing this Thursday, May 23, several months after the Miami-Dade County Commission voted to approve an amendment to the county’s Development Master Plan that would allow for the building of large warehouses and truck traffic in a residential neighborhood.
On Saturday, while their legal team was working on last-minute preparations for the hearing scheduled for the Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 N.W. First St., Miami, residents of the Golf Park community sponsored a fish fry to raise funds to help pay their mounting legal bills.
The hearing is an appeal by residents of the county’s decision and it will take place before the State Administrative Tribunal. Homeowners filed the administrative challenge against a change in the Master Plan that will rezone the site which straddles a section of Northwest 119th Street from parks and recreation to heavy industrial use.
“What the County Commission did was illegal because it went against the CDMP,” said attorney Greg Samms, referring to the Comprehensive Development Master Plan.
According to Samms, who is a resident and part of the legal team, a civil lawsuit filed by homeowners in Circuit Court seeking an injunction to block the proposed development by Rosal Westview LLC, new owners of the nearly 200-acre property, was dropped because the company agreed to the administrative hearing.
“Therefore there was no need to have duplicitous proceedings,” Samms said.
Rosal Westview says it will build on a quarter of the eight million square feet of space and, of that development, almost a half-million square feet will be retail. Another 1.6 million square feet will be used for what the company refers to as “a business park.”
Robert Saland of Rosal Westview told the South Florida Times that he could not comment because of the pending status of the dispute.
Residents say the proposed warehouses will have an adverse impact on their health, property values, safety and sense of community. “We’re not against development at all. We’re just against industrial,” said Samms.
The homeowners picked up strong support from the Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP. The civil rights group issued a statement expressing concern regarding the impact of the proposed development on “the well-being of the neighborhood.”
“We applaud the neighbors that have not fallen for short-term personal benefits that are miniscule to the scope of the potential development and could prove negative for the area,” the statement said. “Where in Miami-Dade can we point to development that promised jobs for the black community that ever provided significant work?”
Activist Doretha Nichson accused the County Commission and the developers of “playing havoc with what our vision of the community is.”
The legal battle is a daunting one for the residents. According to Samms, the state tribunal must decide if a fair debate took place during the County Commission hearing. That means, he said, that the issue may turn not on whether the commission made the wrong decision.
Samms was this week planning for the strong possibility of an unfavorable outcome at the hearing. If the homeowners lose at the tribunal, he said, they will challenge the zoning change itself and, if necessary, the site planning phase.
Tucker Gibbs, the attorney who originally represented the homeowners, left the case, citing health reasons, and Frank Wolland is filling in for him. A former mayor of North Miami and land-use expert, Wolland is, according to his website, a former chairman of the North Miami Planning Commission.
For Samms, the late change in attorneys presents yet another challenge and the Golf Park legal team asked for and got a
continuance that pushed back the hearing three days.
“We could not get any more time, because, under administrative rules, when the opposition files a motion for an expedited hearing it must be granted,” Samms said.
Sylvia Kemp, president of the Golf Park Home Owners Association, said the fish fry was part of an ongoing effort to raise money for the legal team.
The group, which was formed in February 2012 as a response to the proposed industrial development in their front yards, has already hosted two garage sales, with most of the items donated by area residents. Neighboring homeowners’ associations such as the Little River Farms HOA and the Tri-Community HOA have been working with and supporting the efforts of Golf Park. Another garage sale and fish fry are scheduled for 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday, May 25 at the corner of Northwest 111th Street and 22nd Avenue.
Kemp said there is another reason for such events: “an opportunity to engage our neighbors.” That outreach in the neighborhood has also involved door-to-door visits and using social media to make their case.
Over the past week, the homeowners group, which is registered as a nonprofit, created its own Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as its own website.
Jennifer Walker, a member of the Golf Park HOA, described the group’s efforts as “a real fight.”
“This is a few fighting for the many and a lot of them don’t understand how real this is,” Walker said.