adora_obi_nweze_3.jpgIt wasn’t so long ago that the Village of Miami Shores acquired land which had been the Miami-Dade County site for auto inspections to store their garbage trucks, heavy duty vehicles and equipment, including tractors and miscellaneous machinery.

Miami Shores’ zoning restrictions prohibited such use within the village itself.  As a result, land located at Northwest 17th Avenue and 103rd Street, smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood of primarily African-American residents, was appropriated for such use by the Miami Shores Waste Department, complete with all its garbage trucks, machine shop and equipment – and with the support of the county.  That occurred even though residents objected.

Now, many years later, residents of the West Grove are suffering an all too similar injustice. The city of Coral Gables acquired land in this residential area – outside its city limits – for the operation of the city’s trolley fleet and related operational activities.

The problem is the next-door neighbors of the facility are the residents of the Historic West Grove.
Can you imagine a real estate developer purchasing land situated in the middle of an established neighborhood in Miami Shores or Coral Gables and then pushing through rezoning to change the land from residential to industrial in order to accommodate warehouses?

We all know that would never take place because the residents of those communities would never allow it and developers would never seriously entertain such a notion in the first place.  However, for reasons beyond the comprehension of the residents of the Westview area in Northwest Miami-Dade, real estate developers are doing exactly that in their community, despite their objections and efforts to prevent it.

Real estate developers Rosal Westview LLC purchased the nearly 200 acres of land that once was the historic Westview Golf Resort and Country Club which closed in May, 2011.  In October 2011, the developers petitioned Miami-Dade County to amend the Comprehensive Development Master Plan and zoning laws to change the land use from Parks and Recreation and Low to Medium Density Residential  to Industrial.

Determined to protect their property and  quality of life, members of the Golf Park, Tri-Community and Little River Farms Homeowners Associations, three communities that make up the Westview Neighborhood Associations, are poised to challenge, in court, action that will allow for such intense and incompatible development. 

The proposed plans would situate the development/buildings literally at the very center of the community of single-family homes on Golf Drive  which runs parallel to the property line of the former golf course. The vast majority of the approximately 150 single-family homes on Golf Drive directly face the proposed development and their front doors are less than 100 feet from its property line.

Many of the residents of Westview have made lifetime investments in the purchase of their homes. Many have lived there for more than three decades. They have raised their children there and it is where their grandchildren play after school or visit them on weekends.

It is a neighborhood with a rich tradition and residents who care about one another. Together, they are now standing strong in their refusal to sit idly by while Rosal Westview LLC tears apart the very fabric of their community. 

Would Rosal Westview LLC ask the children of Key Biscayne or Pinecrest to watch for trucks as they deliver goods to nearby warehouses in their community?  Would they ask the residents of Doral to endure the noise and pollution that heavy diesel trucks would bring to their neighborhood? I think not.

We are all too familiar with the snake oil that developers sell in their relentless pursuit of the almighty dollar. They have promised jobs and said with absolute certainty that the quality of life in Westview will not be diminished by their project but we know this is untrue.

However, the most alarming aspect of this proposition is the seeming disregard for residents in minority neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County. The developers originally filed their application/petition in October 2011.  Initially reviewed and transmitted by appropriate county staff in the required process, the application was denied at the first-level hearing before the Miami-Dade County Community Council 8.

The council also chose not to recommend for transmittal to the County Commission. Members of the council reside in their communities and are elected/appointed to represent the residents/neighbors.

Residents of Westview neighborhood associations are appalled by the action of the developers who are seeking to turn a family neighborhood into a warehousing district. Knowing that there is more to life than dollar signs and misguided development, Westview residents are determined to do all they can to maintain the integrity of their community.

**Adora Obi Nweze is president of the Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP.