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Hundreds of South Dade residents oppose proposed ALF along busway; County commission again fails to act Tuesday

south dade
A rendering of the proposed assisted living facility in South Dade’s east Killian neighbhorhood.

By William Gjebre, FloridaBulldog.org

UPDATE: April 16 – For the fourth time in as many months, the controversial plan to rezone a small parcel along the South Dade busway to allow a 216-bed assisted living facility was deferred Tuesday after Miami-Dade County commissioners again failed to muster enough votes to approve or defeat the proposal.

The vote to approve was 6-4. It failed by a single vote to get the necessary seven votes

A motion was made to once again defer the proposal until the next zoning meeting, likely in May. It passed 6-4, keeping the rezoning measure alive.

April 15 – Issues of overdevelopment raised nearly a decade ago over a small tract of land along the South Dade busway have flared into a controversy regarding a proposal to let a 216-bed assisted living facility be built there.

More than 800 residents of the east Killian area have signed petitions opposing the proposal by the owner of the 1.59-acre parcel, South Dixie and 122 LLC, whose registered agent and managing member is listed as Michael Garcia-Carrillo. The issue goes before the Miami-Dade commission April 16.

“This is issue is about more than a single assisted living facility,” said Killian resident Jeffrey Fink, an attorney. “It’s about the [county] commission’s inclination to up zone to higher density for the residential areas along the transit zones. The problem: it is disrupting the existing homeowners’ way of life.

“If the commission continues to do this rezoning, developers will buy existing homes, knock them down and build residential high rises and institutional facilities,” Fink said. “The commission seems to be more concerned about accommodating new people coming to the state than protecting people who already live here.”

Jeffrey Fink

Twice when Mayor Daniella Levine Cava was a commissioner, she expressed concerns regarding overdevelopment along the Metrorail south busway – one time mentioning the predominantly single-family Killian neighborhood that’s now fighting higher density rezoning. Residents fear it would significantly alter the area.

In May 2015 the property at 8315 SW 122 St. was in Commissioner Levine Cava’s district. At a commission meeting then, she said she could not support a property owner’s request to rezone the tract to build 15 duplex units. She said any more than 12 units in six buildings would not be appropriate for the “very quiet residential area and any additional traffic would be a burden on the neighborhood and affect the quality [of life] there as well.”

“I am mindful,” Levine Cava added, “that overdevelopment, or overfill, of this area would be incompatible” with the neighborhood. Her proposal limiting the complex to 12 duplex units was scripted in a covenant drafted by the property owner’s attorney at the meeting and unanimously approved by the county commission.

NO DENSITY STUDY DONE

But the duplexes were never built. And in January 2019, while reviewing a county staff proposal recommending increased density provisions, referred to as Mixed-Use Corridor Density (MCD), for properties along the 20-mile south busway and five other corridors, Commissioner Levine Cava stated, “Not everything along the corridor is equal….Are there areas that are not appropriate for higher density?”

Levine Cava and several other commissioners questioned why a detailed study had not been undertaken outlining the impact of such mixed-use zoning along the busway corridors, primarily imposed and impacting unincorporated areas under county jurisdiction.

south dade
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava

County staff told commissioners such a detailed density study was not part of their analysis. The purpose of the MCD zoning, staff told them, is to encourage activities and ridership in areas between the major busway centers to boost activities and ridership, no matter the neighborhood. The property is close to the SW 124th Street bus stop, and between two major hubs, SW 104th Street and 136th Street.

“There are some communities that want to be able to weigh in,” said Levine Cava.

County staff told commissioners concerned residents would be able to comment when a property owner requests a zoning change to apply to higher density MCD. Killian residents say there were never any county-held meetings outlining the MCD density impact.

But eager to move forward with MCD provisions, directed also at reaching ridership thresholds to qualify for federal funds in support of public transit, the county commission approved the increased density provisions five years ago. The initiative came after years of the county failing to extend the Metrorail train to the north, south and east, as originally envisioned. Instead, it has attempted to improve bus routes to and from Metrorail stations.

LEVINE CAVA COULD VETO ANY CHANGE

As the elected mayor since 2020, Levine Cava manages all county operations. She does not sit on the county commission – and therefore does not vote. She did not respond to repeated calls for comment. She can veto actions approved by the county commission.

Her past comments, as commissioner regarding limiting development, could come into play. The Killian area from SW 106th to 128th Street is perhaps the largest, predominantly single-family area along the south busway, located on the westside of South Dixie Highway (U.S. 1).

The busway areas to the north and south of the section (SW 106-SW 128) are mostly commercial, with a land preserve area starting at U.S. 1 and SW 144th Street and the county golf course at SW 152nd Street. They are undergoing changes that include new and renovated business structures, as well as high-rise and medium-rise residential units.

The rezoning request and related change to the county’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) have been deferred twice. The most recent deferral was on March 21 when the commission barely mustered enough commissioners for a quorum (seven of 13) and failed to maintain one near the close of a two-hour public hearing. More than 70 South Dade residents spoke against the rezoning, and about 10 in favor, many of the latter living outside the area.

Miami-Dade Commission Board Chair Oliver Gilbert III

Commission Board Chair Oliver Gilbert III declared that on April 16 the primary task will be to vote on the rezoning request, even though a quorum did not hear all the comments from residents.

Aside from concerns about increased traffic, residents opposing the rezoning say the proposed assisted living facility would be unsuitable for the neighborhood as it could lead to decreased property values. They also say the approval of the MCD will open the residential South Dade community to more attempts by other property owners to seek higher density zoning that might allow for other facilities, perhaps restaurants and shops.

“It’s not compatible with the neighborhood,” said South Dade resident Rosemary Pringle. “The facility will attract traffic 24 hours a day with service and other trucks making deliveries. It’s a commercial business in a residential neighborhood. It’s incongruous with the neighborhood.”

COUNTY STAFF RECOMMENDS APPROVAL

The developer’s representative, Michael Garcia-Carrillo, declined Florida Bulldog comment, referring any statements to his attorney. The attorney could not be reached for comment for this article, but at two past commission meetings she has refused to make a statement to Florida Bulldog.

Michael Garcia-Carrillo

The property ownership group has maintained that the project meets all requirements of the MCD.

County staff recommended approval of the rezoning and stated that the proposed assisted living facility in South Dade is compatible with the area and would not burden public services such as water, fire safety and traffic. The recommendation also noted that the project would add jobs and possibly increase bus and rail ridership. 

In addition, representatives for the applicant have stated the assisted living facility is much needed for the care and housing of a growing aging population in South Florida, allowing South Dade residents to be near family, friends, familiar locations and medical facilities.

Despite those claims, Killian residents doubt that ridership will increase because there is no direct access from the property to the busway. Also, it’s unlikely that residents needing assistance will be able to walk to the buses, and visitors will more than likely drive to the facility. Further, they doubt that many facility workers will use Metrorail and buses, especially since some work shifts often are at off hours.

The MCD allows increased density of property within one-half mile of the centerline of south busway, with higher density allowed for property immediately adjacent to the busway and lesser density a greater distance away from the busway center line. The 1.59-acre site is within a quarter mile of the busway and would have the highest possible density under MCD codes.

As part of the effort to improve transportation along the south busway, the county is building larger shelters at key “hubs” or stops, such as SW 104th Street and SW 136th Street, where there are many businesses providing jobs and stimulating other commercial activities. The county is also improving signalization to move buses more efficiently along the route from Metrorail Dadeland South Metrorail station, at U.S.1 and SW 92nd Street, to SW 344th Street in Homestead.

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Latest comments

  • It’s always been obvious that South Dade residents are the ones who are killing any chance to get Metrorail extended. They need higher density around the transit corridor. Yet they NIMBY almost everything. Enjoy your Bus Rapid Transit system. It’s still a lot better than spending 1/4 of your waking moments stuck in traffic.

  • This foremost is an issue about pedestrian safety. The proposed ALF is on a no-outlet-narrow street of family residences between two schools, Montessori daycare and Vineland Elementary. Families with children are in need of better transportation options, not ALF residents. The duplex project should be built for families, the Killian neighborhood was designed for families. Since when do ALF residents cross busways and highways? Since when do ALF residents ride and jog the South Dade Trail? During peak hours, lanes on SW 84 Ave. get blocked by stationed cars in line to pick up their children; ambulances will have no choice but to drive in the wrong lanes or over the swales/sidewalks to reach the ALF.

    County staff are encouraging dangerous pedestrians activities along some of the most dangerous intersections in Miami-Dade County. This is a pusedo-design to kill. It is only a matter of time until innocent pedestrians are killed crossing US-1 along the underline and if this ALF is approved, then it is only a matter of time until an ALF resident is struck by a bus or car.

    Miami doesn’t want a dangerous-pedestrian line, Miami wants safe pedestrian routes (looks at successful projects in other US cities, they’re all designed for safety-first not to kill).

    Who in the right mind would allow their elderly to cross a high-speed busway? The north-bound 124th local bus stop is not adjacent to this lot, it’s across the high-speed busway! This is designed to fail.

  • Miami’s transit project need to prioritize pedestrian safety. County staff have approved pedestrian projects along US-1 that will lead to pedestrians being struck by cars. We need pedestrian safety designed transit corridors. ALF residents should not cross high-speed busways. ALF residents will not even use the South Dade Trail. This is not the right location for an ALF, because it is on a no-outlet between two schools, Montessori and Vineland.

    121st Terrace is a school and family community, it was designed that way. The county staff are not our leaders, our elected officials are. Our elected officials should vote to deny this CDMP and Zoning change.

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