Miami-Dade County commissioners again postponed a final vote on expanding the Urban Development Boundary for an 800-acre industrial complex on farmland near Biscayne Bay, as developers maneuvered Wednesday to secure the needed political support for a change environmental groups are fighting.
This was the second deferral developers secured in two weeks, after a May 19 meeting where they failed to win the nine commission votes needed to move the line that serves as a boundary separating rural areas from more intense development.
The proposal is for a 9 million-square-foot warehouse and industrial complex south of Florida’s Turnpike and north of Moody Drive.
At the request of Jeffrey Bercow, lawyer and lobbyist for developers Aligned Real Estate Holdings and Coral Rock Development, commissioners agreed to hold a final vote on the project on Sept. 22. Commissioners will be free to make the decision without another round of public remarks on the project, since the board already heard two hours of required comments at the May meeting.
It’s a project that backers say will bring a vital employment center to the commuting residents of South Miami-Dade. It would go up on farmland that county planners say is too vulnerable to coastal flooding and the state environmental agency says could be important for Everglades restoration.
The commission last moved the Urban Development Boundary (UDB) in 2013, and this proposal by developers sparked the first big environmental fight since Mayor Daniella Levine Cava took office in the fall of 2020. She has vowed to veto a commission vote in favor of the project, complicating the path to approval for developers.
Not only do they need nine votes to comply with the county charter requirement that two-thirds of the commission approve an expansion of the UDB, but they also would need a two-thirds vote at the next commission meeting to override the promised veto.
Two weeks ago, developers faced a setback when the commission took a vote to reject the application outright. That vote failed on a 5-7 vote, but the tally revealed for the first time that there wasn’t enough support on the board to deliver the nine votes needed to expand the UDB.
Voting against the project on May 19 were Commissioners René Garcia, Danielle Cohen Higgins, Eileen Higgins, Jean Monestime and Raquel Regalado. Sally Heyman did not attend the meeting.
Wednesday’s deferral vote didn’t advance to a debate about the project itself.
“If we really are concerned about the environment and the final outcome, I think we have to give applicants as much time as possible to state their case,” Regalado said before voting for the deferral. “If we don’t want to move the line, we don’t move the line.”
The plan for a deferral was in place as the meeting began after two weeks of lobbying from developers and environmental groups that Heyman described as leaving her “inundated” with requests for meetings. Chairman Jose “Pepe” Diaz said it was his understanding a delay had been requested. He then called on Bercow, who had already made his way to the microphone reserved for public comment.
Bercow said developers had a complicated agreement related to wages at a project touting more than 11,000 new jobs that needed more time for back-and-forth with county lawyers.
“It has taken more time than expected,” Bercow said.