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Archive for the ‘development’ Category

26820 SW 187 Ave.

Last Tuesday an overflow crowd packed the Community Zoning Appeals Board room and spilled into the hall for Mr. Bernardo Campuzano’s zoning hearing regarding his request to build a private soccer club on 9.2 acres of former plant nursery. On one side of the room sat Mr. C and his supporters, including about two dozen kids. On the other side was the opposition, consisting mostly of aggravated neighbors.

Mr. C’s attorney spoke first. He explained that Mr. C is a soccer instructor who has established many soccer clubs. As for concerns about the soccer stadium, the lighting would be what you find in a parking lot, preventing overspill, not tall stadium lights. They will work to preserve the agricultural character of the property — to a loud chuckle from the side with the neighbors — with a landscaping buffer. The attorney claimed the private soccer club is compatible with agricultural activity and consistent with the CDMP (Comprehensive Development Master Plan), and that private recreational facilities are one of the approved uses outside the UDB (Urban Development Boundary). And, he claimed that the stadium would address unmet recreational needs of the agricultural community. Also speaking in favor of the stadium was his law partner, who echoed that they support the rural residential community. Four other people came up to the podium and spoke simply and briefly in support of the soccer club, generally agreeing that sports are good for kids and keeps them out of trouble, and claiming the stadium is a good investment and a good project. Even Mr. C stood up and said that he will create a soccer academy for kids, and doesn’t see anything like that in the area.

Then came the neighbors’ turn to voice their objections. Almost the entire right side of the room stood when asked if they wanted to speak against the project, but the number was limited to six, same as those in favor. First up was a woman who expressed concern about sewage and groundwater contamination of locally grown produce, and also stated that the stadium belongs in an existing park. Next, a grower said the stadium is completely inappropriate use of agricultural land, that the noise coming from the property has been disruptive, that lights at night disturb plant growth, and that the stadium would not serve her agricultural operation or any of her workers in any way. Next, a man who raises exotic birds was impassioned in his complaint against the constant noise and smoke from illegal burns. He claims the lights and noise have been disruptive to his birds’ breeding cycle this past year, and production has dropped.

Then a woman who had been a professional soccer coach and referee expressed concerns about rowdy fans and the potential for violence. One long-time resident worried about groundwater contamination from vehicle leaks in the proposed unpaved parking lot, pointed out insufficient well and sewage capacity and restroom facilities, and doubted if Mr. C would really provide bottled water as required by the EQCB (Environmental Quality Control Board). The last person allowed to speak was another long-time resident, who explained that he had sponsored a successful soccer club and suggested that Mr. C do something similar instead of building a soccer facility.

Mr. C’s attorney was allowed a rebuttal to the neighbors’ statements. Regarding the sewage and contamination concerns, he said that EQCB and DERM (Dept. of Environmental Resource Management) imposed several restrictions, and that DERM did approve use. He repeated their intent is to preserve the character of the property while providing a service, and to create the least impact possible on the property. He also repeated that recreational facilities are approved use outside the UDB.

One by one the zoning council members voiced their opinions. The council chair agreed with the water and sewage issues, explaining the Mr. C’s property is two miles from the nearest sewer line and impossible to hook up. The vice chair stated he didn’t think this is the right location for a soccer stadium. The next council member put it simply, “I’m a country boy. I grew up in the Redlands. I don’t like it.” And the last council member also agreed the soccer stadium is not compatible with the agricultural area, and that soccer players belong at school or at a park. The chairman moved to deny in its entirety with prejudice, and the vice chair seconded. The council’s vote was unanimous 4-0 to deny with prejudice. Applause broke out from the opposition side of the room. Mr C and his family and supporters quickly slipped out the door, while those against the stadium chatted in small groups, voicing their concerns or savoring their victory. One person remarked this was the first time she saw all her neighbors together at the same time. This situation had brought the community together.

So what will Mr. C do next? Nobody knows, and I didn’t have a chance to ask him after the hearing. The message he got was loud and clear. After all his expense and trouble to arrange for a zoning hearing, his plan was shot down, and the neighbors are determined and united against ongoing noisy night activities. The only choices Mr. C has left are to stop the soccer games, or sell the property and play somewhere else. Or, he could build a McMansion and sell it. Or, he could revive the previous agricultural use of the property. Imagine, growing plants quietly, in the dark, without an increase in sewage or traffic. What an idea!

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I think some of my friends envy my visits to Redland. “Ahhh, farm country,” they sigh with nostalgia. “Take me with you the next time you go.” OK, I agree, then warn it’s not the way they remember it from, say, 20 years ago. Some landmarks, like Robert Is Here, are still thriving. Anderson’s Corners? Closed and falling down from neglect. U-pick stands? Almost all gone. Fields and fields of beans and tomatoes and potatoes? Most of them filled up with McMansions and occasionally entire neighborhoods. And now a soccer stadium is going to go up. Stadium??? In the countryside? Indeed, it may be coming soon. Practically a done deal. Just the road across from a bean field, sandwiched in between two farms. Did you say soccer stadium??!!

A gentleman named Bernardo Capuzano and his wife Maria bought 10 acres on Redland Road in 2006. The property was a plant nursery, but apparently that hasn’t been the main use this past year. Mr. C likes soccer, loves it so much that he hosts soccer games on his 10 acres. Neighbors have been hearing cheers and shouts from games, and the situation must have gotten unbearable because Team Metro came out a few times to inspect things. Two cases were opened based on anonymous complaints about “operating a soccer field without prior public hearing” and “construction without permits.” As for the construction, Team Metro found no violations, and that case was closed. (The county building department did find several violations.) But the soccer field case “remains open pending public hearing.” (Click here for a link to public documents on file regarding this case.)

Campuzano-property

site of proposed private soccer club

Instead of packing up soccer equipment, tilling the soccer field and planting beans and squash, Mr. C apparently decided to legitimize and push for a real soccer stadium. In fact, something even better than that! He wants to build a private recreational facility that includes one full-size soccer field with bleachers that seat 240 fans, three mini practice fields, plus buildings that house a gym, pool, stables and bathroom facilities. The grounds would also include a jogging path, plenty of parking and — get this — outdoor lighting. Can’t blame a man for having a dream, can you?

Only this is not going to be built in the city of Homestead, close to people who would enjoy such an amenity. This would be built on agricultural property surrounded by more agricultural property. We’re not talking about a proposed modest McMansion sporting 8 bedrooms and a stable (which, though still not the best use of farmland, is reasonably passive and low-impact). This would be a fairly active and noisy use of the property. The request for outdoor lighting indicates there would be games night and day. The bleachers that seat 240 people and accompanying number of parking spaces would imply there would be a significant increase in traffic.

site-plan-web

Portion of the site plan for soccer club

The soccer club application has quietly zoomed though county channels gathering approvals from various departments. For example, in its infinite wisdom, the county EQCS (Environmental Quality Control Board) has decided to grant their zoning variance regarding water and sewage. Currently, the property has a well for drinking water, and a septic tank for sewage — sized for an average single family home, not 200+ people! Neither well or septic are designed to take the load of many people attending soccer games.

[Note: To download the EQCS document, go to the county web page, click on Search Official Records (link is on the left hand side in a light blue box), and search for document # 2009 R 613934 or the name Campuzano, Bernardo and the recording date of 08/25/2009. You can also download it here.]

Until the property can get water and sewer hookups from distant lines (which might never happen, since we are talking about farmland, not a property within city limits), EQCS has set the condition that Mr. C must serve bottled water at the soccer club. Until water and sewer line hookups, Mr. C could possibly get by with port-a-potties, but that’s not the best solution either. (Do you know what happens when a chemical toilet is not emptied or maintained regularly? It’s nasty!)

What makes this whole situation so dicey is the property fronts on canal C-103. If untreated sewage leaks into the canal and groundwater, it could very well contaminate your food. Downstream lie fields of green beans and yellow squash, farmed by a grower who provides for our CSA. He pumps irrigation water from a well on his field — and if that groundwater gets contaminated from soccer field sewage, our food gets contaminated. Remember the e.coli and spinach scare from a few years ago? Conceivably we could have our own similar disaster in the making.

Also, this bit of new development will make another hole in the fabric of the agricultural community in Redland. Yes, the UDB (Urban Development Boundary) is keeping mass development at bay, but one by one agricultural properties in Miami-Dade County are sold and converted to non-agricultural use. Today a soccer field, tomorrow a shopping plaza. (Look north to Broward County to see what the future will bring.)

So which will it be — beans or soccer? Are you upset yet? Go to the zoning hearing and be the voice for locavores and farmers alike. Sometimes eating local is a political act.

Hearing number: 08-162
Applicant name: Bernardo and Maria Campuzano
Location: 26820 SW 187 Ave.

Community Zoning Appeals Board 14
Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009 at 6 pm

South Dade Government Center
10710 SW 211 St
Cutler Bay, FL 33189

http://www.miamidade.gov/communitycouncils/cc14_agendas.asp

zoning-notice

Zoning notice for 26820 SW 187 Ave.

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real-dirt-book
The Real Dirt

The last presenter of the last session of the last day was not to be missed. Peter Burkard, farmer and published author, spoke on the panel “Local Food System Development.” I got his permission to post his speech it its entirely, and you can read it below. Although this blog’s focus is on Redland Organics’ growers and customers, what Peter has to say is extremely relevant in South Florida.

If you want to read more, his book is called The Real Dirt: An Organic Grower’s Journey and the Values that Inspired It, which sells for $15 a copy. You can get yours by contacting him at PMBORGANIC(at)aol.com. (Please remember to take out the (at) and put in the @ when you order your copy. Am doing this to ward off spam.) Peter is also a member of the Southwest Florida Small Farmers Network.

 

The Holy Land is Everywhere

You know those cars that are plastered with like 30 bumper stickers? I recently saw one of these at a small farmers’ market in the little town of Burnsville in the North Carolina mountains. Now usually I find myself in agreement with most sentiments on such cars and I knew this one would be no different, being at a farmers’ market and all. So I checked it out a little and among other incisive bits of wisdom like “JUST SAY NO TO SEX WITH PRO-LIFERS” was this one that I really liked: “THE HOLY LAND IS EVERYWHERE”. The idea being that we need to be worshiping the entirety of creation, not just some special place set aside.

As we go forth today, this is the vision and mind-set which it is our job to create amongst the majority of our fellow humans, an understanding and appreciation of the immense value of undegraded land. Undegraded land can either have massive value as wilderness, through free ecosystem services, or in its agricultural potential…and the best of farms will marry the two. We need the majority of the public to not only reject agribusiness but along with it reject the mechanistic, controlling, reductionist worldview upon which agribusiness is based. To do that, they need to both be informed about the reality of industrial agriculture and be able to experience our positive alternatives and the fabulous food that we provide.

Wendell Berry draws the distinction between industrialism and agrarianism, in which industrialism is a way of thought based upon monetary capital and technology, while agrarianism is a way of thought based on a sustainable relationship with the land, preferably land on which the farmer’s family lives. He sees this as the overarching theme of all our efforts…the replacement of the dominant destructive, unsustainable model which is destroying the prospects for life as we know it, with our culture of respect for our life-support system and each other.

This industrialism we fight against is easy to see every day throughout Florida in the destruction of excellent farmland under the developer’s bulldozers. Following this near-removal of food growing from areas most inhabited by people, industrial, chemicalized agriculture is given a quasi-monopoly over our food supply. Rural land is of course cheaper but is also conveniently out of sight, so the vast majority of the public has little if any direct contact with the production of their food.

It is up to us to change that, locating some of our attractive, sustainable alternatives in urban and suburban settings. By reversing the trend of the last hundred years of separating people from their food supply, we both provide the model for a more sustainable future and enlist more of the admiring public to our cause. For it is only after a sufficient number of voters and tax payers join our side that the policy makers will be forced to act or else be removed from office.

There are a great many successful alternatives to the industrial food system. We need to be those model alternatives, as well as unite with our like-minded brethren, be they fellow producers, consumers, or even competitors, so as to maximize our political clout. In our area of the Central and South Florida West coast, we’ve established a small farmer network to enable us to learn from each other and also acquire strength through numbers, so as to better move our agenda forward politically. I’d like to encourage other areas to create their own similar networks of growers.

Still, at the same time, I’d like to promote what I see as the best answer, one for which all you need is yourself. There is one food production method that stands out as clearly the most local, most fresh, most flavorful, most fun, most providing of exercise, and most reducing of our carbon footprint. That is growing as much of your own food as possible at home. Even though I’ve sold produce at a market for 30 years, I’ve never thought of this backyard grower as competition; instead, once one tastes the difference in truly fresh, organic produce, they will surely seek out what they aren’t able to grow themselves from us market gardeners. Besides, it is the right thing for the world. (If you’ve ever been to Europe, you’ve seen not only vastly better transportation and health-care systems but also a lot more–in some places almost universal–home food and flower gardens.) So grow as much as you can at home or in a community garden and buy the rest from other small farmers, local whenever possible.

Time for some policy specifics. These are specific elements of the food system that we need to be striving towards. I’ll call it my “John Lennon section”…Imagine these things being reality. But we need to do more than just imagine them and work towards making them a reality. So pick one or two you are most passionate about and get involved with making them happen.

–URBAN FRINGE AND EVEN URBAN LAND WHICH IS SET ASIDE IN PERPETUITY FOR AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITY, THROUGH THINGS LIKE CONSERVATION EASEMENTS AND SPECIAL TAX TREATMENT,
–MORE URBAN COMMUNITY GARDENS,
–THE TEARING DOWN OF URBAN LAWS WHICH PROHIBIT AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITIES,
–MORE SCHOOL GARDENS AND CHILD EDUCATION ABOUT FOOD PRODUCTION,
–MORE WIDESPREAD USE OF FARM-TO-SCHOOL PROGRAMS,
–MORE FARM TO CHEF CONNECTIONS,
–MORE ACCESS TO FRESH, LOCAL FOOD FOR THE URBAN POOR,
–CONTINUED EXPANSION OF FARMERS’ MARKETS AND CSA’S,
–MUNICIPAL AND EXTENSION EFFORTS TO ENCOURAGE MORE HOME FOOD PRODUCTION, MEANING TRADITIONAL AND ROOFTOP GARDENS, FRUIT TREES, SPROUTING, CHICKENS, BEES, RABBITS, TILAPIA, AND SO ON,
–MORE TOWN-TO-FARM NUTRIENT CYCLING,
–THE CONTINUATION AND/OR EXPANSION OF GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES FOR GREEN ENERGY AND WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES IN CONJUNCTION WITH FARMING,
–COUNTIES PROVIDING LAND FOR ESTABLISHING WORKING FARMS DESIGNED TO TRAIN NEW FARMERS,
–MATCHING PROPERTY OWNERS WITH POTENTIAL SHARECROPPING OR RENTING FARMERS AND GARDENERS,
–MANDATING WORKING FARMS OR COMMUNITY GARDENS BE INCORPORATED IN ALL HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS OVER A CERTAIN SIZE. (NEEDED TO BE DONE LONG AGO.)

This isn’t a world we need to create from scratch. Most of these ideas are already being turned into reality somewhere in this country…or they exist in a fledgling way and we just need to help them along.

There will always be battles with those seeking to preserve an obsolete and unsustainable status quo. These same Chamber of Commerce types either have fought in the past or still do fight for things like making toxic children’s toys, nuclear weapons, and gas guzzlers, destroying old growth forests, hunting and processing whales, and preserving the slave trade.

Just because an activity creates jobs–creates commerce–does NOT mean that is something we as a society should be encouraging…not an automatic good. As I give talks in support of my book, The Real Dirt, an Organic Grower’s Journey and the Values that Inspired it, this is one of the points I emphasize, the merging of a strong sense of ethical values with our livelihoods. It should be clear that we are on the right side. Just remember that what we envision is a far more just, peaceful, and sustainable world, and that fact alone should sufficiently inspire us.

written by Peter Burkard

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State 1, Lowes 0

What happens here in Miami-Dade County could set precedents for other counties regarding sprawl. Why don’t developers reconsider urban infill?

Florida Cabinet thwarts plan to alter Miami-Dade development boundary
The state Cabinet overruled Miami-Dade County and stopped an attempt to move the county’s western development line.
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/southflorida/story/1161697.html

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Urban sprawl and farms

Urban sprawl is a hot button issue is South Miami-Dade County. Depending on whom you speak to, they’re either strongly for it or against it. The UDB, or Urban Development Boundary, is a line drawn in Miami-Dade’s master plan that separates agriculture from suburbia. Periodically and frequently, developers petition the county and state to move the line to accommodate new development. Sometimes the line moves, sometimes it doesn’t. This dance has been going on for years. Why is the UDB important? Because it allows space for agriculture, and provides a buffer between the city and the Everglades, an important source of our drinking water. Look at Broward County. They don’t have a UDB — and count how many farms, groves and ranches remain.

Recent editorial in The Miami Herald (7/24/09):
Hold the line on development

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/story/1155156.html

Recent related article in the Miami Herald (6/29/09):
Infill development will help hold line

http://www.miamiherald.com/business/story/1116072.html

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