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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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