A plan hatched nearly two decades ago to expand the boundaries of four municipalities in western Miami-Dade County may finally become a reality.
County commissioners will hold an initial public hearing Wednesday on a proposal to divvy up eight square miles of mostly industrial and commercial land in unincorporated Miami-Dade among the cities of Doral, Medley, Miami Springs and Virginia Gardens.
If approved, the plan would increase the size and tax base of the four cities west of Miami International Airport and south of West Okeechobee Road. Virginia Gardens would see the most drastic change — the village, which is less than one square mile, would grow to more than six times its current size.
The expansion proposal dates back to 2003, when Virginia Gardens applied to annex land but officials from Doral, Medley and Miami Springs protested. The county asked the four cities to work out a plan together.
That plan was finalized years later after a dispute between Doral and Medley, but county commissioners blocked it in 2013 — a win for property owners in the unincorporated areas who worried their property taxes would spike.
Doral submitted new annexation applications to the county in 2016, and Medley, Miami Springs and Virginia Gardens did the same the following year.
In 2017, a group of property owners in the area slated to become part of Miami Springs sued the city and the county seeking to block the plan, alleging various deficiencies with the city’s application. The case was put on hold until the county issues its ruling on the application.
Under county law, voters do not need to approve annexations of commercial areas with fewer than 250 voters. Most of the areas proposed to be added to the four cities do not have any residents, consisting mostly of warehouses, manufacturing plants and strip malls.
Officials in the cities have pushed for the move, saying it would not only expand their tax bases but also help them provide improved services to local businesses, such as police and public works, through their local governments rather than countywide agencies.
“These annexations serve to benefit both the businesses and the city’s residents by providing local services that are closer to the businesses being annexed,” Medley Mayor Roberto Martell said in a statement, adding that it would give the cities “better input and control” over areas that affect them.
Miami Springs Mayor Maria Puente Mitchell said city officials are excited to finally bring the process to a close.
“This has been a very long and extensive process over many years in which the cities … have worked with the county to reach this four-city annexation agreement,” Mitchell said in an email. But property owners in the unincorporated areas could still face substantial tax increases.
According to recent memos from Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, some owners could face annual tax increases in the thousands of dollars by switching from county to city rates, assuming the cities’ current rates stay the same. Levine Cava is proposing that the cities make annual “mitigation” payments to the county to make up for a shift in revenue away from county coffers.
In 2012, voters amended the county charter to require commissioners to consider if annexations of commercial land are providing benefits beyond just bolstering a city’s tax base. County Commission Chairman Jose “Pepe” Diaz is sponsoring the annexation resolutions in Doral and Medley, while Rebeca Sosa is the sponsor for the Miami Springs and Virginia Gardens plans.
The resolutions will go before Diaz’s committee, the Chairman’s Council of Policy. If approved, they will advance to the full commission.
Six separate resolutions spell out the pockets of land to be annexed. They include:
Doral: 0.23 square miles bounded by the Palmetto Expressway to the east, Northwest 58th Street to the south, 87th Avenue to the west and 64th Street to the north.
Doral: One square mile bounded by Northwest 107th Avenue to the east, 90th Street to the south, 117th Avenue to the west and 106th Street to the north.
Doral: 1.02 square miles bounded by Northwest 87th Avenue to the east, 58th Street to the south, 97th Avenue to the west and 74th Street to the north.
Medley: 2.55 square miles across four annexation areas to the south and west of the town’s borders.
Miami Springs: 1.59 square miles bounded by the city’s current western boundary (near Northwest 67th Avenue) to the east, 36th Street to the south, the Palmetto Expressway to the west and the Northwest 74th Street connector to the north.
Virginia Gardens: 1.60 square miles bounded by Miami International Airport and Northwest 55th Avenue to the east, the Dolphin Expressway to the south, the Palmetto Expressway to the west and 36th Street to the north.