By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
In 2004, the City of Doral submitted two boundary change applications to Miami-Dade County to annex Section 6 and a portion of Section 15 that both currently belong to the county as unincorporated areas. Today, 19 years later, these two sections have not yet been annexed and many questions remain in the air.
The proposed annexation area for Section 6 is bounded on the North by NW 106th Street, on the South by NW 90th Street, on the East by NW 107th Avenue, and on the West by NW 117th Avenue. Meanwhile, the proposed annexation area is bounded by the Palmetto Expressway (826) on the East, NW 58th Street to the South, NW 87th Avenue to the West, and NW 64th Street to the North.
It should be clarified that to annex an area with more than 250 residents who are registered voters, a referendum is required. However, if the area to be annexed has 250 or fewer residents/registered voters and there is less than 50% residential development, this requirement is waived.
In this particular case, both the focus portion of section 15 and section 6 have no residential development. Therefore, there wasn’t an election. Instead, the request was made directly to the county.
However, from the moment the two applications were sent, in March and October 2004 respectively, several things have happened until today that have delayed the process, such as a change of administration in Doral and the current requirement that only the commissioner of the district in which the area to be annexed is located can place the item on the County Board of Commissioners agenda so that the annexation is certified.
Background and timeline
The story about the two applications in question began when Juan Carlos Bermudez was serving as mayor of Doral from 2004 to 2012. He was then re-elected in 2016, remaining in office until 2022.
It was during his tenure that the city first expressed interest in adhering sections 6 and 15. This was done through resolutions 04-99 and 04-16, respectively, in 2004.
Between that year and 2016, other resolutions were made in which the city’s intention to continue with the annexation process was ratified. Subsequently, on July 7, 2022, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously adopted resolutions Nos. R-622-22 and R-621-22, directing the County Attorney to prepare the Ordinance and Interlocal Agreements to effectuate the annexation requests for sections 6 and 15.
This was done under the leadership of then District 12 Commissioner, José “Pepe” Díaz, as the areas sought to be annexed belonged to the district he used to represent. However, before the matter could be resolved, Juan Carlos Bermudez switched to Pepe Díaz’ position, while Christi Fraga was elected mayor on December 13, 2022.
With the new commissioner in charge, a portion of section 15 was officially granted to Medley, as had been agreed upon under Commissioner Díaz tenure, while the portion that corresponded to Doral was not.
According to a memo of June 14, 2023, when Mayor Fraga was already overseeing the issue, the county advised city administration that the Interlocal Agreements were never executed or placed on a county agenda for consideration because in October of 2022, the City of Doral had taken the position that it would not agree to any mitigation payments.
Given this, the mayor’s office sent a letter to the new commissioner in which it reiterated the intention to continue with the annexation process by making mitigation payments for a period of four years, the same as those approved for Medley’s annexation request, and not the seven years period that had initially been approved under the tenure of Commissioner Díaz.
In this regard, Mayor Fraga said to Doral Family Journal that Commissioner Bermudez expressed his interest in giving green light to the annexation of section 15, although he had changed his mind about section 6.
However, the final decision around section 15 is subject to the results of several surveys that are intended to determine whether or not property owners in the area want to be part of Doral. “There is no one in that area who doesn’t want to be here because their property value would increase, and they would receive services from the city. Furthermore, we already did a survey many years ago. I think this is a waste of time,” Fraga stated.
“I understand the commissioner must look after the interests of all the areas that are part of the county. However, granting those sections to us was one of the commitments he made to Doral, and he should deliver. I thought that as commissioner of District 12 and former mayor of Doral, he would understand the importance of this issue.”
The mayor also added that she hasn’t been given a solid argument as to why only the annexation of section 15 and not that of section 6 would be carried out. “Both were approved at the same time. I will gladly receive section 15 because it would help me preserve 58 St., which is important as one of the main entrances to the city, but it is vital that both are granted because the most significant income would come from section 6, since it’s a newer area with better roads.”
According to Commissioner Bermudez, who also made comments to this publication, the sections in question were not approved. Regarding the survey he requested, he explained that when there is an area to be annexed that lacks residents and, for this reason, there is no possibility of a referendum happening, the only mechanism to know what the impacted community thinks is to conduct a survey.
The idea of ??conducting a survey in these cases was promoted through an ordinance earlier this year by Commissioner Kevin Marino Cabrera of District 6 after the Virginia Gardens community made their voices heard about their discontent with the plans to annex a commercial zone located in the west part of Miami International Airport.
“I have to follow the law and my colleague’s proposal,” said Commissioner Bermudez. It should be noted that, according to city documentation, a survey is not mandated by the County Code because the City’s annexation applications pre-date July 1, 2022, and the public hearings to consider the City’s proposed boundary changes occurred prior to the adoption of County Ordinance No. 22-127; therefore, the survey requirements set forth in the recently adopted Sec. 20-4.2 of the County Code do not apply.
Still, the results of the latest survey arrived a few weeks before the closing of this edition. According to the commissioner, of the people surveyed, 10 said they agreed with annexing to Doral, 14 said they were against it and 40 did not respond in time.
“I am willing to do another survey in October or November since I always said, even as mayor, that I would only support annexing areas that wanted to be part of Doral. I need more people to participate in this survey in order for me to know what the majority thinks, because I have a great responsibility with the county that goes far beyond Doral.”
Regarding section 6, the commissioner said that is not convenient to annex it, since this area is of ????extreme relevance for the county at a commercial and industrial level.
“At this moment I am not willing to give section 6 and I don’t think Doral needs it because it is one of the richest cities in Miami-Dade County, I left the mayor more than $50 million dollars in reserves. When I applied as mayor, I didn’t know the county and district were suffering a huge loss of the portion that belongs to the county. I am no longer the mayor, I am the commissioner who represents five cities and not just Doral,” he says.
Meanwhile, Mayor Fraga says that after the mitigation payment period ends, the city would have an additional income of 2 million dollars that would serve to improve public safety services, including police force and crime prevention technology, create a more robust tax base for the city and expand opportunities for companies that want to be part of Doral, among other benefits. “The only way to continue to maintain such a low mileage rate is to create more revenue for the city.”
According to the Finance Department, if the county approves a four-year mitigation period versus the original seven-year period, the positive fiscal impact of reduced mitigation payments is estimated to be approximately $6.5 million. Commissioner Bermudez stated that if the portion corresponding to section 15 is annexed, he would make sure mitigation payments are approved for a period of four years.
For now, the city doesn’t plan to send more annexation applications, although, in addition to section 15 and 6, an application request for section 16 was also sent, although it hasn’t reached the instances the other two have.