The cities of Doral and Sweetwater had previously requested approval from Miami Dade County for the annexation of a commercial area that is located west of the turnpike and is being developed at this time.
By: Edda Pujadas
On July 20th of this year, the Miami Dade County Commission approved an ordinance that would amend the rules for changes on municipal limits. This ordinance affects an application for an annexation that the cities of Sweetwater and Doral previously presented for a commercial area west of the turnpike.
The Annexation Area that is disputed by both cities is comprised of 1275.6 acres and is described as Sections 35 & 36, Township 53, Range 39 East in Miami-Dade County, and is bounded by NW 12th Street on the south, NW 117th Avenue on the east, NW 25th Street on the north, and NW 137th Avenue to the west. This area is accessible to Doral via NW 25th Street.
This ordinance was approved by the Chair of the Commission, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, and passed with a 10-2 vote in favor. One of its key points is that it includes factors such as the area’s contiguity considered for annexation for any city. In this case, this amendment will disqualify the petition of annexation that the City of Doral had presented.
Although there is currently no specific date for a future vote on this ordinance, it has already been the cause of discord among both cities. In September of 2020, Sweetwater presented its request for this annexation, and Doral did the same in December 2020.
Juan Carlos Bermudez, Mayor of the City of Doral, indicates that the ordinance that was approved by the Miami Dade County Commission prevents the City of Doral from moving forward with its request for annexation of the land west of the turnpike. “The way in which this new ordinance was presented by the County Chair, Jose ‘Pepe’ Diaz, who also represents Doral as Commissioner for District 12, is unfair and changes the rules in the middle of the process.”
“All we are asking for is that the process to decide the future of the businesses in that area is treated in a fair and objective way. A lot of the businesses in that area already identify themselves as being part of Doral, which makes it clear that they see a benefit in being associated with our city. These companies deserve to have a voice in this incredibly important decision. A decision that will affect the level of service that they will receive in the future, same as the taxes they will pay, which in its actual level would be much lower if Doral gets the annexation,” explained Mayor Bermudez.
On his side, Orlando Lopez, the Mayor of the City of Sweetwater, applauded this ordinance, as he considers that it has common sense. “This ordinance defended by Chair Diaz and approved by the Commission provides a very needed transparency to the annexation codes of Miami Dade. It finally codifies the county policies,” he stated.
Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Commissioner for District 12, which includes the cities of Doral, a portion of Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Medley, Sweetwater, and Virginia Gardens, together with a large area of Non-Incorporated Miami Dade, supported and approved this ordinance which amends section 20.3-1 and 20-5 of the Miami Dade County Code.
The ordinance notes that it has been enacted within the legislation with the purpose to guarantee a solid urban development, agrees with the growth, and establishes uniform standards for the adjustment of municipal limits. It ensures the efficient provision of urban services to the areas that are being turned into urban zones and takes care that there are no annexations unless municipal services can be provided to those areas.
To achieve these objectives and according to the recently approved ordinance, state law requires, among other things, that the annexations are compact and contiguous and that they possess enough urban characteristics to justify the annexation. For this reason, it prohibits changes in the municipal limits of areas that are not contiguous to the requesting city or those that might result in a separation from a city into a different area of the city.
The purpose of this ordinance is also to create annexation standards that are applicable to Miami Dade County. The standards are related to contiguity, enclaves, urban development boundaries (UDB), and requests for joint boundary changes in order to promote solid policies and the provision of logical municipal services, discouraging the creation of future enclaves, maintaining full county’s jurisdiction over terminal cities, and providing additional protection for urban development.
Given this ordinance, no request of limit changes will be considered nor approved when the governing body requesting it has omitted information on any existent enclave or when the limit in the change creates a new enclave. It will also be denied or not accepted when the area is not contiguous to the city to which the annexation is requested or if it will create a municipal area that is not contiguous to the corresponding municipality.
When the proposed boundary change includes any area outside the limit of urban development, as presented in the Miami Dade County Integral Master Development Plan, it will not be taken into consideration. Also, there will be no consideration nor approval for any request for any piece of land that is located within the limits of another municipality unless both cities have requested this jointly or have acted as a unit in the request of this change of boundaries.
Because there are no residents in the proposed annexation area, and the area is not developed residentially, an election in the area will not be required.