Worried residents hope Miami-Dade County mayor can save Calusa

Residents of a West Kendall neighborhood are hoping a mayoral veto can save land that they say has endangered species from being overdeveloped.

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. – Ana Pardo worries about the value of her home and overall quality of life drastically changing once they build hundreds of homes on the Calusa Golf Course in West Kendall.

“I would say most of the people do not want this development,” Pardo said

Pardo and thousands of other residents are hoping Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava uses her power to veto the commission’s vote that came last week.

“We’re hopeful because she’s known to be very pro-environmental. So we think she’s going to listen to us,” Pardo said.

In a 10 to 2 vote, the Miami-Dade County commission voted in favor of a plan to build 550 homes on 168 acres. If the mayor does use her veto power, the issue would come up at the next commission meeting. Then, two-thirds of the commissioners would be needed to overturn the mayor’s veto.

Residents opposed to the plan have major concerns about traffic congestion, lack of infrastructure and the environment.

“Calusa rookery” is what residents call the land, which they say is a sanctuary for hundreds of birds that nest there, including some that are endangered.

Calusa, before and after (WPLG/Save Calusa)

“Somebody needs to step in and say this is not ethical. This is not how we make zoning decisions,” said Amanda Prieto, a Calusa neighborhood activist.

We reached out to the mayor’s office. Communications Director, Rachel Johnson responded that the mayor cannot discuss what she is planning to do because of a previous court ruling: “According to the Jennings rule, arising out of the Jennings v. Dade County court ruling in 1991, decision-makers in zoning hearings are prohibited from considering any communications about active zoning cases that are made outside of the public hearing process. This prohibition extends to the veto period. Per this ruling, the Mayor is not permitted to read or participate in written or other communications about this application with residents, including the applicant, proponents, and objectors, beyond what was presented during the public hearing process. In addition, the exercise of the veto must follow the same legal and evidentiary standards that apply to the Board of County Commissioners’ zoning decision. Failure to adhere to these rules could result in a court invalidating the Mayor’s decision.”

Adding that:

“The Mayor is committed to making the best possible decision about this application and will be carefully considering all evidence shared during the public hearing process, within the parameters of the law.”

Levine Cava has until Saturday afternoon to make her decision, so residents are still trying to organize and send letters.

Since last week’s vote, close to 5,000 letters have been sent to the mayor urging her to get involved.

To see the online letter to Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava, click here.

To find out more about the Save Calusa group, click here.

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.