Miami Dade County Community Forum

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Virginia Key Master Plan. By Fran Bohnsack

I attended the presentation on the Virginia Key master plan last night at the Museum of Science. My measure of the crowd was that folks there weren't too pleased with the intensity of what is suggested in the EDSA design.

Virtually every square inch of the Key is programmed with some sport activity or event venue that takes away from the natural beauty of the place and threatens to overcrowd with parking garages (at least 6!), walkways, pavers, playing fields, campsites, dormitories, a mountain bike path and traffic. Eco trails seem more intrusive than quiet, the waterfront "promenade" is lined with a commercial "village" (read Bayside) and its grand design cuts off car access to Hobie Beach. There is inappropriately placed major public event space and several unnecessary buildings. Even the proposed gardens seem stilted and programmed. In a phrase, it was over the top!

True, the boat launch proposed for environmentally sensitive land is gone, as is the proposed school, and it does seem as if the Marine Stadium has a chance to stay, but these concessions do not compensate for the overcrowded upscale design that incensed several in the audience. Even the "quiet" area for observing nature caught some criticism from a biologist who pointed out that the path designed to reach this spot could damage sensitive flora. At least a compromise of sorts among marine users came about in plans for using the large slip, although power boaters were left unhappy and plans for an enlarged marina limit the slip's boundaries.

The presenter, when pressed, said that the plans could potentially cost $400 million (read more). I was left with the overall impression that virtually every amenity of the design was planned to create a revenue stream to pay this expensive price tag and to assure maintenance -- but this is a pipedream, of course. So folks, if you care about this last remnant of beauty in our midst, please get involved. Attend the City of Miami's Planning Advisory Board on June 17 and the City Commission on June 25th. Speak your mind. We deserve a better plan for our precious barrier island.


  1. AnonymousMay 21, 2009

    There are very few natives on the critical wildlife trail. Most are exotics that need to be removed.

  2. AnonymousMay 21, 2009

    Sometimes if you get most of what you want, you should be happy. In a democracy it is impossible to get 100%. Although less is sometimes more!

  3. AnonymousMay 21, 2009

    A Price Tag on Nature
    By Art Levy - 3/1/2009
    When planners consider whether a proposed development warrants the destruction of a swath of seagrass or a stand of mangroves, they typically hear about how many jobs the project will create and how many dollars it will generate for the local economy. But the monetary value of the natural ecosystem itself is rarely discussed, usually because there’s no authoritative estimate.
    In hopes of coming up with figures that will make sense to both sides of the development debate, the Environmental Protection Agency, as part of a five-year pilot study, is trying to quantify the economic value of Tampa Bay’s natural resources. The study presents a new way of looking at the existence value of natural habitats, which until now have only been given a price tag if resources are harvested and sold.
    The EPA became interested in a study following Hurricane Katrina, when some argued that the loss of wetlands south of New Orleans contributed to flooding within the city. The study will look at storm surge issues here, as well as other potential benefits of the bay’s natural habitats — from wetlands filtering pollution to the role that seagrass beds play in nurturing the food chain and subsequently supporting the commercial fishing industry. “We’re trying to place functional rates and values on all that the different habitat types provide to humans,” says Marc Russell, an EPA research ecologist who is leading the Tampa Bay study.
    Researchers don’t expect any answers until 2013. The key will be coming up with numbers that everyone can accept, says Suzanne Cooper, a principal planner with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, which is aiding the study. “If the science community buys into it first and signs off on how we arrived at the numbers, then we can get local governments and state government to buy into the concept,” Cooper says. “Then we can talk in monetary terms about natural resources in ways that we never have before. The whole idea is to put it in a common language that can be put in a calculator.”

  4. AnonymousMay 21, 2009

    I thought the overall plan for Va Key was also over the top and did not at all reflect the will of the participants in the LaSalle design workshop in 2007. Why get people involved if their opinions dont really matter? The Marine Stadium area is left with huge parking structures and ominously defined commercial spaces. The "sports complex" is ridiculous. And above all, the Va Key Development COmmittee which is projected to be run by real estate professionals is most suspicious. EDSA created a plan that in no way reflects community consensus; the money spent on their efforts was largely a waste. The corporate conference center in the north pointe area is also a set up for the elephant to get his large nose under the tent without adequate assurances of public access for the future. We learned alot in stopping the "eco-campground" on the Va Key Beach park site in 1999. There are alot of commercial ghosts parading around as eco friendly visions. Green roofs on parking garages are a front for inappropriate development. And what thought has been given to expanded public transportation around the island and to it by buses, trolleys and water taxis? Why feed our automania with such behemoth parking structures?

    THE UEL should work with other organizations - quickly-to present alternative notions before the June meetings of the Waterfront Bd, the Planning Advisory Board and the City COmmission (June 25). The city is on a fast track for good reason- their reasons. Greg Bush