Miami Dade County Community Forum

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Refining the Pubic Interest in Planning the Future of Virginia Key

Virginia Key is a 1,000 acre island off the coast of Miami that has no residents and serves as a poster child for bad planning in South Florida. The proposed Master Plan for the Key going before the City Commission on June 25, 2009 has been long in coming - and reflects interminable delays and inadequate public information (deed restrictions on the land are not even listed on the website).

Suddenly this month, city officials have placed the plan on a fast track for approval. The Urban Environment League strongly advises against accepting the plan in its present form. The plan springs from a poorly designed public process and ignores issues of global warming in the future. The plan needs to be refined to reflect the best values of our time – not merely the short sighted values that have long dominated the city’s attitude towards the public waterfront.

The Urban Environment League along with other organizations and hundreds of other city and county residents have been involved in the planning process for the Key over the past ten years and were the major organizational champions behind the successful effort to preserve Virginia Key Beach. The present plan drawn by EDSA in no ways reflects public input. The plan calls for a far too intensive building program and inadequate consideration of public transportation.

As seen so far, there is no clear fiscal plan involved and it makes a mockery of present environmental concerns with massive unfunded developments. A raft of parking garages is envisioned – but for what? Massive numbers of cars? There is no new public transportation envisioned. It reflects poorly thought out uses of the historic Marine Stadium, a headquarters for Biscayne National Park, aquatic sports and other non-profit land uses.

Additionally, the historic Virginia Key Beach Park has been inadequately consulted; their plans are insufficiently integrated into the overall plan with no thematic coherence. We agree that the Rusty Pelican should continue to serve patrons from its present location but remain concerned that boat docks not protrude into the marine basin.

While there are elements of value in the EDSA plan, we believe that it should be vastly revised with additional public input. At least two more public meetings should be held. It should come back to the public bodies no earlier than October.

The UEL agrees that the North Point area of the island should be primarily preserved for nature and bike trails, but do not agree that a corporate center should be placed there. We agree that revenue needs to be raised by facilities on the island but strict limits must be placed on anything that would impede public access to this open space in a city that has among the least park acreage of any major city in the nation.

The proposed building along the Marine basin must be strictly limited – and enhanced by numerous public amenities and gardens; it should not reflect another Bayside Marketplace or projected development similar to Watson Island.

We believe that future development of the island should be guided by a clear set of principles for public development and overseen by a Virginia Key Development committee- but it should reflect a broad array of business, planning, environmental and neighborhood groups – and not simply reflect real estate interests as has been envisioned by the EDSA plan.

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