Horse Country residents win first round in effort to change CDMP

Sea of supporters are dressed in yellow “Preserve Horse Country” T-shirts.

Horse Country residents won the first round of another battle in a continuing fight to preserve the area’s pastoral surroundings from commercial development associated with the suburban sprawl of West Kendall.

Community Council 11, by a 4-2 vote at its Sept. 27 meeting, denied a land use change to permit development of an eightacre shopping center at the southeast corner of SW 56th Street and 127th Avenue.

In this rendering Western-styled storefronts are proposed for Horse Country shopping center.

The application by Pan American Companies Inc. sought to amend the county’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP). It will be reviewed for final recommendation by the Planning Advisory Board, which was scheduled to meet on Oct. 9.

A public hearing before the Miami-Dade County Commission is scheduled on Nov. 7 with final action tentatively set for March 2013 during the current CDMP six-month cycle review of proposed changes. Carlos Cantera Sr., company owner and father of newly elected Miami-Dade County property appraiser Carlos M. Lopez-Cantera, appeared personally to plead a quality development to match the character of Horse Country.

However, his remarks along with those of attorney Juan J. Mayol and two experts could not overcome five denial recommendations read into the record by Stephen M Dorsey of the county’s Planning and Zoning Department. They included:

• Incompatibility with the unique character of the community;

• Land usage change against CDMP guidelines;

• Inappropriate designation of section line status;

• Undemonstrated need for commercial development, and

• Covenant restrictions in place at the site.

W. Tucker Gibbs, attorney representing the Bird Road-Horse Country Home Owners Association, declared: “Do you follow the reasons that professionals on the county planning staff recommends — or throw them out the window?”

Affirming those objections were council chair Ileana Vazquez, Jeff Wander, Beatriz Suarez and Ileana Petisco, each expressing concern with precedent-setting commercial development in the two square miles of Horse Country. Commenting that it would be “naïve” to characterize the application as not setting a precedent for Horse Country, Petisco moved to uphold denial recommendations, seconded by Suarez before the 4-2 board vote.

Voting against denial were vice chair Miguel A. Diaz and Patricia “Shannon” Davis who expressed a need for an overall viewpoint to decide growth throughout Kendall while encouraging small business enterprise to create new jobs. A seventh board member, Joseph Delaney, was absent.

Backed by more than 200 Horse Country supporters in yellow T-shirts attending the three-hour session at the Kendall Village Center civic pavilion, Ron Weeks, HOA president and a 52-year resident, traced the history of preserving the agricultural nature of the Horse Country from 1946 through Master Plan studies in 1975 and 1981, and 30 years of mixed development applications.

His remarks were underlined by two former HOA presidents, including Tom Worrell who emphasized the council’s role as “protective of land use — not making decisions as a business council.”

While a steady stream of 16 residents gave additional reasons, an equal number stood in support of the center development when asked for a visual recognition by chair Vasquez who indicated she would “never” vote for such a land use change, adding a personal reason for denial — the delight of children to see horses, goats, geese and other farm animals.

Armed with a dozen maps and graphs to demonstrate a need for convenient shopping along SW 56th Street (Miller Road), Mayol said no less than seven other sites had been explored to serve the area.

He said all were rejected due to infringement on existing residences, creating new traffic problems and nearness to schools and churches, adding the selected undeveloped land parcel at SW 127th Avenue “is a location that will serve not only Horse Country but many residences and communities west of that area.” He noted the application included a sixpage Declaration of Restrictions that limited development to 80,000 square feet, prohibited gas stations, automobile parts and tire retailers, private clubs, pubs and bars,

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