Local residents will guide planning for Ludlam Trail

ludlam-trailIt’s back to the drawing board for the “Ludlam Trail.’This time, property owners along its boundaries will have a chance to recommend how the 6.2-mile East Kendall Corridor should be planned as a “greenway.”

An 8-3 vote by Miami-Dade Commissioners on Dec. 4 directed the county to take formal charge of potential development following review of a Florida East Coast Realty (FECR) proposal for a park/trail combined with residential and commercial uses on the abandoned railroad right of way between SW 72nd Street and Miami International Airport.

Essentially, the three-part commission action withdrew the FECR plan, substituting a new Comprehensive Development Master Plan filing in the county’s name and approving two charrettes for citizen input intended to provide a voice for abutting homeowners, many of whom had protested vigorously the FECR plan. Commission members urged the county attorney to act expediently on submitting the new CDMP request so that charrettes in Districts 6 and 7 could be scheduled in January.

“Getting them organized for two districts in January is a tight schedule but we are certainly going to make every effort to do that,” Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Jack Osterholt told the Gazette on Dec. 10.

“The charrettes are the right solution to give those concerned a voice in how the corridor should be planned,” he added. “Who knows? Anew and worthwhile new idea may come out of those sessions.

”Mark Woerner, County Planning Division chief, had urged that the county ensure that “everybody’s following the same game plan.” Commissioner Rebecca Sosa moved the action, seconded by Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz with Commissioners Barbara Jordan, Xavier Suarez and Daniella Levine-Cava dissenting.

Commissioners Juan Zapata and Dennis Moss, both of whom represent Kendall areas, voted for the change. Commissioner Javier Souto was absent for the vote.

Jordan protested that it was not appropriate for the commission to take such formal action that would link the county to a private application, calling it “a potential precedent-setting move.”

Zapata said he felt confident the commission would have sufficient control to prevent any legal abuse of the corridor action to prevent conflict with future CDMP applications.

The Friends of Ludlam Trail, Urban Paradise Guild, Tropical Audubon Society and other organization spokespersons also appeared to protest residential or commercial uses within the 100-foot wide trail, citing multiple zoning and environmental issues.

Throughout public hearings that began with three community councils in Districts 6 and 7 in September, homeowners along the proposed trail urged the county not to go forward with transmittal of the CDMP change to state agencies, if only to receive feedback before final vote was taken.

Last May, FECR, a subdivision of Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), proposed the change as part of the May 2014 cycle of CDMP changes whose final action would not have taken place until April 2015. Headquartered in Coral Gables, FECI is a division of Fortress Investment Group, a leading global investor with more than $63 billion assets under management.

The property carries an appraised value of $100 million, according to Atty. Joseph Goldstein who appeared for FECR before five public hearings, culminating with the Dec. 4 Commission session.

The original CDMP change would have increased the density for up to 2,400 units but Goldstein said that FECR under revised planning since September council hearings would build no more than 1,345.

South Miami resident Sally Phillip echoed the voice of many objectors to private development: “That stretch of land could be to Miami-Dade what Central Park is to New York City.”

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