U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs delays action on golf course

The decision to extend land trust status to the Miccosukee Golf and Country Club in Kendale Lakes has been delayed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs following new and detailed objections lodged by Miami-Dade County on Mar. 20.

A letter of intent to extend territorial rights to the tribe was sent to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in January, touching off a new round of objections from both the county and residents who protested the move when it first came up three years ago.

A demand to be heard in the process is the major reason cited by new petitions now being circulated throughout the Kendale Lakes community, an effort also undertaken in 2012 when more than 1,200 signatures of objectors were obtained.

“A public hearing for a land trust application is only held when a casino issue may be at stake,” said Randall Trickey, acting director for the Eastern Region for the Bureau headquartered in Nashville, TN. He explained that an Environmental Impact Statement is required then for those applications.

“Otherwise, we generally follow the recommendations we receive from the local government authority before extending the trust,” he added.

The potential of new casinos throughout Florida has remained a hot topic in Tallahassee during the current legislative session although a rewrite to expand the state’s gaming laws ended up in a committee stalemate without action.

Opening a casino at the Kendale Lakes golf course remains the primary fear of residents who are asking for a public hearing in the newest petitions.

The petition’s wording: “As a citizen of the West Kendall Community, I object to this property becoming a Tribal Trust, which would deny Miami-Dade County Government, and our citizens, having any regulatory authority. I object to the golf course and country club becoming a Tribal Trust and demand public hearing for the residents.”

Meanwhile, issues of health, security, safety and infrastructure were answered in detail in a 32-page “Comment Letter” that was the work of Ileana Cruz, an assistant county attorney.

“The document she prepared is a legal masterpiece,” said Miles Moss who acts as liaison for the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations to Kendale Lakes along with KFHAmember Aster Mohamad, a Kendale Lakes resident for 39 years.

Asking for a 30-day delay, the letter also seeks to add seven documents dating back to the tribe’s original submission for land trust authority in 2003 when then-county manager George Burgess led a formal county protest that halted further action at that time.

A delay of 10 years ensued before a new Letter of Acceptance for the Land Trust surfaced in July 2012, resulting in a second round of objections that included a county request to vacate the decision. No further action occurred until the Bureau’s request for county data in a letter to Mayor Gimenez dated Jan. 16.

As pointed out in her lengthy reply, Cruz noted that the total area of Kendale Lakes is approximately 8.6 square miles with the golf course occupying about a single square mile.

“With a population of nearly 60,000 and over 19,000 households, Kendale Lakes suffers from high volume traffic,” she stated.

Her objections continue with her allegation that the Bureau lacks statutory authority because the tribe does not meet the term “Indian tribe” as set forth in trust acquisition regulations. The document also notes that the property was dedicated “to the local residents pursuant to a 99-year use-restriction covenant that would conflict with a tribal takeover…”

In addition to those legal issues, Cruz cites the non-contiguity of the club to the Miccosukee’s primary reservation land along US 41(a 25-mile gap), and that a tribal “need” for economic security does not withstand scrutiny, based on its 10-year ownership.

The formal reply challenges the Miccosukee’s ability to provide police and fire-rescue services, noting “the change in law enforcement will have a grave impact on the community.”

The letter also details “negative jurisdictional and land use conflicts” with zoning and comprehensive planning, protection for the drinking water supply, pollution safeguards, storm water drainage and water flow rights.

“Removing the property from the county’s jurisdiction will undermine its ability to protect the general welfare of the public, and other property owners within the county will face reduced property values,” the letter states.

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