In her recent State of the Village remarks, Mayor Cindy Lerner announced that she envisions annexing Downtown Kendall, The Falls and neighborhoods west of U.S. 1 nearly to the Turnpike over time. The Mayor offered the dubious rationale that we need to grow because our commercial tax base contributes just 13 percent of total property tax revenues.
In another forum, the Mayor has stated her wish that our village of 18,200 residents should grow to at least 50,000. The somewhat esoteric reason: To earn a seat on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county agency that develops long-range transportation plans.
You should know that the Village Council has already produced two annexation studies. The first identifies annexation possibilities. The second describes the characteristics of each area under study. You can read them by going to the “what’s new” tab of the village website and then look for “download documents.”
I believe that annexation west of US 1, a natural boundary, is a terrible idea, one that should die a quick and horrible death.
At an earlier council meeting, the Mayor floated a trial balloon to change the “village” part of the Village of Pinecrest’s name to something more grandiose. She gives short shrift to our founding mothers’ and fathers’ purposeful choice of this nomenclature to represent our desired sense of community. A name change would mean turning our backs on our founding principle that small-scale government, being closer to the people, can do a better job of meeting resident needs. It seems obvious that in adhering to this principle, Village of Pinecrest incorporation has been wildly successful. Police patrolling is more intense, thousands of trees planted provide a pleasant backdrop for daily living, responsive public officials answer phone calls and emails quickly, and our community’s desirability measured by real estate values is exceptional. Further, an amazing 92 percent of residents in a 2013 survey said that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the services they receive for the taxes they pay.
Let’s say that over time we absorb the Falls’ 21,000 residents and East Kendall’s 26,000 residents. At that point, today’s Pinecrest residents might amount to only 28 percent of a new mega-Pinecrest (probably less because populations west of US 1 are growing faster than ours).
Even if we annexed smaller areas, we would be heading down the path of ceding majority control, in a political sense, to unknown outsiders. Why on earth would we want to do that? Why would we want to mess up our finely honed service structure? And why would we want to dilute our focus on serving today’s residents by accepting the significant challenges of serving an entirely new population?
Also, I think it would be unseemly for Pinecrest to act like a vulture by snatching the most important sources of commercial property tax revenue west of US 1 in a first-phase incorporation. This would rob all residents east of the Turnpike of their right to a tax base that would sustain visions of self-determination. (You may recall that Falls residents were once on the cusp of an incorporation vote before being denied by a County Commission that was having a bad hair day.)
Most telling of all, 85 percent of Pinecrest residents surveyed in 2013 had absolutely no interest in annexation. The purpose of our survey was to learn things like this. Failure to heed what we already know seems pretty dumb to me.
The saving grace here is that contrary to what the Mayor has implied, the county commission has absolutely no clue as to how to address the issue of annexation on any systemic basis. One thing’s for sure, the county is not about ready to let any wealthy community cherry-pick the most desirable tax-producing commercial properties.