Twenty-seven years ago, Pinecrest was incorporated to enhance our unique community character and quality of life. Many in the community said we would fail. But incorporating was a necessity as a small neighborhood in one of the largest and fastest growing counties in one of the fastest growing states in the nation.
We created a charter and system of doing things that focused on small, efficient and effective government, slow/managed growth and a high level of individual service.
Everything we’ve done since that time has been done with those goals in mind. This system has not only been successful but has made us one of the premier places to live and raise a family in Florida. We attract people from all over the world because of that success. And we’ve become an example for how to do those things.
Today we continue to provide the bedrock concierge level of service that separates us from many other communities, and we continue to face the challenges of change same as we did when we incorporated.
Some of the interesting parts of all of this are:
● How do you take a neighborhood without boundaries and without a name and turn it into an internationally sought-after community?
● How do we decide what our “character” is?
● When is it appropriate to stop evolving and freeze the community at one moment in time?
● We need to constantly understand the regional trends
● We need work hard to evolve the best of our community and minimize the worst and we elect our neighbors every two years work with us to manage the system day to day.
● It’s never appropriate to freeze the community. Evolution is critical.
Pinecrest is a success story in municipal evolution, but success is not guaranteed. We’ve come a long way in 27 years.
If you sat on your porch in 1996 and waited for a police car to drive by it may have taken months for you to see one. If you called the police, it may have taken hours for them to show up. Today if you call the police, it will take about 2 minutes before they are at your door.
Today, crime is about 65 percent lower than it was at the time of incorporation. The five-year running average of Part 1 crime is still the lowest on record. In 2022, we recorded the lowest number of reported residential burglaries in our history. Down 82 percent in the last decade. We’ve resurrected our DUI enforcement unit and had 103 DUI arrests in 2022. We made 11,000 traffic stops, up from 8000 in 2019. We remain one of the only triple accredited departments in the county.
In 1996 we had fewer parks, and little programming. Evelyn Greer Park was a different of kind park. It was an actual trailer park. Again, many were outraged when Publix wanted to locate there. And outraged when we bought it and made it a real park. It’s natural to be scared of the change. But the change worked very well. Soon after our parks department was created, we recovered about 12 percent of its operating expenditures from non-ad valorem taxes. The national average is 24 percent. Today, the Parks and Recreation Department operates with a 74 percent total cost recovery.
In the last couple of years, we’ve added to our parks inventory and upgraded almost all of our facilities. We are in the midst of programming Gary Matzner Park, and we’ve nearly completed the passive Hidden Pines Park with Tremendous Miami. As we progress, we are looking for a more balanced mix of active and passive opportunities in our parks.
I think most of us believe Pinecrest was always this beautiful. It wasn’t. Since our incorporation we’ve planted well over 10,000 trees and diligently maintained our rights-of-ways. Last year we planted 154 trees. Every new public works project we do, increases the amount of tree canopy we have.
Last year, our public works department issued over 1100 permits and added 3,000 linear feet of sidewalks. Our potable water project is 89 percent complete. This change was highly controversial. But, thank goodness the water project is occurring. Many people in one district are now east of the ever-progressing saltwater intrusion line. Those people are currently pumping salt water from their wells and their yards are literally dying before their eyes.
The 58th Avenue drainage project is complete. We’ve started the Palmetto Island drainage project. The Village entrance signs project is complete. The 136th special use path we did in partnership with Palmetto Bay is complete. The 88th Street special use path is in design.
We are still working with FPL to complete the $20 million electricity undergrounding project. This will greatly improve our quality of life after the next storm. Many of us remember living in homes with young children after a storm in 1992, or 2004, or 2017 and when the electricity went out and you got one flush of the toilet and then were without water until power came back on. Welcome to your new million-dollar home, with 1920’s infrastructure. It’s much better now.
We’ve won nearly $1.3 million in grants. We have a very good chance of winning a $15 million grant for projects in the storm water master plan.
Behind the scenes our human resources department has onboarded 54 employees onboarded in 2022. They have focused on fostering a full work-life balance for all of our employees.
Our finance department manages about $63 million in revenue and we maintain over $11 million in reserves. The Village continues to maintain a AAA bond rating and we recently received another Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. Our procurement department is making sure we are spending our bond money where we should be, so we don’t lose any of it.
The communications department produces hundreds of multimedia pieces that keep all of us informed about all things. Information technology keeps all of our departments moving. We built a new intranet site to improve internal communication and staff productivity. We’ve customized and built an outward facing municipal Pinecrest resident dashboard.
This year our legal team won the Irma debris clean up arbitration. Now, we can recoup the over $1.5 million we spent to get back to normal during that disaster.
Did you know that 2022 marked the 20th anniversary since the Village purchased the Parrot Jungle property? At that time, this place was leaking and falling down. Every aspect of it was a mess. During hurricanes the petting zoo animals had to shelter in the restrooms under the Banyan Bowl. And we should have required a tetanus shot as admission to enter the playground.
The Village intervened and saved it from the developer’s bulldozer. We served over 180,000 visitors in the last year, while always working to fit seamlessly into an estate-density residential neighborhood. In the early days, we put together a Pinecrest Gardens master plan. The very last project on that plan has just been completed. The opening of Upper Gardens has been a tremendous success. It’s got a new inclusive playground, world-class mini zoo, and an inspiration center. The animals no longer take shelter in the restrooms like animals.
Over this twenty-year span, we have witnessed the campus evolve from a slumping private tourist attraction of questionable botanic value to a display garden and cultural arts park of the first order similar to how it was envisioned when it was created nine decades ago, but with a contemporary twist. This is another perfect example of instituting change as a way to enhance our community character and quality of life.
Our building planning and code enforcement departments remain extremely busy. We’ve completed over 26,000 plan reviews and 20,000 inspections on $200 million worth of construction. We thought 2021 was busy. The construction value is up 100 percent from last year. We are very popular. How we run this city is attracting people from all over the world.
We completed 4,000 code compliance inspections. We are tracking vacation rentals to keep our neighborhoods peaceful. We processed 1,200 business licenses. Our planning department continues to maintain our comprehensive plan and zoning code. Which are at the essence of our community’s character. Everything in the built environment is governed by our zoning code.
In the mid-1990s if you wanted to participate in the zoning process, you would have had to seek out your county commissioner. One of 13 representatives working for two million people. And if you wanted to participate in a meeting, you would have needed to go downtown, and literally sit all day to say your peace.
Today, you simply call one of your neighbors who we elect every two years. They will typically meet at any time, on any topic and listen to your concerns, then work to modify any decisions so that they are acceptable to most of the community. After about 13 election cycles this has proven successful.
We make multiple changes to our zoning code every year. These include:
● buffering single family homes from the commercial area
● regulating sober homes
● adjusting the height of tie beams to allow for contemporary construction
● strictly regulating vacation rentals
● adjusting definitions
● adjusted our noise ordinance
● spacing fire hydrant
● dealing with flood plain management issues
● changing impact fees and permit fees
● and tree trimming
The list goes on and on.
All of these have either saved us money, protected our character by preventing noxious uses, or were mandated by the state. On top of all this, since our incorporation and particularly in the past year we’ve all worked hard in protecting the Village from the worst of impacts from the tremendous growth happening around us. We’ve been fighting unchecked urban expansion. We’ve worked to protect the environment including the Everglades, Biscayne Bay, and having the canals that run through the Village cleaned and maintained.
We’ve coordinated with our surrounding communities to create jobs in South Dade in an attempt to reverse the daily traffic flow that clogs our streets. We’ve even taken on the ubiquitous peacock. We’ve put rules in place to prevent feeding of them. We are enforcing those rules and that’s thinning the ostentations. We are even experimenting with a neutering program like the one used in places with feral cats.
Most critically, we successfully led the efforts to modify the proposed Rapid Transit Zone ordinance put forth by the county. The original version of this ordinance would have seen the county take control of Pinecrest’s land use and zoning as well as the application review process for all land half-a-mile east of US 1 – allowing buildings in certain areas at a height of between 16 and 25 stories.
Thanks to our leadership, the ordinance was significantly modified before it was passed. As a result, we will remain in control of the zoning and the review of future developments. We made sure single-family areas were exempted. All single-family areas now are forever protected by law. There are no requirements to conform to any density or height standards. Just a minimum building volume standard. Any future changes are under our control. A major win for Pinecrest.
Today just like in 1996, we are faced with tremendous outside pressure. Similarly, there are over a million more people moving to our county in the foreseeable future. Most of those people will move south of us and need to pass by here to get to work.
To stay as successful as we have been, we need to:
● maintain our deep awareness of regional trends
● continue to think about how to mitigate the impacts of the worst of them on our community
● and most of all we need to remain nimble
As we move into 2023 and beyond, we will maintain our focus on changing for the best.
We will continue to focus on:
● coordination with the other cities and agencies in the area
● coordination with schools
● being resilient by updating our drainage master plans
● the homeless issue
● traffic, transportation and pedestrian safety
● we will be enhancing our crime prevention capabilities
● we will continue to focus on assuring the quiet, peaceful enjoyment of our properties which is critical to our quality of life
But there is one really big project we need to tackle. Over the years we’ve focused on big problems and we’ve been successful. Our water project is nearly complete. We are progressing well on the electrical undergrounding project. We are becoming more resilient each year. We’ve done dog parks, sidewalks, even continued to deal with peacocks. We’ve beaten back unfettered development and a hostile takeover of our zoning. One of the largest undertakings we will ever consider is the conversion from our septic system to a sewer system. It may take a decade or more to complete, but we must get started now.
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