Last August was the 25th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. During that week I had the honor of meeting Bryan Norcross who talked our community through that storm in 1992. His message was simple and clear…”be prepared and have a plan”. Just a few weeks later, we were all facing the prospect of another category 5 hurricane coming ashore in South Florida. Several days out, when we looked at the forecast map, Hurricane Irma was projected to move up Biscayne Bay between Key Biscayne and Matheson Hammock. It was a frightening and stressful time. As it came to pass, we were blessed that Pinecrest was spared the potentially catastrophic strike of Hurricane Irma. However, the winds from Irma revealed that we all need to be better prepared for the next storm.
Since that day, our Village has been working through our Inspire Pinecrest process to address the infrastructure issues that were exposed by the storm. To date we have made significant progress. We have reviewed and modified our land development regulations, specifically related to our tree ordinance, we have considered waiving permit fees for generators and solar panel systems, we are partnering with Solar United Neighbors of Florida Cooperative and the PACE District to facilitate alternative sources of power, and we are including an additional code compliance position in our budget to monitor vegetation intrusion on the power lines. We are working closely with our partners like FPL and the county and state governments, which are primarily responsible for electricity, water, and debris removal to determine how we improve our water and power infrastructure.
Ultimately, as individual families we all need to be prepared ourselves. Have an emergency plan. It’s never too early to purchase two weeks’ worth of water and canned foods. Flashlights and batteries are critical. Understand the evacuation zone you are in and have an evacuation plan in mind. Check your shutters. Don’t wait until a hurricane watch or warning is issued. But just as important are other more long term things we all can do to minimize the impact of the actual event on a village-wide scale. Assess your trees and have them pruned every few years early in the season. Never trim a tree under a wire. Only FPL can and should do this. If they are not responsive, contact the Village. Consider purchasing some form of generator and have a plug installed into your system, particularly if you are on well water. Please plan with your family to determine what you can do to protect your property and to have a plan in place to deal with the aftermath of any future storm. Rest assured the Village is preparing as well. We know there will be a next storm.
More specifically, related to the Inspire Pinecrest initiative, we have information related to electricity, trees, water, parks and transportation.
Water. We continue to work with Miami-Dade County on the completion of their water system. After long negotiations we have determined that neither the County or State can commit to assisting with water development in our Village. We are undertaking a ground water testing process. Pending the findings, there may be an opportunity for the State of Florida to assist with the implementation of a potable water system. By the fall we should be at the point where we can decide whether to ask the County to initiate a special district to get the approximately 700 homes not on the water system hooked up. Details are coming soon.
Electricity. We have determined it is not feasible to underground all the electrical and telecommunication lines in the Village. This would come at a cost of roughly $35,000 per home, take about a decade to complete, and would require a village-wide all or nothing vote. Instead, it is more prudent for each homeowner to consider solar or generator options. Solar power and a battery system for an average home has a cost about equal to the purchase of a full house generator or undergrounding electric wires as an entire community. But both solar and electric can be done immediately with no community vote, so nobody is forced to purchase something they don’t want. The added benefit is that solar will pay for itself over a reasonable time and minimize outages after the storm. We have engaged with a local cooperative to bring down costs, and take the guess work out. There are also various financing options that are offered. We are ahead of the hardening efforts by FPL and we can assist in facilitating undergrounding for individual streets and neighborhoods that would like to undertake such a project.
Transportation. Our Transportation Master Plan will be completed this fall. We will identify and prioritize projects in various modes, including roadways, traffic calming, bicycle/pedestrian, and transit. Top projects can be undertaken beginning next year by utilizing our existing Transportation Fund dollars.
Parks. Last year we retired the original bond that was used to develop much of our parks system. It was our hope that this year we would re-issue a bond to undertake the much needed maintenance of our fields and facilities. In total our parks are a diverse mix of active and passive community gathering spaces spread throughout the community. There is tremendous pressure on our fields and those county-wide, and there is a desire for new activities that were not contemplated originally. We will seamlessly integrate a more diverse array of activities into our system, while still providing ample high quality space for the variety of leagues that rely on our more active facilities, while at the same time preserving our semi-active and passive parks, as these are even more rare. Staff has identified nearly 40 projects. These include field replacement with grass or artificial turf, field lighting at each park, fence and dugout replacements, shade structure replacements for playgrounds and bleachers, roof replacements, and even diversifying our recreational offerings so that all of us have an activity to do in our parks, including a long awaited dog park and children play areas. Each of our parks users will greatly benefit from this program.
It’s an exciting time to be in Pinecrest, we are looking forward to working together as a community to see these initiatives through to completion.
Please have a safe and enjoyable summer.