Community News Update July 17, 2016

Our latest newsletter is out!  Click here to read it in its entirety, or read below for highlights….

There is no such thing as a summer slow-dow when it comes to advocating for our community!  Here’s the latest:
  • MAC/Incorporation: Last month’s Public Hearing of the Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC) saw passionate sentiments from pro- and against-incorporation residents.  The HOA’s current position is that a vote should be held to let the residents decide. We urge everyone to come to the next Public Hearing on Thursday, July 21, 6-8pm, Highland Oaks Middle School to ask the MAC to Let Us Vote. The MAC is approaching their vote on whether or not to allow an election – it is critical that residents attend and speak in favor of allowing a vote to happen. 
  • FDOT Plan for US 1/Ives Dairy Overpass: We had a great turnout from our neighborhood to the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Public Hearing regarding their proposed plan to re-configure the Ives Dairy/US 1 interchange. Despite our strong objections that doing so would destroy 25 small businesses as well as other concerns, FDOT decided to move forward with their plan. However, as a result of HOA lobbying efforts, Florida State Rep. Barbara Watson and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman are pushing for design modifications.  We expect to hear the results of those efforts very soon. The HOA Board will review legal options if all else fails.
  • Lane Changes: As a result of HOA efforts, the south-bound lanes leaving the main Highland Lakes gate have been modified as follows:
    • Left Lane: Left turn only
    • Center Lane: Straight or right turn
    • Right Lane: Right turn only

 

We believe that this modification will alleviate traffic backup during school season.

Bright Lights, New City? Biscayne Times, July 2016

Bright Lights, New City? Print
Written By Erik Bojnansky, BT Senior Writer
JULY 2016

SIDES LINE UP AS RESIDENTS EYE COSTS, BENEFITS OF INCORPORATION

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Unincorporated Ojus is growing: The 400-unit apartment community Gables Aventura is under construction at NE 202nd Street and Miami Gardens Drive. BT photos by Erik Bojnansky

or 13 years activists from several neighborhoods between Aventura, North Miami Beach, I-95, and the Broward County line have been debating if they should unite and form their own city.Now pro-cityhood activists want to hold a referendum, as early as March 2017, to create the newest city in Miami-Dade County. But before that can happen, the referendum must be endorsed first by the Northeast Miami-Dade Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC), then the county’s Planning Advisory Board, and finally by the Miami-Dade County Commission.

The next Northeast MAC meeting will likely be held in late July at the Highland Oaks Middle School auditorium, says Jorge Fernandez, the county’s office of management and budget coordinator.

As of 2014, according to the U.S. Census, 18,761 people lived within this 3.3-square-mile area that includes Sky Lake, Highland Lakes, Ojus, and various other subdivisions where municipal services are handled by Miami-Dade County. The area includes condominiums, single-family homes, and retail strip malls. Within this area, a 400-unit apartment community called Gables Aventura is being built at NE 202nd Street and Miami Gardens Drive.

Not too far away from this future community, the Florida Department of Transportation wants to build another flyover at Ives Dairy Road and W. Dixie Highway. (See “Overhead and Under Fire,” May 2016.)

The Census Bureau refers to this region as the Ojus CDP (Census Designated Place), after the town that existed there from 1926 to 1936. Most locals, however, limit the “Ojus” moniker to the W. Dixie Highway corridor and reject it as a name for their city. Other floated suggestions include Highland Oaks, West Aventura, and Aventura Oaks.

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David Promoff of Enchanted Lake with Alan Hecht and José Klahr of Highland Lakes handing out T-shirts prior to the June 21 Northeast MAC meeting.

Lenny Feldman, former president of the Sky Lake-Highland Lakes Area Homeowners Association, says it isn’t even clear if his community will incorporate as a city. “It’s a very emotional and critical issue,” says Feldman, a Highland Lakes resident. “People have strong opinions on both sides.”There are plenty of people who want to keep the status quo. The June 21 Northeast MAC meeting was attended by dozens of residents and property owners, and those who spoke against cityhood (many of whom claimed to be speaking on behalf of condo associations) outnumbered those in favor of it.

Gerard Moss, a 94-year-old Sky Lake resident who sits on the Northeast MAC, is on the anti-incorporation side. Moss insists most people are satisfied with the services they’re receiving from the county.

“If you need the police, they come right away,” Moss says. “I don’t think we need another level of government. What do I need another mayor or another city attorney for? It’ll cost another million dollars of overhead.”

Kenneth Friedman, chairman of the Northeast MAC, is a cityhood advocate. He counters that many of his neighbors are dissatisfied with the services and representation they receive at the county, and says that most anti-incorporation critics are “negative thinkers” who see the glass as half empty.

An April report by the consultancy PMG Associates states that the Ojus CDP can run a city with a $9 million operating budget without raising property taxes, fines, or fees. Hypothetical expenditures for this future city will be $8.5 million, with $4.9 million of that amount spent on police, from the Miami-Dade Police Department.

“We can’t, for the first three years, own our own police,” Friedman admits, citing county law for new cities. However, the new city can hire dedicated MDPD patrols, he says.

Alicia Perez Rook, an outspoken critic of incorporation, insists that the budget not only doesn’t include the cost of building a new city hall, it also omits a county exit fee that could reach as high as $1 million.

“Taxes will go higher,” predicts Rook, a Sky Lake resident. “They have to go higher. They have to pay for and maintain a new city.”

The Ojus CDP is just one part of a noncontiguous 208-square-mile territory where 1.1 million people reside. Known as the unincorporated municipal service area, these neighborhoods lie outside Miami-Dade County’s 34 municipalities.

Currently a property tax rate of 1.9283 mills, or $1.93 per $1000 of a property’s assessed value, is charged by the county within unincorporated areas for most city-like services, such as police, code enforcement, and garbage collection. That’s a far lower tax rate than most cities in Miami-Dade County, except for Doral (1.9 mills) and Aventura (1.7 mills).

Yet it’s unclear how much longer such unincorporated property tax rates can be maintained. Richard Friedman (no relation to Kenneth Friedman), a resident of the unincorporated Moors community just outside Miami Lakes, served on the county’s Annexation and Incorporation Review Task Force in 2013. During his tenure, Friedman learned that while the county’s elected officials have been reluctant to raise taxes, Miami-Dade’s infrastructure is crumbling.

“The current tax rates are artificially low as a way of maintaining favor with constituents,” he says.

That budget crunch will grow worse if more areas incorporate. Besides the Northeast MAC, seven other MACs are looking at turning their respective unincorporated regions into cities. Friedman predicts it’ll be the wealthy regions that bolt first. “Their taxation rate, their property values, allow them to charge at a lot lower tax rate than poorer areas,” he says.

If wealthy regions, like Kendall in south Miami-Dade, become cities, the county will have no choice but to slash services or raise property taxes of whatever unincorporated areas remain, Richard Friedman adds.

Whether or not Kendall becomes a city, Eugene Stearns, an attorney involved in the incorporation efforts of Key Biscayne and Aventura in the early 1990s, argues that Ojus CDP residents would be better off forming their own municipality.

Stearns asserts that tax money earmarked for an unincorporated community is pillaged “with great zeal” by county officials for countywide services like the Miami-Dade Transit bus system. Incorporated cities can also do a far better job providing services and addressing local issues than the county’s government can, Stearns insists. “Local governments,” he says, “are more efficient at providing a quality level of service at a lower cost than the county can.”

Former HOA president Lenny Feldman admits he’s leaning toward incorporation as a means of amplifying the community’s voice on matters like the proposed new flyover at Ives Dairy Road or public school construction, but only if there are guarantees that the new city government won’t overtax the residents on wasteful projects or bloated government pensions.

“If we’re able to make sure there’s responsible fiscal management,” Feldman says, “then there could be benefits to cityhood for a community like ours.”

Marc Hurwitz, the current president of the Sky Lake-Highland Lakes HOA, says his group has taken a neutral stance on the issue of cityhood. The group does, however, want a referendum. Proclaims Hurwitz: “The people should be allowed to vote on this as soon as possible.”

Adopt-a-Tree Event at FIU Biscayne Bay Campus

Miami-Dade County Division of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) will be giving FREE trees to the community through its popular Adopt-a-Tree Program.

Come to the Adopt-a-Tree Event on Sunday,  June 26th, from 9am until Noon at FIU Biscayne Bay Campus- 3000 NE 151 Street, North Miami,  FL 33181.

Residents eligible to adopt trees will be able to choose from Mango (only 1 per household), Carambola, Mulberry, Pigeon Plum, and Dahoon Holly. However, tree quantities are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants will be required to fill out a “Registration Form” available at the event. Some restrictions apply – for information on rules, eligibility, tree information, and community service hours for those who would like to volunteer, please visit the Adopt-a-Tree webpage.

Also at this event, the Miami-Dade County Water & Sewer Department will exchange up to 3 incandescent light bulbs for high efficiency compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), as well as, 2 high efficiency shower heads to those residents who bring their old shower heads and/or their most heavily used regular light bulbs to exchange at the event (while supplies last). The Miami-Dade County Animal Services Department will also have pets there available for adoption. For more information call 311.

For more information on the Adopt-a-Tree Program, email adoptatree@miamidade.gov or call 305-372-6784.

HOA Letter to FDOT District 6 Secretary Regarding the Proposed Ives Dairy Overpass

June 14, 2016

Via Electronic Mail & Standard Mail

Jim Wolfe

District Six Secretary

State of Florida Department of Transportation

1000 NW 111 Avenue

Miami, FL 33172

Request for Alternative Design

Proposed NE 203rd Street & U.S. 1 Intersection Improvements

 FM No: 433511-1-22-01; ETDM No.: 14050

 

Dear Secretary Wolfe,

Thank you again for attending the public meeting held on June 8, 2016 at the Aventura City Hall concerning FDOT’s proposed improvements to the N.E. 203rd Street and U.S. 1 intersection.  As mentioned, we have the privilege of serving as the President and Immediate Past President of the Sky Lake–Highland Lakes Area Homeowners Association (HOA), advocating on behalf of an unincorporated community of over 13,000 residents. 

As you clearly heard from the nearly one hundred (100) residents in attendance that evening, we urge the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to consider adopting the alternative design calling for a westbound overpass at 203rd Street adjacent to the current eastbound overpass and lowering U.S. 1 to street level.  A substantial majority of our residents prefer this option in lieu of the currently proposed design calling for a jughandle or horse-shoe shaped loop that would snake up, over, and down West Dixie Highway and through twenty-five (25) community businesses that comprise a tax base of over $5.2 million from which we derive county services.  

Considering that this intersection provides ingress and egress to Aventura Mall, the second largest shopping mall in the U.S. in terms of visitors, now undergoing an expansion, we further urge FDOT concomitantly to consider a comprehensive plan, in conjunction with FDOT District 4 and Miami-Dade County to relieve traffic congestion in the area.  All parties must come to the table to arrive at a holistic solution to the traffic challenges in our area, including improvements at Miami Gardens Drive, NE 215th Street (County Line Road) and Hallandale Beach Blvd. A holistic approach is especially critical given the expected passage of 100 trains daily across these intersections.

On January 26, 2016 Mr. Harold Desdunes responded to my December 1, 2016 letter to FDOT Assistant Secretary Mr. Richard Beiter as well as to my discussions with Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Carlos Lopez Cantera, FDOT Secretary, Jim Boxold and prior FDOT District 6 Secretary, Gus Pago.  In that letter Mr. Desdunes stated that FDOT’s, “foremost interest is vehicular passenger and pedestrian safety…[and] on the quality of life for area residents when this increased rail traffic commences.”  We submit that FDOT’s current design does not meet these objectives and if implemented would violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because it:

  • calls for the demolition of the Breslev Orthodox Jewish Center and House of Worship at 20450 West Dixie Highway whose congregants walk to synagogue to pray;
  • would cause severe hardship on hundreds, even thousands, of others in the Orthodox community by making it impossible for some and extremely difficult for others to traverse U.S. 1 to worship at their current synagogues;
  • unnecessarily requires the demolition of at least two dozen established businesses along West Dixie Highway, including a youth programs center, and irreparably harming our business corridor’s recent revival and vital $5.2 million tax base;
  • would destroy a one-half (1/2) acre wood stork habitat, raising environmental concerns;
  • would include significantly elevated and visible roadways minimizing the privacy, tranquility and desirability (quality of life) of numerous neighboring homes;
  • would be located three blocks south of the Aventura-Waterways K-8 Center that will compromise the safety and security of hundreds of students and parents traversing this already dangerous area daily by foot and by car;
  • would not pose a much better alternative than the option we prefer as it still would yield an “F” rating to traffic at certain times of the day and route traffic to the already congested Ives Dairy and N.E. 26th avenue intersection leading to gridlock[1];
  • is not being addressed in tandem with any other possible improvements to N.E. 215th street (County Line Road), Miami Gardens Drive and Hallandale Beach Blvd.

As we have stated before, while we do not profess to being engineering experts, we truly believe that a safer, wiser alternative must exist that would be considerably more compatible with the residential nature of our bedroom community and not require the destruction of these cherished businesses, including a house of worship, bringing a vital tax base for our community.  

Thank you for considering our concerns and suggestions.  We look forward to hearing from you and your colleagues concerning this critical matter prior to reaching any final decisions.                                                                                        

Sincerely,                                                       

Marc Hurwitz, President                                                     Lenny Feldman, Immediate Past President                                         

Sky Lake – Highland Lakes Area HOA                                  Sky Lake – Highland Lakes Area HOA

 

cc: Jim Boxold, FDOT Secretary

cc: Tom Byron, FDOT Assistant Secretary

cc: Fabiana Gonzalez, FDOT

cc: The Honorable Senator Gwen Margolis

cc: The Honorable Senator Oscar Braynon II

cc: The Honorable Representative Barbara Watson

cc: The Honorable Representative Joseph Geller  

cc: The Honorable Commissioner Sally Heyman

cc: The Honorable Mayor Enid Weisman

[1] We note this intersection still is about ¼ mile away from Highland Oaks Middle School and most residents we polled, including Miami Dade County Public School officials, do not appear concerned about the safety of students attending HOM as a result of the alternative design that the majority of our community now prefers despite opposition that may have existed decades ago.

iPrep Annex Update

Dear residents,

As a result of presenting our Krop iPrep @HOMS concerns to the City of Aventura Commission, our School Member, Dr. Martin Karp, who was present at the meeting, has offered to facilitate a meeting between me and the Superintendent and his staff. Mr. Carvalho’s office has already contacted me to discuss possible dates and availability.

We have been informed that the iPrep Annex will not be on the agenda at the upcoming School Board meeting on April 13, 2016. Additionally, any actions taken prior to the meeting with Mr. Carvalho and staff would be counter-productive.

We are suggesting that at this time, there is no need for residents to speak during the Public Hearing portion of the School Board meeting on April 13, 2016. However, we do retain the option of addressing the Board next month if necessary.

This is not an attempt to stifle freedom of expression. All residents have the right to express themselves and should reserve that right if they wish to address the School Board on any issue.
As always, I’d like to thank Committee Chairman Howard Weiner for his leadership on this very important issue.  There are also many others who have been volunteering their time to help and we are thankful.
Thank you,
Marc Hurwitz
President, SkyLake – Highland Lakes Area HOA

Krop Annex: Request for Residents to Attend Tuesday’s Aventura Commission Meeting

Dear neighbors,

As you may have heard via NextDoor.com, there is an effort to build a Krop High School Annex for 500 high school students for an iPrep program on the grounds of the Highland Oaks Middle School physical education field (you can read about iPrep athttps://sites.google.com/site/iprepacademy/about-us).

I have appointed Howard Weiner, a retired principal within the Miami-Dade School District, to lead a committee in response to this issue.  He has been doing an outstanding job in organizing our community.

Call for Action

We are asking that residents attend the Aventura City Commission meeting this Tuesday, April 5th, at 6 pm at the Aventura City Government Center, 19200 West Country Club Drive Aventura, Florida 33180.  During this meeting, the Aventura Commission will be considering a resolution to support the building of the 500-seat Krop Annex at the Highland Oaks Middle School.

There is always strength in numbers. This resolution should be no surprise to us. The commissioners are in favor of the HOMS option because it serves their purpose as elected officials. They are delivering to their constituents the high school their community wants, maybe not in their city, but very close to it. By appearing and speaking at this meeting, residents of the Sky Lake-Highland Lakes area can send a very clear message that our concerns are real and viable. As a contiguous neighbor to the City of Aventura, our voices must be heard.

Background

The Sky Lake – Highland Lakes Area Homeowner’s Association has taken an official stance that the annex should be built on the grounds of Krop High School, for the following reasons:

  • Isolation of IPREP students from daily life at Krop Senior (a major concern of Krop students).
  • IPREP students will lose academic, athletic, and school-based activities and opportunities.
  • Bus shuttles taking students to and from the annex will cause additional traffic congestion.
  • Added student driver traffic.  Without the availability of student parking on campus, many will park on neighboring swales and streets surrounding the area of Ives Dairy Road.
  • HOMS will lose the athletic field it has reclaimed after the removal of a number of portable classrooms.
  • Collateral impact of mass construction (noise, dust, etc.) on homes next to HOMS as well as disrupting the educational process at HOMS.
  • Added bus and car traffic on Ives Dairy Road that will be further complicated by the construction of the FEC railroad overpasses (All Aboard Florida).
  • Added local traffic with parents dropping off/picking up students at the annex and on N.E. 207 St.

The HOA sent a letter to school board member Dr. Martin Karp requesting he take an official position.  His response of March 16 was the following, which he posted on NextDoor.com:

            “I have listened and made the process very open. There is a process and that being said I have followed it. I have spoken many times to staff and the Superintendent to explain your points of view to locate i Prep at the campus of Dr. Michael M. Krop SHS. This Superintendent beyond being an innovator has always been one to listen and care about other people’s concerns and ideas. At this time in the process, I can say I do not favor the Highland Oaks Middle School option.” 

In response to these developments, the Aventura Commission called for a workshop, which was held on March 30. Several HOA members attended, led by committee chairman Howard Weiner.

The meeting began with a short presentation by the City Manager.

  • Via Youtube he presented portions of a speech delivered by Superintendent Carvalho on 12/3/15 in the City of Aventura.
  • The speech included more than one reference of the need to increase student stations in the northeast section of Miami Dade County. This would be accomplished through the use of $11.8 million of the approved bond referendum by constructing a new facility in the future.
  • The superintendent provided information about the flexible educational planning the district has done by mentioning programs like Mast Academy and iPrep.

The meeting was then turned over to the mayor for discussion about the location of the iPrep. The conversation between the mayor and the commissioners included:

  • Statements that no official word has come from the School Board about the location.
  • One commissioner suggested that a resolution be presented that would favor the use of the HOMS campus for the annex after stating that building a high school in Aventura was impossible.
  • There was discussion of the need to satisfy Aventura parents’ desire for a high school in the city or as close to as possible to the city and the HOMS option would meet that need.
  • Another commissioner questioned the purpose of the resolution since this was an issue handled specifically by the School Board.
  • Another commissioner asked if the students at HOMS would lose their athletic field if the annex was built there. The mayor indicated that this area was not an athletic field because of the lack of striping which is typical of such a field.
  • Another commissioner asked what Dr. Karp’s stance was on this issue. The mayor began to read Dr. Karp’s NextDoor posting. However, the mayor did not read it in its entirety. She did not include the last sentence which stated “At this time in the process, I can say I do not favor the Highland Oaks Middle School option.”
  • At the end of the meeting the resolution was passed by the commissioners for presentation at the next City Commission meeting.
  • At that time, Howard Weiner raised his hand to be recognized and the mayor stated that public comment at workshops is not usual. However, she made an exception and allowed him to speak. Weiner introduced himself and began by stating that “the mayor did not read Dr. Karp’s entire statement.” At that moment he was cut off by the mayor and she stated that the commissioners have copies of Dr. Karp’s posting and they can read. Additionally, she indicated that Weiner could speak publically on this and any subject at the next meeting during the public hearing session. The meeting ended at that point in time.

Now is the time for each resident to speak out against a proposed resolution by the City of Aventura which is in favor of building the Krop iPrep Annex on the grounds of HOMS.

  • 

This resolution will be considered by the Aventura City Commission on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 6 PM.
  • Each of you can speak during the Public Hearing portion of this meeting. There is no Aventura residency requirement to speak.
  • There is no requirement to sign up in advance or register to speak.
  • You must state your name and address.
  • You will have three minutes to speak.
  • The mayor has the discretion to determine when to end this portion of the public hearing and move for a commission vote.
  • Speakers are needed to express our concerns about this project. We would like to compile a list of those wishing to speak. Please let committee chair Howard Weiner know of your interest via  howardiweiner@gmail.com.

Thank you,

Marc Hurwitz

President, Sky Lake – Highland Lakes Area Homeowners Association

STATUS: I-95 & Ives Dairy Road Project

On Tuesday, 8/26/08 Representatives from FDOT convened a meeting to review the status of this project whose purpose is to successfully provide ‘Immediate Improvements’ that will advance traffic flow of the I-95/Ives Dairy Road Interchange. The project aims to achieve increased capacity, improved signalization and enhanced signing. Find attached a detailed description of the three major areas this project aims to impact.

Timing: Originally scheduled to begin in 2009, due to budgetary constraints it has been delayed and is now scheduled to begin in the summer of 2010 and projected to take 1 1/2 years to complete (at a minimum).

NEXT STEPS: The flow of traffic in these areas has a major impact to the quality of life in our neighborhoods. While this project will not be the silver bullet that makes traffic a non-issue, expediting it will help alleviate some of the burden.

For this reason, you are encouraged to send a request to FDOT directed to Maribel Lena, Public Information Officer for FDOT at maribel.lena@dot.state.fl.us.

In your request, reference Project #422129-1-52-01, and ask for this project to be expedited to begin sooner than the summer of 2010. Should you have additional comments specific to the projects as outlined in the attached description, you may also reference them in this request.

Thank you for joining us as we continue to promote the quality of life in our neighborhoods through advocacy, community and volunteerism.

Thank you.

Gloria Romero Roses
President
Sky Lake-Highland Lakes Area
Hiomeowners Association