Miami-Dade Mayor Vetoes Controversial Industrial Park Outside Urban Development Line

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Despite five tries, two revisions and the OK from county commissioners, developers of a proposed industrial complex in South Dade can’t go forward with their plan. 

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava vetoed the controversial plan to extend the urban development border (UDB), the boundary outside of which land may not be developed, to allow the development of an industrial park. 

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Aligned Real Estate Holdings initially wanted to build on 793 acres of farmland east of a mangrove preserve along Biscayne Bay, adjacent to the Florida Turnpike — bringing 9 million square feet of industrial space to the region. Miami-Dade County Commissioners rejected that plan.

In response, the developers slashed their proposal by more than half and proposed building on 379 acres instead. Earlier this month, commissioners approved the project, called the South Dade Logistics and Technology District, paving the way for the border’s first expansion in nine years.  

But the development has drawn criticism from environmentalists and even landowners set to gain from the sale, who said such an approval would create a dangerous precedent.  

Leonard Abess, a former banker once considered a billionaire, who owns 160 acres within Aligned’s proposed development — and would earn over $100 million from the sale — urged the commissioners to vote down the development.

“There is no profit if you lose your soul,” Abess said at a council meeting in May. (Abbess has since filed plans to build housing on other parts of agricultural land that he owns.)

County Mayor Levine Cava seemed to agree, and vetoed the development Thursday. The development “basically creates a license to kill and come up with a price to destroy our natural area,” Cava said at a press conference. 

Explaining her decision, the mayor said the area sits in a low-lying area that’s vulnerable to flooding from hurricanes, and that there was enough space within the urban development border for such an industrial park. The UDB is up for revision in 2040.  

But Michael Hernandez, a spokesman for the developers, said their plan was in compliance with the findings of a 2018 task force, created by Cava’s predecessor Carlos Gimenez, to create a new urban expansion area to boost housing and industrial developments.

Despite the mayor’s move, the fight may not be over. County commissioners could override Levine Cava’s veto by a two-thirds margin, the same margin that voted in favor of the development earlier this month. 

The mayor said she’s working to secure the votes to sustain her veto. Spokesman Hernandez told Commercial Observer that he expects commissioners to take up the issue next Tuesday.

“We’re fairly confident that we will have all the voting support to override the mayor’s veto,” he said. 

Julia Echikson can be reached at jechikson@commercialobserver.com