SOUTH DADE — A controversial project to develop nearly 800 acres of agricultural land outside Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary was approved by the Miami-Dade County Commission upon first reading.
Aligned Holdings’ application to build at least 15 million square feet of warehousing and other buildings, as part of what it is calling the South Dade Logistics and Technology District, will now be reviewed for comment by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Conservationists oppose the project, which is adjacent to critical wetlands that filter and recharge drinking water pulled from the Biscayne aquifer, as its environmentally sensitive area, but many residents say there is a dire need for more jobs in south Miami-Dade.
Holding a thick stack of public comment cards, Miami-Dade County Commission Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz said all public comment would be limited to one minute after allowing co-applicants’ attorney Geoffrey Bercow to present the manufacturing, logistics and technology project.
“It’s the first private sector to create jobs and reverse sprawl in decades,” he said.
Higher poverty and unemployment rates and longer commutes plague the South Dade area, Diaz said.
“What we have in the region today is high poverty. We have deep pockets of poverty just south of the proposed district,” he said.
Aligned Holdings’ proposed site, although outside the Urban Development Boundary, falls within “Urban Expansion Area Number 3,” which the county has prioritized for future growth once there is a demonstrated need to move the boundary.
Planning staff had previously identified 202 parcels inside the Urban Development Boundary that would be suitable for the project.
The planning advisory board and commission, however, ignored those alternatives.
The project will be built directly northeast of the Homestead Air Reserve Base near an existing FedEx depot and an Amazon fulfillment center that is now being built.
The first phase of the project proposes 2,980,000 square feet of warehousing mixed with 20,000 square feet of retail space.
The second phase proposes 2,900,000 square feet of warehousing, a 3,000-square-foot bank, a 32,000-square-foot restaurant, a 6,600-square-foot convenience store, a 38,400-square-foot retail center and a 150-room hotel.
The third phase includes another bank, restaurant, convenience store and hotel, but increases warehousing to 9,305,000 square feet and includes 78,400 square feet of retail. Up to 84 single-family residences are also proposed.
Commissioner Kionne L. McGhee said he had some concerns with the applicant’s projected job creation.
“Your numbers for some reason have changed. I read first 16,738 jobs, then I see 11,762 jobs, then I see another number at 25,000 jobs,” he said. “We need a number. I need clarity.”
The same question had been raised by planning staff as well as the Tropical Audubon Society.
“There will be 11,500 permanent direct jobs, with another indirect and induced 6,000 jobs,” Bercow said.
The industrial site is projected to generate $13 million in taxes and a Fortune 50 company, whose name could not be disclosed, will occupy the site, he said.
McGhee questioned Phase 3 development.
“As a result of the planning advisory board condition, we have amended the application that Phase 3 include infrastructure commitments the same as phases 1 and 2,” Bercow said. “There is one major property owner of Phase 3, and they have already filed an application that is consistent with the land use.”
The project was approved by the planning advisory board earlier this month with the condition that Phase 3 in the application spell out required infrastructure, such as roads, water, sewer and elevation of the property, as was done in the first two phases.
Aligned Holdings amended its application last week to address that matter.
Comments are due back to the Miami-Dade commission from the DEO in 30 days.
After comments are received and addressed, Aligned Holdings’ request will be scheduled for a second reading and final adoption hearing before the commission.
Fnal adoption will require a minimum of nine votes for the 13-member commission.