MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Business owners expressed their dissatisfaction Friday after calling for a stop to annexation plans for a commercial area west of Miami International Airport in the village of Virginia Gardens.
As tons of cargo that pass through the area are often unloaded and processed, many like Luis Mata, a consultant for the Miami Airport West business district, said that the risks for the new plans are tremendously high.
“This area moves billions in dollars of cargo,” he said. “This is where we get all of our produce, flowers and all of the different types of machinery and we bought the airport so the security risks here on the side of the airport are tremendous.”
For years, a nearby village of Virginia Gardens has been working to acquire the area, an entirely industrial area where there are no registered voters which means there is no election on the issue.
Without a vote, a demonstration against annexation began Friday morning so that owners can have a voice.
“This is an obvious cash grab that is coming off the heels of a massive pandemic that almost killed this area,” said Seth Woods, Vice President with Smith Commercial Property Group. “It’s un-American.”
The main concerns are higher taxes and a worry that the village’s small police force isn’t adequate in size and experience to properly police the expanded footprint.
“These folks have no vote they are being land grabbed; this is a hostile takeover by a quiet group that’s been trying to do it for 20 years unsuccessfully,” said Mata.
Woods says the annexation plans are an opportunistic “cash grab” that he doesn’t want to be a part of.
“We don’t want to be part of Virginia Gardens. (It’s) a cash grab, an opportunistic cash grab coming off three years of instability that has produced record high inflation. We just got back on our feet, we are hit with inflation, now we are heading into a recess to increase property taxes that is absurd.”
“It would take no less than a year to gear up and to be able to understand the dynamics that go on here,” said Mata.
“There are billions of dollars of cargo that go through this economic engine year, [The thought that their 20+ police unit] will be able to protect against international crime theft rings is ludicrous,” said Woods.
“We are protected by some of the best police officers in the county with Miami-Dade police,” he added.
“We have approximately 28 police officers and a lot of them are part-timers, some of our guys have retired from other departments, so they just wanted to work two-to-three days a week, we do have 7 full-timers. That being said, we have part-timers right now ready to step up to full time and we can start patrolling that area tomorrow if need be,” Village of Virginia Gardens Mayor Spencer Deno.
“We have officers who have retired from the county, retired from the city of Miami, other agencies, he added. “I have more experience with some of my officers than the county has with some of theirs.”
According to Deno, while the rate of an annexed property’s taxable value will be more than the county, it will not be as high as the village rate.
“They are not going to be taxes at the 4.6 village millage rate,” he said. “They are already paying tax at the 1.9 millage rate with the county so we will bring our millage rate down to 2.5 or 3.0 and they are only going to be taxed on the difference they are not going to be taxed at our current millage rate so that is where a misperception is coming.”
The only other area we can expand to keep our taxes in check with the rest of the area is to annex the area there and that is the area contiguous to us,” he added.
On Tuesday, county commissioners will decide how much the village will need to pay to offset the revenue the county is giving up through annexation.
According to Deno, the country is looking at charging the village four years of mitigation fees that make up the difference between the revenues lost from us annexing those areas.
“The county is saying you need to figure out a way to supplement and to mitigate that loss to the county, so they are supposed to come back to answer to that,” said Mata.
“The issue here is that Virginia Gardens is not suited for annexation,” said Woods.
For more information on Tuesday’s related agenda item, click here.
Miami-Dade County Chief Financial Officer Edward Marquez sent additional information on the proposed annexation which you can read below:
“The proposed Ordinance amends the municipal boundaries of the Village of Virginia Gardens to annex 1,026.7 acres of land from the unincorporated municipal services area (UMSA). If implemented, the annexation areas will become part of the Village boundaries without an election as the area has under 250 residents since it is entirely commercial and industrial. These business owners that are affected by the annexation do not have the ability to vote and their only participation in the process is to attend any public hearings.
If the annexation is approved, there may be a social benefit to the businesses from having government closer and more accessible with services such as local police patrol and public works. Although the Village of Virginia Gardens has reduced its millage rate to 4.6 mills, the average property owner will pay additional estimated property taxes of $5,516; additional expenses which could be passed on to the consumer. These increased costs may create a social burden on these business owners and their clients. I strongly recommend that the ordinance and interlocal agreement be amended to include mitigation payments for seven years.”
Population and boundary map for the Village of Virginia Gardens:
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