Friday, May 26, 2006

MUNISCAM ~ Environmental Boondoggle

From U.S. 1 east to Biscayne Bay between about 137th St. and 163rd St. was a mangrove swamp called the Graves Tract. Back during The Great Depression before WW-II a government "make-work" project called the Civilian Conservation Corps, usually abreviated to CCC, had put in a rectangular grid of narrow drainage canals as a mosquito control measure. After the war, when the Boulevard Drive-in Theater was built next to the highway, this did little to keep the mosquitos under control. A noisy truck with a "fogger" used to ride up and down between the rows of parked cars spraying clouds of bug killer into the air. We breathed it and I guess ate it on our popcorn and hotdogs.

By the late 1960's we had enough transplants here who'd spent their lives in big northern cities that living the Florida dream might include living in a high-rise condominium. Developers planned on filling in the swamp and constructing high-rise condominiums. There was a backlash against high-rise development. North Miami residents changed the city charter to restrict new construction to four stories or less, and passed a bond issue to raise money to purchase the Graves Tract. The land was annexed into the city, and the city raised 12 million dollars through a bond issue.

At the southern end, on an area that had already been partially filled in, North Miami and a private developer were going to build a public golf course.Munisport, the developer, proposed finishing filling in the golf course land by operating a land fill on the site. North Miami wouldn't have to haul trash and garbage half way across the county, nor would we have to pay the county a tipping fee to get rid of our refuse. For a few years at least that would be the source of money for paying off the bond issue, then revenue from the golf course would kick in. Environmentalists were up in arms about having a "toxic dump" in the city. They showed up at city council meetings, like this guy wearing a surgical mask for no good reason, and got the Environmental Protection Agency involved. The dump was shut down and monitoring wells were installed. About the only toxin ever found was methane gas from decomposing garbage. Of course natural "swamp gas" from decomposing mangrove leaves would have been there anyway if nothing had ever been done to the property.

The most pristine area at the northern reaches and along the Intracoastal Waterway became a state park when the state had to step in and bail out the city. The golf course was never built. Eventually a campus of Florida International University was built on some of the state controlled land, and later a campus of Miami-Dade College also. Now, thirty years later this "toxic land fill" is considered clean enough for habitation, and the city has worked out a deal with a private developer. Biscayne Landings has started construction of a group of high rise condominium buildings on the site. Now the concern is back to the one of overloading our infrastructure. Will the roads handle the increased traffic? Where will all the kids go to school? Will the high rise development even have many kids?


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