Board of County Commissioners and Transportation Planning Organization Vote for an Impasse on SW 87th Ave. Bridge Conflict Resolution
Village of Palmetto Bay
January 21, 2022
Two back-to-back meetings were held yesterday at county hall and the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) Governing Chambers. The proceedings were part of the conflict assessment resolution process brought forward by the Village of Palmetto Bay in opposition to the approvals granted by the Board of County Commissioners and the TPO, respectively, for the SW 87th Avenue Bridge project. Palmetto Bay initiated the process with both entities arguing against the process followed by the BCC to grant its approval. The Village later initiated the same process with the TPO asking for a reconsideration of the TPO's Board approval based on the argument that the BCC did not follow proper protocol.
The first meeting was scheduled with the Board of County Commissioners. Members of the public were given the opportunity to speak first. A number of Palmetto Bay residents attended in person wearing "No Bridge" black t-shirts. Residents pleaded to the BCC to reconsider their approval of the project, arguing that traffic studies used to justify the project are incomplete and outdated and that no study has been done to show the project's impact on the neighborhood. Residents also pointed to the fact that the commute will only be reduced by a diminutive one minute and that there is no logic to the decision. Mr. Miorelli, a Palmetto Bay resident and former member of the SW 87th Ave. Bridge Project Task Force, informed the BCC that he has collected more than 1,600 signatures in opposition to the project.

Following public comments, Mayor Karyn Cunningham, who was accompanied by Vice Mayor Leanne Tellam, Councilmember Steve Cody and Counwilwoman Marsha Matson opened the discussion with a statement letter. Councilman Patrick Fiore later joined the rest of the Village Council.

Mayor Cunningham thanked the members of the BCC for their time and proceeded to read her statement letter. "As you are aware, we are here because of the conflict resolution the Village filed on the basis that the actions taken by the Commission using emergency provisions should not have contemplated a bridge." Mayor Cunningham spoke of the steps the Village has taken to gather resident input and, in good faith, to reach an agreement with the county, including the approval of an interlocal agreement intended to resolve the governmental action filed by the village. Approval of the agreement came before the Village Council during the Regular Council meeting on November 1, 2021 to which no representative of the County was present and a counter proposal was never received by the Village as back-up documentation to the agenda item. "In my opinion the process by which the bridge was voted on and the process by which we attempted to resolve it is flawed and has failed our residents", said Mayor Cunningham.

In her statement, Mayor Cunningham also mentioned the top three concerns cited by Village residents in the community-wide survey that was presented to the Council earlier in the week, which identifies traffic and congestion/ flow management as the most pressing community issue. Additionally, Mayor Cunningham read one by one, the failed aspects of the project and its approval process, mentioning that most residents of the County's District 8 would not benefit from the project and that the SW 87th Avenue bridge is one of 59 possible bridges of the districts and municipalities represented by the county commissioners and by the TPO Governing Board.

In closing, Mayor Cunningham offered the following steps for the BCC's consideration:

  • A motion to request a fully noticed meeting to consider the rescission of the construction of a bridge at 87th avenue.
  • A motion to request funding in an amount equal to the cost of the bridge to support street, sidewalk and traffic calming infrastructure in the area surrounding the bridge
  • A motion to request a county funded comprehensive traffic study to determine the traffic congestion relief by the 87th avenue bridge and the impact it may have on the residential streets both north and south of the canal. The study scope needs to include the impact of induced demand, navigational tools like WAZE, as well as address telecommuters and the impact of future development and county traffic initiatives already in the cue (ex. Old Cutler Road circles).

"When you're mediating for an item as big as this, the impact, the devastation, of the fabric of the Village of Palmetto Bay, we've got to build-in something." said Mayor Cunningham.

Councilwoman Matson followed. "I want to address this as a policy issue", stated Councilmember Matson. "The bridge issue was raised not too long ago, but it was during campaign season and now things have changed rapidly in the county. The county has committed to lower carbon emissions...and a bridge is going to drive up carbon emissions into quiet, clean-air neighborhoods." Councilmember Matson also argued that the project is in contrast with the county's goal to have folks use public transportation. "The bridge does not comport with the public transportation policies and clean air policies of the county."
Councilmember Cody reminded county commissioners that the approval may still be reversed based on the facts presented by Village residents and officials over the past 9 months. "Perhaps this is the time and the day that we need to step back from that decision.", said Councilmember Cody.

Vice Mayor Tellam also addressed the BCC. "You can hear from the voices in your county residents, our Palmetto Bay residents, that the process that was brought forward in this instance did not ring true and... if we are to garner the respect of those that we want to follow us this is not the way to do it." Vice Mayor Tellam spoke of her strong belief in processes and argued that if the county commission followed the appropriate process, they would come to the conclusion that investing in the SW 87th Avenue bridge project is not the best use of county funds. "The juice is not worth the squeeze here", said Vice Mayor Tellam. "Having lived and walked and biked on that road and known it since i was a child riding a bike on Franjo, this is not a good investment of your funds and I believe that the proper process would show the commission that fact.", concluded the Vice Mayor, asking the county commission to consider the options presented by Mayor Cunningham.
Village Attorney John Dellagloria defended the Village's position, "the mechanism by which this commission approved the bridge was based on the faulty premise that this was an emergency.", indicated the counsel. Attorney Dellagloria also explained that while it may be very difficult to prevail in court because SW 87th Avenue is fully under the county's jurisdiction, Palmetto Bay has a right to present its case. "I don't think this is an open and shut case.", said Dellagloria.

Despite the Village's strong arguments and pleas, the County Commission voted unanimously, by an 8-0 vote, to declare an impasse.
Immediately following the BCC meeting, members of the Council, along with Village residents and Charter Officers Village Manager Nick Marano, Village Attorney John Dellagloria and Village Clerk Missy Arocha moved to the TPO Governing Board's building where similar arguments were made by Village residents during public comments.
Mayor Cunningham asked for her statement letter to be made part of the record and provided copies to the Board members. She read into the record the most salient points presented in her statement, including the fact that the bridge is not the right solution for South Dade. She summarized the Village's request to the TPO Board which is essentially to "stop, rethink, and in this case, for this particular body is to not fund this." Mayor Cunningham mentioned the top three concerns for Village residents as she did when she addressed the BCC a few minutes earlier. She added that the project "fails to describe its true cost," and that it "fails to identify a proper funding source." Mayor Cunningham also explained to the TPO Board Members that she presented three actions to the BCC earlier that the Village would like to take, but that a vote was taken before those actions were considered. "We want to find every possible way to make this community safer and i don't think this bridge will do that.", said Mayor Cunningham in closing.
Councilwoman Matson spoke of the traffic horrors that Village residents who live south of the canal dealt with before the COVID-19 pandemic. The area known as Malbrook suffered with congestion until the Village and the County took measures to mitigate the issue, including the installation of "no-right" turn signs and a 4-way stop sign. "I do not wish what we went through pre-pandemic on any resident in Palmetto Bay.", said the Councilwoman. "If you build a bridge, it induces traffic...Please do not impose this bridge on people in Palmetto Bay."
Councilwoman Matson spoke of the traffic horrors that Village residents who live south of the canal dealt with before the COVID-19 pandemic. The area known as Malbrook suffered with congestion until the Village and the County took measures to mitigate the issue, including the installation of "no-right" turn signs and a 4-way stop sign. "I do not wish what we went through pre-pandemic on any resident in Palmetto Bay.", said the Councilwoman. "If you build a bridge, it induces traffic...Please do not impose this bridge on people in Palmetto Bay."

Councilman Cody also addressed the Board in support of Councilwoman Matson's comments. He added that the bridge project "is ill-conceived especially for those people who live in Palmetto Bay." Councilman Cody explained that although there is only a small benefit to Palmetto Bay residents, it is the Village that will bear the burden of the project, as the bridge will negatively impact the quality of life of the people living north of the C-100 canal on 87th Avenue. "I hope you will consider taking additional time, doing the time to do the studies that should have been done prior to the enactment of the legislation to move forward with the bridge.", said Councilmember Cody.
Vice Mayor Tellam followed, first acknowledging the difficult decisions the TPO has to make to address the traffic issues in Miami-Dade County and reminding members that the Council and Village residents have first-hand knowledge of the issue at hand as many have resided in the area for decades.

Vice Mayor Tellam argued that she hoped that the TPO would be strategic in its decision concerning the bridge project, adding that strategy is directly tied to process and that the process followed by the county was flawed, and therefore its conclusion was inevitably flawed. She added that "putting the money into the particular bridge that we are speaking of without addressing the impact that it will have on the community around it, is not is a small decision made in haste when others have made the exact opposite conclusion after much much study." She proceeded to discuss the fact that the Malbrook issue was resolved in partnership with the county and that it only makes sense that such partnership exists when the county intends to put a project in a community. "I ask that you come back to us with open minds and the ability to come to a resolution.", said the Vice Mayor.

Village Attorney John Dellagloria proceeded to summarize the Village's position and reason for initiating the conflict resolution process with the TPO. Attorney Dellagloria went on to explain that Palmetto Bay officials have not had the opportunity to engage in real mediation with the TPO, and were only provided with a one-minute speaking time during a TPO Board meeting. Attorney Dellagloria recommended that the Village Council move to hold a real mediation between Palmetto Bay and the TPO where the issues can be fully discussed without time limitations. The Village Council voted in favor of the Village Attorney's recommendation. However, the Council's vote did not receive support from the TPO Governing Board and was therefore not considered.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the TPO Governing Board unanimously voted to declare an impasse.

There will be one final round of mediation proceedings between Palmetto Bay and the TPO and Palmetto Bay and the BCC as two separate entities. The location, date and time of such mediation is to be determined. If the mediation does not generate an acceptable solution to the parties involved, the Village Attorney will bring an item before the Village Council seeking authorization to file a lawsuit.

We will continue to keep our residents informed as more information becomes available.
To learn more about what has transpired throughout the past few months concerning the bridge project, including all actions taken concerning the project, please click the link below.
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