Where’s the Fire?
On September 22nd, the Village of Palmetto Bay will hold a zoning meeting to discuss a potential site for a new Palmetto Bay Fire Station at 14200 Old Cutler Rd. The zoning meeting to approve the residential lot next door to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church isn’t as much the story as is the length of time it has taken to procure a new fire station – and why its approval is being rushed when a preferable site is located directly across the street.
For over 6 years, the Village of Palmetto Bay has desired and desperately needed two new fire stations to serve the east side of the Village. Now, two months before the election, Mayor Stanczyk and Council are rushing to approve an inferior site which boarders a predominately residential neighborhood and Farmers Road.
The reason this particular site is now being pressed is mainly due to the fact that during her term as Mayor, Shelley Stanczyk has ignored the fact that residents in the northeast section of the Village have not received the same commitment to, “Life Safety” as other residents of the Village. In fact, over the past three years the subject of a new Fire Rescue Station has been brought to the Mayor’s attention ad nauseam by various member of the community, including Peter England.
So what’s the rush now? It’s a game of politics – a subject that can now be used by the Mayor as a poker chip during election time. She now plans to push and approve an inferior site for her political advantage.
One of the main problems with the site scheduled to be approved on September 22nd by Mayor and Council is the poor ingress/egress access.
Additionally, you would hope the Mayor and Council would understand the residential site next to St Andrew’s Church is not only inferior, but will probably lead to litigation from the neighbors, and will cost the Village real estate tax revenue.
Thankfully, there IS a superior site available – and directly across the street, on Old Cutler Road.
Anyone with knowledge of both sites would agree the location for the Fire Station should be developed next to Old Cutler Presbyterian Church. Here are several reasons:
• The Presbyterian site is $200,000 LESS than the residential location adjacent to St. Andrew’s. At a time when local governments don’t have any money, why would the Council approve to pay $200,000 more for the St. Andrew’s location?
• The Presbyterian site is owned by the Church and has never paid any property taxes.
• The site on Old Cutler and Farmers Road is a private house and historically paid its fair share of property tax. By converting residential property to a Fire Station location it will cost both Dade County and Palmetto Bay millions of dollars in tax revenue.
• The ingress/egress on the Presbyterian site is superior and will not require fire trucks to drive down a predominately narrow winding residential road that is well-traveled by pedestrians, dog walkers, joggers, bike riders and over 1200 cars a day. The abundance of overhanging trees that line Farmers Road will also be an issue for the large fire trucks.
• For a Council historically committed to traffic and noise control, it is puzzling that they are set to approve fire trucks traveling down a residential street that will disturb the peaceful enjoyment of all Farmers Road residents.
• Both sites are approximately the same size with the Presbyterian Church site being 50,965 sq. ft. (approximately 1.16 acres) and the residential site being 60,113 sq. ft. (1.38 acres). The Presbyterian Church has twice the frontage on Old Cutler Road as the residential location.
With all due respect to the present Council, the vote to approve the new Palmetto Bay Fire Station should be delayed until the proper due diligence is conducted and the best site for the Fire Station is confirmed. It has already taken the Village seven years and counting to arrive at this point – what real difference does a 30-60 day extension of the site approval process mean when the goal is the selection of the best location to serve all of the resident’s needs?