Fisher Island seeking city statusBy Candice Ventra
The Miami-Dade County Commission has agreed to consider the incorporation of Fisher Island, but some officials said they want to toughen the county's policy on the creation of municipalities.
Commissioners last week gave Fisher Island residents the green light to apply to become a city. Officials told the county manager to forward the proposal to the county's Planning Advisory Board and Boundaries Commission for review.
In objecting to the Fisher Island move, County Commissioner Dennis Moss said the county's charter should be changed to hold cities accountable for any agreements made with the county before incorporation. Without the charter's protection, he said, wealthier communities can break their obligations to the county once incorporated, taking the tax base with them to the detriment of other Miami-Dade communities.
"Miami Lakes agreed to do certain things once incorporated," Mr. Moss said, refering to that community's ongoing work toward becoming a city.
"They would agree to use the county's police department and their financial resources to take care of poorer areas. But we can't enforce it. They could walk away from those agreements. The charter change says whatever agreements negotiated with the county, the incorporated cities would have to live up to it."
Mr. Moss said until a change is made in the charter which could happen as early as January he will not support the incorporation of any city.
Mr. Moss said such a change in the county charter would not affect the current, incorporated cities. Sunny Isles most recently became Miami-Dade's newest when it incorporated in June 1997.
Miami-Dade County attorney Robert Ginsburg said the county has never had a moratorium on incorporations, but in 1996 the commission passed a rule requiring a two-thirds majority vote from the 13-member County Commisssion on incorporations. That policy, he said, was lifted about two years ago.
Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler, who also voted against incorporating Fisher Island, agreed with the need to change the county charter.
"If we continue to approved these resolutions we are going to have a pipeline of people waiting," Ms. Carey-Shuler said. "How many other areas are coming to us to incorporate?"
Commissioner Betty Ferguson said the county does not have a clear policy on incorporation.
"We are creating a potentially damaging, frustrating situation that's going to get worse," she said.
Barry Kutun, speaking in favor of the Fisher Island move, said,"Miami Lakes has set a precedent. We want to move forward, since we followed all county ordinances."
Mr. Kutun is a resident of the island and president of the business consulting firm Barry Kutun Consultants.
The incorporation of Miami Lakes was approved by residents of that community in the recent countywide election. County commissioners last week approved the appointment of a committee to write a charter for Miami Lakes, which is part of the incorporation process.
The commission must give the city final approval after a charter has been completed.
Fisher Island residents are proposing that their future city be bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Biscayne Bay, on the south by Norris Cut between Fisher Island and Virginia Key, and on the north by Government Cut, excluding the northeastern portion of Fisher Island, which lies within the boundaries of Miami Beach.
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