Miami Lakes gets OK to bring an end to incorporation payments to Miami-Dade; Doral, Palmetto Bay could be next
By Risa Polansky
Newly incorporated Miami-Dade municipalities may soon be absolved from paying what one mayor called "alimony" to the county.
After a county commission vote Tuesday, the Town of Miami Lakes has clearance to change its charter to bring an end to the incorporation payments it's made to Miami-Dade since its founding eight years ago.
Miami Lakes residents must vote to finalize the change.
The town agreed to the payments in 2000 to mitigate the hit county coffers take when revenue-generating areas break away to incorporate.
Palmetto Bay and Doral followed.
But as time passed and the cities continued to pay, officials balked, eventually taking the issue to court and state lawmakers.
Miami Lakes must drop two lawsuits against the county before the newly passed measure takes effect.
It would mark the beginning of the end of a years-long battle.
Miami Lakes Mayor Wayne Slaton — who referred to the payments as "alimony" — said the time had come.
"When circumstances change, then so do those warranting factors that had actually enabled the alimony to be paid," he said.
County Commissioner Natacha Seijas, whose district includes Miami Lakes, said the same.
"I believe enough time has passed" for the county to absorb the loss of the area, she said, imploring her colleagues to put an end to pumping money into fighting with the town.
Commissioner Katy Sorenson, whose district includes Palmetto Bay, called the ongoing issue "a thorn in everyone's side."
She heralded the commission's Miami Lakes move as "the start of resolving the issue of the three municipalities" and asked for similar legislation to take care of Palmetto Bay's payments.
Commissioner José "Pepe" Diaz requested the same for Doral, which lies in his district.
Ms. Sorenson at a Governmental Operations and Environment Committee last week sponsored legislation asking county staff to explore how to resolve the mitigation issues with all three cities equitably.
Tuesday's Miami Lakes measure passed unanimously, with nine of 13 members present.
One absentee, Commissioner Joe Martinez, argued last week against ending mitigation payments.
"All these communities made a deal…they said "we want out so badly that we're going to pay'…now they're all backing out," he said at the committee meeting. "They agreed to it whether it was right or whether it was wrong."
Suing the county and taking the issue to the state was "backing out of a contract in a coward's way," he said.
The commission this week did not dredge up much history, voting relatively swiftly to allow Miami Lakes to get out of future payments so long as the town pays its 2006-2007 fee: about $1.8 million.
Miami Lakes Councilman Robert Meador heralded the county's decision as "a bright light in a dark tunnel."