Resident activists with the nonprofit group Save Calusa have fought for years towards a proposed large-scale residential growth on the land of the now-defunct Calusa Golf Course.
Neighbors contend that the land, which is being developed by GL Houses and Facundo Bacardí of Bacardí Rum fame, is dwelling to a bunch of imperiled species together with the endangered Florida bonneted bat and the threatened tricolored heron.
Final December, the group’s organizer, Amanda Prieto, sued Miami-Dade County in circuit court docket over the county fee’s assembly and vote to rezone the golf course to permit for the event of 550 properties, versus the roughly 32 homes allowed underneath the unique zoning.
Prieto alleged that the county didn’t give correct discover of the assembly to the general public underneath Florida’s open authorities legislation and the county code, as a result of the fee rescheduled the assembly with out publishing a brand new discover in native newspapers. Prieto additionally claimed that mailers despatched to residents within the space had the mistaken developer’s identify.
On November 16, Florida’s Third District Courtroom of Attraction sided with Prieto, discovering that the county’s discover of the rescheduled assembly was inadequate, due to this fact making the rezoning is void.
“Permitting the choice to face threatens to compromise the due course of the regulatory framework strives to afford. Accordingly, we grant the petition for certiorari and quash the order underneath evaluation,” the court docket wrote in an opinion connected on the finish of this text.
A decrease court docket beforehand sided with the county and stated Prieto didn’t have standing to sue, however the Third District disagreed.
Miami-Dade County lawyer Dennis Kerbel didn’t reply to a cellphone name and two emails from New Occasions requesting remark.
The county now has the choice to enchantment the choice to the Florida Supreme Courtroom, or just maintain a brand new assembly on the zoning matter, in keeping with Save Calusa lawyer David Winker.
“Till one thing modifications, the event undertaking is now delayed,” Winker says. “I believe the court docket acknowledged the significance of public participation. The explanation we now have these legal guidelines is all of us agree one of the best choices come when everybody’s on the desk.”
Prieto tells New Occasions that the court docket’s choice marks a significant victory for public participation and permits her group to supply substantial proof of threatened species exercise on the golf course land.
The county accredited the rezoning in November of 2021, earlier than the nesting season of a number of chook species that use a big tree on the property as a “rookery,” or nesting space.
Within the intervening months, photographers with Save Calusa documented proof of the state-threatened tricolored heron nesting inside the roots of the rookery.
The county’s Division of Environmental Assets Administration (DERM) confirmed the nonprofit’s observations in an August 2022 memo after the lawsuit was filed.
“The state-listed threatened tricolored heron was noticed on the island in breeding plumage throughout eleven out of the twelve surveys,” DERM wrote. “A complete of 4 fledgling tricolored herons that had not been beforehand noticed had been seen throughout the July 27, 2022, survey.”
County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava adopted DERM’s findings along with her memorandum to the fee stating that the developer, GL Houses, should submit a growth plan that protects the rookery and protect wildlife.
Armed with these research and the mayor’s help, and now dealing with a brand new slate of county commissioners after the midterm election, Prieto feels her group has a better likelihood to struggle the 550-home plan and keep a lot of the property as environmental land.
“This feels so rewarding as a result of it means we had been proper all alongside, and the neighborhood could be on the desk. The ethical of the story is: get entangled. We are able to make a distinction,” Prieto says.