Residents along the Eastern boundary of Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay have no fire station to protect their homes and families. There are two fire stations that serve Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay, both located on US1 at SW 104th St and and SW 152nd St. The response time is about eight minutes to both neighborhoods. Way too long!
Lives are genuinely at stake! According to the new Miami-Dade County Fire Chief, Dave Downey, an eight minute response time is inadequate. Downey spoke at the Pinecrest Village Council Meeting last Tuesday and expressed serious concerns for the safety of lives and property.
Both Mayor Lerner of Pinecrest and Mayor Stanczyk of Palmetto Bay are coordinating efforts to locate a viable site for a new fire station. Currently, the best and only option, according to Chief Downy, is the track of federally owned land by the USDA on the corner of Old Cutler Road and Ludlam Road.
Herein Lies the Problem. Two residential communities, Kings Bay in Coral Gables and Old Cutler Groves in Palmetto Bay, border the USDA land. The homeowners are worried that the presence of a fire station on the USDA land will decrease their property values and increase noise levels from the sirens. They additionally expressed concern for the safety of recreational bikers, the safety of children attending nearby schools and the potential adverse effects to endangered species on the USDA land.
The homeowners concerns for decreased property value and noise from blaring sirens is quite understandable. However, this is a life-safety issue. What value will their property have if it burns to the ground? What about the longer response time where minutes count in saving lives? The Kings Bay folks are considerably less concerned about this because they have excellent response times from their Coral Gables Fire Station just minutes away. This station does not service Pinecrest or Palmetto Bay.
As for the safety issues to bikers, exactly where do bikers ride where there isn’t a safety issue with street traffic? And does not fire rescue also serve to protect the nearby schools and children? Would not the additional fire station also serve to protect Kings Bay in the event that additional support is needed? Then there is the issue of endangered species. The homeowner associations have not actually provided a list of flora and fauna that is potentially threatened or endangered nor have they provided impact studies. Seems they just threw that in the mix.
This issue has a long history. The Fire Station Initiative began about seven years ago during a previous Pinecrest administration. Since taking office, Mayor Lerner has continued to pursue this, along with Mayor Stanczyk, working closely with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to see this Initiative through the House of Representatives. It was due to pass out of the House this summer when the homeowner associations expressed vigorous opposition to the USDA location. They contacted the Regional Director of the USDA, who contacted the Federal Office, who then contacted Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, who then suspended the Initiative without so much as a call, email or whisper to the Mayor.
Interestingly, no specific site was ever identified on the USDA land and it is a large track of land with multiple sites to consider. Moreover, the homeowner associations never contacted the Mayor to discuss their concerns. Fortunately, the Mayors and the homeowner associations have agreed to begin talks to find a solution to the problem. Let’s hope they do before lives or property are lost.