By Al Sunshine, President of Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition, Sept 8, 2015 – It may be a new academic year at the “U” with new President Dr. Julio Frenk.
But the issue of UM selling endangered lands it got free from the Federal Government for Education and Research Purposes for $22-Million dollars is still a major environmental and quality-of-life issue for local residents.
The Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition, a Florida Non-Profit Corporation, will be marching and carrying Signs and Banners urging the UM to NOT sell any more endangered land at the South Campus and urge the school to enter into negotiations with developers to buy back-back the land it’s already sold at the Globally-Imperiled Richmond Pine Rocklands.
UM Officials have repeatedly insisted they didn’t know the land was officially being listed as critically protected habitat by the U-S Dept. of Interior.
But articles in the schools’ own “Miami Hurricane” Newspaper as far back as 2006 quote UM Officials speaking about environmental concerns there and possible problems they could face trying to develop it.
Public Records also show back in the late 1990’s, the Land was earmarked to be acquired as part of the Miami Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands program.
But UM reportedly refused to allow it to be listed.
According to the U-S Justice Department, back in 2006 UM paid $400,000 to settle federal charges it illegally dumped Radioactive Contaminated waste, including the remains of dead lab animals for some 20 years there.
Federal Authorities claim UM also contaminated the ground water and soil in the Richmond Pine Rocklands.
It’s unclear if UM disclosed this to the buyer of the property or Miami Dade environmental or zoning Officials while it worked for years to get the land rezoned for commercial use.
Development plans there are on-hold following a formal request by Miami Dade County as the Developers work with the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service for an acceptable “Habitat Conservation Plan” to get the required Federal Permits to begin construction.
Developers have already gotten preliminary local approval to build their “Coral Reef Commons” Project at the site including a Walmart, 900 unit apartment complex, commercial offices and several restaurants on the land.
But nearby residents worry that will also increase the traffic density off Coral Reef Drive and the Florida Turnpike, which at many times is already backed up for miles.
Earlier this year, Miami Dade officials asked Governor Rick Scott to list the Richmond Pine Rockland’s South Campus for Florida’s “Amendment 1 “ endangered land acquisition program.
But at this time, the Governors’ Office has not responded to that request and the Developer continues to insist the land is not for sale.
As recently as 2 weeks ago, Federal Officials officially listed 2 more endangered plants in that critically endangered habitat.
Later this fall, the once-thought extinct “Miami Tiger Beetle” could also be listed for Federal Protection.
It’s only known home: The Richmond Pine Rocklands.