The Miami-Dade County Public Works Department informed a group of Belle Meade residents that closing off public access to Belle Meade would not be allowed at a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night. In a letter addressed to Miami Commissioner Sarnoff, County PWD Director Esther Calas had this to say:
The Manual of Uniform Standards for Design, Construction and Maintenance for Streets and Highways (Florida Greenbook), developed by the FDOT provides minimum standards for the design and maintenance of County and municipal roadway systems, including pedestrian facilities such as sidewalks. Chapter 8 of the Greenbook provides that “ All new highways, except limited access highways, should be designed and constructed under the assumption they will be used by pedestrians.”
Chapter 15 of the Greenbook provides that if traffic diverters are being installed to redirect vehicular traffic, such as a street closure, as has been in the Belle Meade neighborhood, “Bicyclists and pedestrians should be provided access through traffic diverters.
The Greenbook provisions are consistent with the Miami-Dade County Comprehensive Master Plan (CDMP), which provides that pedestrian and vehicular networks should serve as connectors between neighborhoods, while the walling off of a neighborhood from arterial roadways should be avoided. It further states that pedestrian circulation shall be provided between public places through connectivity of sidewalks and supplements by pedestrian paths.”
Furthermore, the Pedestrian Safety Guide and Contermeasure Selection System, published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, states that if a street closure is implemented, it should always allow for the free movement of all pedestrians including wheelchair users and bicyclists. Moreover, emergency vehicles should be able to access barricaded streets. Additionally, street closures must be implemented so as “not to adversely affect access to destination in the community by pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Therefore, based on the attached local, state, and federal provisions and as stated by our Assistant County Attorney’s email, the modification of the existing barricaded streets to include blocking pedestrian access along the sidewalks in the Belle Meade neighborhood cannot be allowed. However, as an option pedestrian free movement may be provided through the installation of concrete pipe bollards.”
Belle Meade residents where quick to point out that the communities of Miami Shores and Coral Gate had completely closed off road access to pedestrians and bicyclists. Mr. Gaspar Miranda, Assistant Director of the Miami-Dade County Public Works, told the audience that both communities had been advised that the street closures had to be removed, setting the stage for a showdown between local NIMBY’s who fought for the walled neighborhoods and County officials. The Coral Gate wall in particular was only recently completed and was strongly supported by Mayor Tomas Regalado. How can City of Miami officials, from the Mayor to the public works department be so oblivious to County, State and Federal regulations?
In October Commissioner Sarnoff told Belle Meade residents that he would support the fencing of Belle Meade and he even offered to pay for it with public funds. He instructed the Belle Meade HOA to gather a petition of support. In response, the Belle Meade HOA went door-to-door to get signatures and a surprising 78% of Belle Meade residents supported the fencing of Belle Meade.
Interestingly, the only residents that were asked to vote were neighbors to the east of NE 6th Avenue. Residents and businesses that to the west of NE 6th Avenue were never asked if they supported the fencing of Belle Meade. I’m guessing that if a petition were circulated to them, most would not support severing public access to Belle Meade. While the County’s statements may make the closings a mute point, in order to make the process truly democratic all neighborhood stakeholders, including those to the west of NE 6th Avenue, should be allowed to voice their opinion.
It appears that the fencing of Belle Meade may not move forward, or at the very least there is a long road ahead for everyone involved. Our readers know that we here at Transit Miami do not support gated communities; they do more harm then good. Fences divide communities and remove “eyes from the street”, perhaps the greatest deterrent against crime. The less people walk the more dangerous an area becomes. Truly vibrant neighborhoods are those that are walkable and allow residents to interact with ALL their neighbors and local businesses by foot and bicycle. Everyone, including the elderly, the handicap and the carless, depend on easy access to businesses on Biscayne Boulevard.
As the neighborhood continues to improve and more businesses come to the Upper East Side the area will naturally become safer. As a resident of Miami for many years, I have witnessed incremental and steady improvements to the Upper East Side - which is one of the reasons I moved here. Yes, more needs to be done, but severing Belle Meade from its surroundings is not the answer.
An alternative strategy for residents and businesses to help advance redevelopment would be to engage local groups like the MiMo BID and the MiMo Biscayne Association. The MiMo Business Improvement Committee is a voice for the business community and with a broad base of support could become a strong advocate for the neighborhood. Similarly, The MiMo Biscayne Association has been promoting the area successfully for some time - they understand the value of historic preservation and are another organization which businesses and residents should support.
You might be saying, “Thats great for the long term -but how do we improve safety now??” Here are a couple of easily implementable suggestions for making my beloved neighborhood a little safer.
1. Maintain the landscaping that exist along NE 6th Court - policing by Belle Meade residents and police officers would be more effective with clearer sight lines
2.Take action on the abandoned Vagabond Hotel (tearing it down is not an option)
3. Maintain a strong Citizens Crime Watch program
4. Increase the presence of City of Miami Police
- City of Miami Approves Fencing of Public Street. What will the County Public Works Department do?
- Belle Meade and the $70,000 Fence
- Belle Meade Should Not Become a Gated Community; Let’s Keep it Walkable.
- Belle Meade Moves One Step Closer to Fencing Itself from Community
- Another Lesson in Mediocrity by the County Public Works Department
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