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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Urban Growth Boundaries

The NY Times has an interesting article on an urban growth boundary in Miami-Dade county.  An excerpt:

WHEN John Alger, a farmer, visits his property 30 miles southwest of Miami, he sees endless rows of corn. But his mind is on another kind of line.

Mr. Alger’s 1,260-acre farm is divided by the Urban Development Boundary. In 1983, county officials drew the boundary, a jagged line around Homestead and neighboring cities like Princeton and Florida City. Outside the line, development was limited to one dwelling per five-acre lot; the goal was to keep the land from being built on. Inside the boundary, which hugs Route 1 and Florida’s Turnpike, by contrast, construction was encouraged. Someday, as the density increased, there might be public transportation. . . .

On one side are farmers who would like to be able to maximize the value of their land, which means allowing the boundary to shift. Katie Edwards, executive director of the Dade County Farm Bureau, which represents Mr. Alger and other farmers, believes market forces should determine where development occurs in Miami-Dade County.

On the other side are environmentalists, who consider the boundary sacrosanct. Miami-Dade is nearly 40 miles wide at Homestead. To the east is Biscayne National Park, which includes much of Biscayne Bay, fed by water that runs above and below Miami-Dade. . . .

[T]o Mr. Alger, the drawing of the line was “a giant wealth transfer from those outside the boundary to those inside it.”

“If you’re on the right side of the U.D.B., you’ve got a lot of wealth,” Mr. Alger said.

These days, land outside the boundary is worth about $60,000 an acre, depending on soil and topography, said Rick Swentek, a veteran real estate broker in the area. Inside the line, it is worth significantly more. Mr. Alger and his family are offering one 30-acre plot, where they now grow corn, for just under $800,000 an acre, or around $24 million for the entire parcel.

Ben Barros

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