BioArticlesContactResume
Enterprising
PTA Oversight
Section 8
Day Care Issues
HousingAfterHurricane
HowWeLive
TheView

 

The Miami Herald
April 9, 2006 Sunday

RAPID-GROWTH PAINS;
THE NOTION OF SUBURBIA AS A REFUGE IS CHANGING, EXPERTS SAY, AND NOWHERE IS THAT MORE APPARENT THAN IN WEST MIRAMAR

BYLINE: NATALIE P. McNEAL

Emanuel Washington Sr. is vexed.

Five years ago, he plunked down $48,000 on a $245,900 Miramar house to be built on a premium cul-de-sac in Silver Isles.

He envisioned tranquillity, not a Chili's Bar & Grill in his backyard.

Despite Washington's complaining at City Hall, the Chili's was approved, and will be built this year. Now when he sits outside on his patio he says he'll be greeted by the smell of buffalo wings and the sound of noisy patrons.

''The restaurant keeps ungodly hours,'' said Washington, 48, a Miami firefighter.

Washington's frustration is shared by many new homeowners in west Miramar who fled more congested cities east of I-75 in search of a more peaceful life, in fresh, new communities with clubhouses, waterfalls, tot lots, and cul-de-sacs.

But in the past few years, almost a dozen new subdivisions have sprouted in west Miramar, and new ones are being built -- many of them with homes priced from $300,000 to over $1 million. Since the mid-'90s, 9,553 homes have been built west of I-75, helping to make Miramar the third-fastest growing city in the nation among cities larger than 50,000 residents, according to numbers released by the Census Bureau in 2004.

Residents' complaints range from crippling rush-hour traffic to lakes that erode their backyards in a heavy rain. Indeed, for many of the residents who live in western Miramar's sprawl, their discontent is growing.

Over the past few years, they've become increasingly vocal -- and visible -- at city meetings, protesting everything from big-box stores to new subdivisions.

''There's always the trouble-in-paradise syndrome,'' said Joel Kotkin, an urban planning expert and author of the report, The New Suburbanism: A Realist's Guide to the American Future.

LESS AFFLUENT
Miramar residents on the east side are less affluent than those who live near I-75, according to a Miami Herald analysis of census income data. A typical household at the far west end of the city makes three times as much money as one at the far east end.

The disenfranchisement of Miramar's middle class has manifested itself in different ways over the years.

In 2001, upset by a new hospital moving to town (ambulances would run all night, residents complained), homeowners picketed City Hall.

In 2002, enraged that a big-box SuperTarget would possibly (and it did) move west of Interstate 75, homeowners took out a full-page ad in a local newspaper, blasting the store.

In 2003, west Miramar homeowners threatened to de-annex, because they felt they lacked representation on the City Commission. A main concern was during rush hour, it could take commuters 30 minutes to drive three miles on Miramar Parkway.

''Their issues are no different than issues of fast growth,'' said Frank Schnidman, a senior fellow at the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University. ``It's a question of the perception of what the person thought they were buying into when they moved out there.''

Miramar Mayor Lori Moseley, who lives in western Miramar, says she realizes there are ''real issues'' in the area.

''Everyone has challenges we need to work through,'' Moseley said. ``I'm glad they are verbal about what they believe are challenges.''

When Alison Oncay and her husband, Jose Noyola, moved from a Miami-Dade townhome to Miramar in 2004, the couple anticipated enjoying life on a lake, watching the sunset over the water. Oncay, a nurse, and Noyola, an anesthesiologist, put in many upgrades such as a $40,000 pool at their six-bedroom, six-bathroom home.

''Miramar was going to be our last home,'' Oncay, 51, said.

But Hurricane Wilma washed away 15 feet of Oncay's backyard, compromising her pool and home foundation.

''We worked hard all our lives, and now we are faced with a catastrophe like this,'' Oncay said. ``We can lose our home.''

OTHER BOOMTOWNS
Miramar's growth parallels other suburban boomtowns that have been experiencing growing pains across the nation. Since 1950, more than 90 percent of all the growth in U.S. metropolitan areas has been in the suburbs, according to Kotkin.

''The notion of suburbia as a bedroom community of refuge has changed,'' Kotkin said. ``Today, we are an overwhelmingly suburban country.''

With the growth, said Kotkin, comes the need for people to understand that suburbs are now population centers -- not getaways.

''Suburbia is the new urbia,'' Kotkin said.

But still, some residents feel shammed.

''My euphoria is gone,'' said Angel Ortiz, who launched myshattereddreamhome.com in 2004, to vent his unhappiness with living in west Miramar. ``I've fallen into a trap I never wanted to fall into.''

In 2004, Ortiz bought a five-bedroom, $400,000 home, after selling his three-bedroom home in Plantation. At the time, the house was a financial stretch, but with interest rates low, Ortiz, a software engineer, felt he and his wife, a manicurist, could swing the purchase.

Since moving in, however, he has regretted buying the house. One of his major concerns is the rock quarry blasting going on in northwest Miami-Dade, which rattles his house and caused a crack on his garage and master bedroom floor.

Ortiz said it was in the contract about blasting, but it was worded in such a way that he didn't notice it.

''It's really frustrating,'' said Ortiz, 46. ``I wish I had bought somewhere else.''

Don Waldron, Miramar's community development director, says residents need to understand that Miramar needs businesses to support its ever-growing infrastructure.

Also, the new businesses such as Starbucks, Ross, and a planned Benihana restaurant are for the residents to enjoy.

Miramar's growth has lead to rising housing prices, Waldron said, which helps increase home values for residents.

''It's a great place to live and it's getting better,'' Waldron said.

Back To Top