Smackdown-County vs. City: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble Over Gated Communities!

Last night I attended the Belle Meade Homeowners Association Meeting at Legion Park. On the agenda was more discussion about the Belle Meade fence.  The Belle Meade HOA wants a fence on NE 6th Court in a desperate attempt to reduce crime in Belle Meade. This proposed fence would have gates that open and close, but in the future could possibly be locked.  Present at the meeting was Commander Morales of the MPD, who informed the residents of Belle Meade that the community only had 34 incidents of crime last year. These were mostly car break-ins and is a relatively low number of incidents. To put things in perspective Belle Meade has less incidents of crime than Coconut Grove.

The County (PWD) and State (FDOT) have objected to the fence with gates. Both say it is illegal because it impedes the public’s right of way. The City of Miami views the issue differently and has said it will begin construction of the fence shortly without the blessing of the County or the State.

A fence with holes will do absolutely nothing to make Belle Meade safer. I have yet to see any research that proves indisputably that gated communities are safer than non-gated communities. Most of the arguments used for the fence sound something like: “Something is better than nothing” or “It will make me feel safer”.  These arguments are not backed by any research or facts; just a false sense of security.

Sadly there is no discussion or drive to clean up Biscayne Boulevard-especially the prostitution and drugs that are being run out of the hourly hotels on Biscayne Boulevard. This is the source of the problem and only when this issue is addressed will we see a noticeable decline in crime in Belle Meade.  As long as we have crack heads and prostitutes living and working on the Boulevard a fence will not protect Belle Meade. We need to strengthen the entire neighborhood, not erect a fence in a desperate and futile attempt to reduce crime. This is simply wishful thinking. The best thing we can do is encourage redevelopment of the area, particularly of the hotels, of which many have fallen into decay.

The plan to revive the Vagabond Hotel is a perfect example of development that will make the entire neighborhood safer by encouraging more people to walk which directly results in more eyes on the street. If the Belle Meade HOA had their way, the entire community would be completely fenced off from the Upper Eastside neighborhood. Hardly anyone would walk to the Vagabond Hotel or any of the local businesses that depend so desperately on the disposable income of Belle Meade residents.  I would even argue that the fence would make things less safe for the Upper Eastside neighborhood as a whole because fewer people would be choose to walk.  We would see businesses suffer due to lack of pedestrian access to the Boulevard.  Once Belle Meade residents are in their cars and with parking on the Boulevard already a problem, residents may choose to take their business elsewhere.

In addition, a fence will only exasperate the parking problem for businesses along Biscayne Boulevard. We should encourage more people to walk, not force them to become even more auto dependent. For now I recognize that the fence will have gates, so it won’t discourage people from walking in the near future, but this is a first step in a larger strategy to put Belle Meade on “lock down”. There are high-hopes from the HOA Board that eventually the gates will be locked. This is a very misguided approach to reduce crime.

Belle Meade is setting a dangerous precedent. If the community successfully erects a fence, Morningside will be next to follow. Soon Miami will start looking like a prison of gated neighborhoods, do we want to be the Latin America of the United States? I encourage the County to remove the Coral Gate wall which was illegally erected several years ago with the approval of the City of Miami. In addition , the County should do everything in their power not to allow a Belle Meade fence to be built. At the end of the day it a complete waste of taxpayer monies and it will become the white elephant of Belle Meade and it won’t make my community any safer.

I personally hope the County and the State deliver a Smackdown or even a “superfly snuka” to the City and Belle Meade.  The fencing of Miami is wrong on so many levels.

Anyone know of a good attorney? I’m ready to take this to the highest court in the land.