|From Flickr: Veronique Lee|
Miami has a Comprehensive Development Master Plan that is the holy scripture for all that is Miami-Dade County land management. It is an immensely powerful document.
Its creation and management is generally guided by Florida Statutes Chapter 163. But specific goals for the Master Plan are set out by County Ordinance Chapter 2, Article XV, Sec. 2-113. The purpose of the Master Plan is mandated as follows:
Obviously land management in the County is intended to meet a smorgasbord of goals. Policies like these can be difficult to hold decisions makers accountable too because the goals are varied, perhaps conflicting and vague. It is easy for a decision maker to point to any part of this legislation to argue the morality of their decision.It is the purpose and intent of this plan to assure for all people of Miami-Dade County safe, healthful, productive and aesthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings; to attain the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without unreasonable degradation, risk to the health or safety, or other undesirable and unintended consequences; to preserve important historic, cultural and natural aspects of our national heritage; to maintain, wherever possible, environment which supports diversity and variety of individual choice; to achieve a balance between population and natural and man-made resources which will permit the high standards of living and a wide sharing of life's amenities, and to enhance the quality of renewal resources and approach the maximum attainable recycling of depletable resources.
Digging deeper into the Master Plan, one comes across naturally conflicting statements and double-speak. For instance, the Master Plan's section on Land Use sets out the objective of development that encourages
"contiguous urban expansion when warranted, rather than sprawl."Sprawl however, is generally synonymous with expansion of urban areas. Galster et al (2001) define sprawl as,
a pattern of land use in a UA [urbanized area] that exhibits low levels of some combination of eight distinct dimensions: density, continuity, concentration, clustering, centrality, nuclearity, mixed uses, and proximity.Despite the double-speak in the Master Plan objective, it is clear that the concept of sprawl or urban expansion is seen as in conflict with higher order goals developed by the County for the creation of the Master Plan.
Further, there is reason to believe that Miami land management planning is failing miserably at meeting those goals set out in by the Land use objective and the County mandate. For one, Miami is seen to have one of the greatest degree of sprawl in the country (Galster et al. 2001). As well, it is seen as one of the most stressful places to live. It also, is notorious for its risk.
Can Miami-Dade County decision makers be held accountable to the public policies they are intended to uphold?
Update, later today:
Other scientific work by Lopez and Hynes (2006) indicates that Miami has very low sprawl. Lopez and Hynes use a different process of defining and measuring sprawl. Both Galster et al and Lopez and Hynes offer lengthy discussions about the difficulty of defining sprawl.
Without a clear definition offered as a policy goal, it is difficult to evaluate if a policy has produced sprawl or not. This is akin to affordability issues in Florida insurance. Without a quantitative definition of affordability, evaluation depends on the mood of the public.
Public discontent about the environment, risk, sprawl, blight etc. perhaps, has less to do with any of these specific ill defined goals than with discontent about land management practices.