The Community Council of Miami-Dade County in Florida yesterday voted 5 to 1 to recommend that a controversial development plan opposed by at least one major South Florida developer be sent to the county’s commissioners and planning advisory board for review.

That plan would create a 961-acre suburb called Parkland that would include 7,000 homes, three schools, a hospital and 200 acres of parks, wetlands and open space.

The investor group backing the project includes Lennar, the giant Miami-based builder, which is partnering on this project with Sergio Pino, president of Century Homebuilders.

Other Parkland project investors include Ed Easton, chairman of The Easton Group, a real estate brokerage; and Adolfo Henriques, chairman of Jacksonville-based Florida East Coast Industries, a major landholder; Agustin Herran, president of Sedano’s supermarket; Ramon Rasco, chairman of U.S. Century Bank; and Rodney Barreto, a lobbyist and chairman of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

To move the plan for Parkland forward, however, the development group needs to convince the county to expand its urban development boundary (UDB) on the county’s western edges, where Parkland would be situated. Any construction outside of that boundary is currently limited to one dwelling per five acres. If approved, Parkland would represent the biggest boundary expansion in two decades, according to local news reports.

“Dade is going to run out of land in eight or nine years, and Parkland coiuld be a model for the future,” said Pino, in an interview with BUILDER last week. He said the community, which will house 19,000 people, would create 3,500 permanent jobs,and be the first in the market built to Green Seal certification standards. Through a spokesman, Lennar declined comment about Parkland.

Despite the commission vote, this project faces an uphill battle.

The county’s planners are on record opposing the boundary change. “There’s no need,” Mark Woerner, chief of the county’s planning and zoning department, told the South Florida Business Journal yesterday.

Environmentalists and conservationists are concerned about the impact of this new suburb on the Everglades and nearby agriculture.

And, two major South Florida developers appear to have concerns about the project, based on comments they reportedly made during a presentation at the Urban Land Institute's recent conference. Armando Codina, who is the area's largest commercial developer, and Jorge Perez, chairman of The Related Group, stated that they did not think the time was right for a project this size while the housing market is reeling. Perez called moving the UDB “immoral” and added Parkland's suburban-style development “is the wrong type of urban policy.”

A spokesperson for Related confirmed that newspaper reports had quoted Perez accurately, but said that he wouldn’t comment further. BUILDER was unable to reach Codina, although project investor Sergio Pino claimed that Codina--whose companies have twice benefited from previous boundary expansions--called him to say that his comments at ULI’s conference were taken out of context, and that he would testify on behalf of the project.

As for Perez’s opposition, Pino retorted “I’ll tell what’s immoral: 6,000 empty condos in downtown Miami with no infrastructure.” (Related is one of southern Florida’s largest condominium builders.)

Pino agreed that expanding the UDB is a bad idea “if it’s done the wrong way, and the worst thing that could happen would be for a greedy developer to get in.” But he insists that the application for Parkland “is the best that the county will see,” and that the partners have had fruitful discussions with the county’s planners, whose advisory board is scheduled to review the plan Nov. 19. Pino believes that planners’ objections to Parkland are more about its timing than the project itself.

(The Miami Herald reports this morning that Pino has also launched Century Opportunity Fund, and has raised one-fifth of his goal of $500 million to purchase land in Miami-Dade and for residential construction once market conditions improve.)

Pino said Parkland might offer as many as 350 different home models, ranging in price from the mid $100s to $1 million. “This is going to be a small city.” However, the development group has a long road before any building starts. The approval process could take at least another year, and the developers probably wouldn’t deliver their first homes until 2014, with an eight- to 10-year buildout. “My grandchildren will be involved in this,” says Pino.

John Caulfield is senior editor at BUILDER magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Miami, FL.