When the sun sets, Jytte Nielsen and Mark Morgan often grab a beer and meander out to their backyard, which sits next to a massive tract of undeveloped wetlands in Miramar. From there, they can see a small pond with ibises, osprey, and turtles.
They retired here six years ago to be near wildlife. “It was a pristine and — we thought — protected area,” Nielsen says.
But it turns out the land may not be pristine much longer. The Lennar Corp., Florida’s largest home-construction firm, has applied to build 537 new homes on the 120-acre tract at Bass Creek Road and SW 172nd Avenue.
Some neighbors, including Jytte and Mark, are incensed. They worry about increased traffic and decreased wildlife.
A draft ecological survey from March 5 of last year projected that 100 of the 120 acres still owned by the Hispanic Broadcasting Co., now known as Univision, are wetlands. Old radio towers still stand in the middle of the forest.
Lennar applied in June 2015 to build homes on the property. By state law, the firm will have to develop “mitigation plans” to offset the wetland areas — which typically means buying credits from a “mitigation bank” to build or preserve wetlands elsewhere.
“It is a wetland, and we’re very surprised that it’s not identified as an area of concern or made into a Florida State Preserve,” Morgan says. When the pair found out about Lennar’s plan, they contacted neighbors, set up a website, and wrote a Change.org petition.
Last Monday at the Miramar Town Center, Lennar pitched its plan to about 100 town residents. When an image of the proposed neighborhood flashed on the screen, one man in attendance, Jaime Dagnino, called out: “I see a lot of houses but no green space.”
Denis Mealy, a mustached Lennar representative, responded that the forest had been overrun with invasive plants, like melaleuca. “They’re basically weeds,” he said.
Then, one man asked from the crowd: “So how does clearing it, paving it, and building 537 homes there” help the local wildlife?
The crowd applauded.
“There’s development on all four sides of that property,” Mealy added minutes later. “This is the last vacant property of any size in western Miramar. It’s going to get developed.” The houses, he said, will not be ready until at least 2020. Miramar plans a host of traffic improvements before anyone moves in.
One large man with a shaved head in the crowd was not impressed. “A six-minute ride down Miramar Parkway takes an hour in traffic,” he said. “That’s unreasonable, and the city failed to plan.”
Miramar’s Zoning Board will discuss the plan April 12.
“Lennar said this is an eyesore; it’s overrun with weeds and exotic species,” Morgan said. “We look at it and just see beautiful green trees and wildlife.”