History Repeats Itself in Southwest Ranches, NIMBY Capital of Broward County

"The new jail planned for southwest Broward County will go in a barren area where the county puts things that nobody wants," wrote David Fleshler and John Maines at the beginning of a story in the Sun-Sentinel.

At stake was a plan by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a landowner near Southwest Ranches, to build a privately run prison complex near a trash dump and women's prison. That plan has drawn numerous protesters and silence from officials in recent weeks.

But this Sun-Sentinel article isn't recent. It's from March 1998, when the controversies in Southwest Ranches were more or less the same, with one key difference: Southwest Ranches didn't quite exist.

The town would be formed in 2000 from an amalgamation of neighborhoods in unincorporated west Broward, the far reaches of land reclaimed from the Everglades. "The nearest homes are about a half-mile away, in the Southwest Ranches neighborhood," the reporters wrote in 1998 about the prison site.

Not so now. There are homes just a quick dash across Sterling Road from the CCA-owned site. When Southwest Ranches incorporated into a town in 2000, administrators annexed the site as a prospective revenue generator. If this thing that nobody wanted was to be nearby, at least it could be a tax base. A few years later, the town passed a resolution proposing that CCA would give the town a cut of its eventual revenues, as well as $600,000 a year.

That idea lay dormant for a few years, as people filled in the subdivisions, moving closer to the jail site, until this year, when ICE announced that the Southwest Ranches site was the frontrunner for a new detention facility built on the back of the Obama administration's harsh deportation policy.

One difference: In 1998, the jail was slated to hold 764 people. Now, estimates thrown around for the ICE pen are anywhere from 1,500 to 2,200 beds.

Meanwhile, the county is mulling reopening the Southwest Broward Landfill, another bane of not-in-my-backyard residents in Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines, to residential trash disposal. That, like the jail, has also been a contentious issue for more than a decade.

"Barren section home to county landfill, prisons," read the 1998 headline, mirroring a Michael Mayo column in the Sun-Sentinel published just last month.

"Dump and prison stir strong feelings," was the headline of Mayo's column, over a dozen years later.

"Two big potential projects -- a privately run federal immigrant detention center and an expanded county garbage dump -- are stirring strong feelings in Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines," Mayo wrote.

"Well, this is what the western residents get for living near Institution Alley," he concluded.

And it's been a long time coming.

Stefan Kamph is a New Times staff writer.
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