Concerned Citizens of Old Cutler
It is rare to see local residents fight schools, but this is exactly what is happening in Palmetto Bay, Fl. The Village of Palmetto Bay is a vibrant community of more than 25,000 residents who enjoy its beautiful surroundings and family-oriented atmosphere. Situated immediately west of beautiful Biscayne Bay, Palmetto Bay offers unique recreational opportunities and bay access for all to enjoy! According to the Village’s official website, the Village is home to excellent public schools, all of which have annually earned the grade “A” under the State of Florida’s A+ Plan
Palmer Trinity School, an independent Episcopal school is also located in the village of Palmetto Bay. Palmer school was founded in 1973 and the first students had attended classes in the temporary quarters of a nearby church. The Trinity Episcopal School was founded in 1983. Palmer School and Trinity Episcopal School merged to become Palmer Trinity School in 1991. In the 16 years since the merger, Palmer Trinity has steadily grown from 300 to 600 students. In 2002, the Board approved a five-year strategic plan that focused on among other things “The Master Design of our Unique Subtropical Campus”. Palmer Trinity bought a 33 acre mango grove adjacent to its property. The school plans on replacing the 33 acre mango tree canopy with a private football stadium, a 50+ foot gymnasium, a 50+ foot performing arts center, 4 baseball/soccer fields, 10 tennis courts, lighted basketball courts, and a swim stadium.
The school first disclosed their expansion plan to their immediate neighbors in June, 2005. Alarmed by this news neighbors have been meeting with school officials since then. After several of these meetings in 2005, neighbors felt it necessary to organize and CCOCI (Concerned Citizens of Old Cutler, Inc.) was formed. Fearing the sanctity of their homes and Village were threatened, the Board of CCOCI hired an attorney, Tucker Gibbs, and a city planner, Mark Alvarez, to represent them. Meetings have continued, but the Palmer Trinity officials have been unyielding in their request for an increase in enrollment from 600 to 1400 students, 50 foot buildings (35’ max is code), and a mega sports complex with lights and loudspeakers operating six days a week until 10 PM. Furthermore, they have been unwilling to reduce the scale of the entire plan.
According to the Board of CCOCI the Palmer Trinity plan is incompatible with the single family residences that surround the school. The consensus of residents is that if this plan is approved, it will irreversibly change the character of the area - – both for the Village of Palmetto Bay and our immediate neighbor, the Town of Cutler Bay.
The Palmer Trinity plan affects everyone who travels Old Cutler Road and the streets near Palmer Trinity. Old Cutler, a two lane road that runs entirely through residential areas between SW 242 nd Street and Coconut Grove. According to The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) the entire stretch of Old Cutler Road is already over capacity. Joan Lindsay, President, CCOCI said that the infrastructure was not designed to handle this volume of traffic. This could potentially add as many as 900 vehicles to the morning rush on a road that most who travel it already find intolerable. Residents of the Villages of Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Pinecrest and people will undoubtedly have to allow extra time for their commute.
CCOCI also stresses that Palmetto Bay’s overburdened police and fire departments are not equipped to handle the additional demands this expansion would place on them.
Inasmuch as schools pay no property taxes, Palmetto Bay residents are also concerned about losing 33 acres from their property tax base at a time when the Village may be facing a shortfall especially in light of the recent constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters that cut property taxes.
CCOCI has received many emails from residents who write that they moved to Palmetto Bay because it was a quiet, residential Village where local officials would protect their right to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. They fear this expansion will take from them what they value most.
Urging all residents of Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay to attend the zoning hearing on February 25 and voice their concerns. CCOCI said “The future of the Village of Palmetto Bay lies in the way the Village treats its residents. If the Village of Palmetto Bay is to continue to be a very desirable place to live, it is paramount that the voices of its residents are heard and their rights protected. The consequences of this hearing will affect us all.”