Residents of a low-income trailer park community in Florida City will now have until Sept. 30 to vacate the city-owned land, according to a settlement agreement that is expected to by finalized next month.
In March, the residents were told by the city attorney that they would be evicted in a matter of days in order for Florida City to close the $6.8 million sale of the property with developers, the Treo Group.
Shortly after, a Brickell law firm hired anonymously to represent the community, sued. A judge then ordered an injunction, halting the eviction.
Tom Culmo, of Damian & Valori, LLP | Culmo Trial Attorneys, said this week that a hearing is set for Aug. 12 to finalize the agreement. Residents can either opt-in and except the terms, opt-out, which means they will not get the benefits of the agreement or make a complaint.
In addition to residents having to be out by 5 p.m. Sept. 30, the agreement also says that residents will not be responsible for rent payments from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 — about $3,600. The city will also pay $2,000 per lot/unit. The stipend is being funded by the developer, Culmo said.
“We would have never in a million years have proposed this if we didn’t think this was a great result for them,” Culmo said. “It’s a phenomenal deal compared to what otherwise would have been.”
The city has owned the 15-acre lot at Krome Avenue and Northwest Seventh Street for decades. While it’s called the Florida City Camp Site and RV Park, most of the residents have lived there for years. Most of the residents — many of whom are elderly or have physical and mental health problems — pay about $450 a month including utilities.
The original land owners, George and Mildred Cole, who died in 1984 and 1982, deeded the property to Florida City before their death. Residents believed there was an agreement that the land would remain affordable housing for 100 years. Mayor Otis Wallace said no agreement exists. The Miami Herald was not able to verify if an agreement was ever made.
The city said the residents needed to be cleared out in order for the sale of the land to be completed. The reason for the sale, according to the mayor: The city needs the money.
Wallace told the Miami Herald in March the residents have known since 2019 that they would have to move. The city would have to file formal eviction notices to those residents who choose not to leave.
“I’m very sympathetic to the campers, but as the mayor of Florida City, I’m sympathetic to the taxpayers, too,” he said at the time.
The land, according to the city, will be developed into a mixed-use residential/shopping complex with market rate rental apartments.
Residents are not pleased
Community activist Carmen Tejada, who has been working on residents’ behalf in an effort to buy them more time, said her concern is that people will still end up on the street.
“The city needs to make a better offer to accommodate them somehow,” she said.
She noted that some residents have to leave their homes behind because they are in such bad shape.
“$2,000 isn’t going to get them very far,” she added. “They are human beings.”