Mediation fails, Miami Lakes will ask court to keep bridge closed

Featured By Linda Trischitta and David L. Snelling Thursday, May 6, 2021

Mediation fails, Miami Lakes will ask court to keep bridge closed

Attempts to resolve whether to open the Northwest 170th Street bridge through mediation have fallen apart, with the city of Hialeah and Miami-Dade County declaring an impasse in discussions with the Town of Miami Lakes.

The failure was determined Wednesday, a day before the parties were to meet for a third mediation session.

The town will pursue its options in the appellate court to keep the Northwest 170th Street bridge closed to regular traffic, Town Manager Edward Pidermann said Thursday.

“There were discussions about the [closed] Northwest 154th Street bridge during mediation sessions, too,” Pidermann said.  “We were trying to find a settlement that everybody could live with. And that included discussions beyond the immediate lawsuit.”

But Pidermann said he was not allowed to discuss what was proffered during those meetings.  

“The parties could agree in the future to go back and try to mediate again, but right now it’s dead,” Pidermann said.

Efforts to reach Hialeah officials for comment were not immediately successful Thursday.  Rachel Johnson, communications director for the office of Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, said, "The County is not able to comment when there is active or threatened litigation."

On April 20, the county issued a permit to developer Terra Group, which installed gates in front of a fire lane that was built on the bridge.

The barriers are only to be opened by Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue, who would respond from the east side of the span that crosses Interstate 75.  Town officials said then that county responders in Miami Lakes and Palm Springs North would go to emergencies that happen in developments that may be built north of Northwest 170th Street, and that the Hialeah fire department would answer calls for service south of that street.

Whether to open the bridge to regular traffic has been disputed by the town, the county and Hialeah since 2019.  Hialeah wants people who have lived for several years in the new neighborhoods in the northwest corner of that city to be able to access schools in Miami Lakes as well as the Palmetto Expressway.

The town doesn’t want the additional traffic and claims ownership of the southern lane of Northwest 170th Street.  Currently, residents in those gated Hialeah communities have just one way in and out, Northwest 97th Avenue.

The town’s lawsuit against the county, Lennar Homes, LLC, and Downrite Engineering & Development Corp. to stop bridge and road construction was dismissed in county circuit court in October 2020.

Miami Lakes town attorney Raul Gastesi said Thursday that after the failed mediation process, the town will file a brief with the Third District Court of Appeals on May 17.  The town will argue that it owns the southern lane of Northwest 170th Street and that a preexisting road transfer agreement gave it rights over all roads in Miami Lakes, Pidermann said.

During the dispute, the town built a small park on the east side of the bridge.  The new fire lane runs parallel to the park and doesn’t affect it.      

On March 17, the county notified Pidermann that if the park was not taken down within 10 days, the county would “clear the subject area” and bill the town for costs, according to a letter from Miami-Dade County Chief Operations Manager Jimmy Morales.

In response, Miami Lakes officials announced plans for a press conference and rally at the park.  The county decided to proceed with mediation instead, which lasted just two sessions. The third meeting was to happen on May 6th but was canceled after the impasse was declared.

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