Annexation Debates Stir Coral Gables as Three Neighborhoods Await Their Fate

Javier Baños

Baños is the Editor of Gables Insider

In a determined effort to extend the boundaries of its city limits, Coral Gables stands on the brink of reigniting longstanding debates that center around the prospective annexation of three distinct neighborhoods: High Pines, Ponce Davis, and the perpetually contested Little Gables. These protracted deliberations have kept the city’s residents divided for a considerable time, and as this debate is rekindled, the keen interest of the public becomes increasingly evident.

This Wednesday, September 20, 2023, at 6:30 PM, the community will congregate at the Coco Plum Woman’s Club, located at 1375 Sunset Drive, Coral Gables. The focus of this assembly will revolve around the proposed annexation of High Pines and Ponce Davis. Historically, this particular set of neighborhoods have been known to elicit a broad spectrum of reactions, with some voicing reservations, while others perceive it as a beneficial stride toward the city’s future. Perhaps, the most compelling argument in favor of this annexation revolves around the tantalizing prospect of an augmented tax revenue stream, a compelling financial incentive for the Commission, in an area seen by many as an affluent and picturesque County enclave.

In stark contrast, the gathering slated for September 27, 2023, at 6:30 PM, to be convened at the Police and Fire Headquarters located at 2151 Salzedo St, Coral Gables, is dedicated to the annexation of Little Gables and promises to be a heated and contentious affair. Positioned on the periphery of North Gables, this rectangular slice of county land has long served as a crucible of debate and discord, wedged uncomfortably between two incorporated municipalities.

The recent resurgence in momentum behind the annexation efforts for all three neighborhoods can be traced back to the commitment in 2017 of Mayor Valdes-Fauli and, during that period, Commissioner Lago. Notably, Mayor Lago has emerged as the most ardent advocate for annexation, displaying unwavering resolve even in the face of a multitude of challenges and vocal opposition from segments of the public and firefighter unions, entities with a vested interest in the eventual outcome.

In a significant setback, the County dealt a blow to the initial attempt to annex all three areas in July 2019, following nearly three years of relentless effort by the City. However, Mayor Lago resurrected the endeavor in August 2022, setting the stage for impassioned and occasionally contentious debates, most notably with then-Commissioner Fors, who enshrined his opposition to annexation as a central pillar of his campaign for the Commission.

During the meeting on September 13, 2023, Commissioner Fernandez seized the opportunity to pose critical questions about the rejuvenated process, examining a city initiative designed to garner signatures of support from Little Gables residents. This initiative effectively limits their choices to a decisive “YES” on mailers sent by the city. The city’s staff provided a detailed presentation of this process, representing a renewed beginning after the County’s resounding rejection in 2019. To advance, proponents of the proposed annexation in all three areas must secure support from a minimum of 20% of registered voters, followed by the City’s endorsement before undergoing further administrative scrutiny by the County. The community meetings, detailed above, constitute an integral component of this multifaceted prequalification process. They are complemented by a dedicated page on the Coral Gables website, a digital platform designed to showcase the city’s myriad advantages, a modern echo of the land promotion campaigns of the early 1920s.

As the process unfolds, residents living within the annexation areas, alongside their fellow Coral Gables residents, will once again have the opportunity to articulate their perspectives and express their deeply held opinions. Historical debates have habitually revisited similar themes, revolving around concerns pertaining to purportedly blighted areas in Little Gables and the presence of businesses operating on an hourly basis, factors that have served as bases for postponement or outright rejection of annexation. Preliminary and antiquated financial appraisals have also underscored the potential negative ramifications on tax revenues when weighed against city expenditures in the initial three years following the adoption of annexation, a confluence of circumstances that foreshadows initial fiscal challenges for the city.

Perhaps the most potent argument posed by opponents of annexation rests in the contention that the city ought to prioritize its existing affairs before entertaining further complexities. Notwithstanding, Mayor Lago is widely expected to counter with the compelling assertion that annexation will ultimately serve as a catalyst for the transformation of this particular County section into a robust contributor of taxes to Coral Gables. Proponents of annexation argue that the addition of this County segment, a region already enjoying services rendered by Coral Gables Police and Fire Departments due to the protracted response times of county entities during emergencies and preexisting interlocal agreements, represents the most direct path to authentic contribution to the city’s tax revenue. Furthermore, the argument contends that the prestige of the Coral Gables name will steadily dispel the notion of blight, a gradual process bolstered by recent surges in property values in Little Gables that rival those in North Gables, thereby reinforcing tax revenues.

Perceptions regarding annexation appear to be inexorably linked to one’s proximity to Little Gables. The prevailing anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that residents residing in closer proximity to Little Gables are inclined to express greater support for annexation. Conversely, those living further away exhibit a more pronounced skepticism, rooted in apprehensions concerning the potential addition of a trailer park to their jurisdiction, among other fiscal concerns. This prevailing sentiment is underscored by a central desire to uphold and preserve the image of Coral Gables as the quintessential “City Beautiful” enclave.

In the final analysis, the ultimate arbiters in this ongoing saga will be the city’s residents who will amplify their voices and air their perspectives, while the City Commission will labor to chart the most prudent course of action, one that takes into account the benefit of all stakeholders. It is wise to underscore that, should Mayor Lago succeed once again in advancing this matter, all residents, whether hailing from Coral Gables or the boundaries of Little Gables, will be afforded yet another opportunity to weigh in during the County’s comprehensive review process. Perhaps, as in the case of contentious debates that have come before, the destiny of this particular discourse will ultimately be consigned to the annals of history, or perhaps we may finally be able to call these county residents our Coral Gables neighbors. Either way, residents will have an opportunity to have their voices heard during the above-described meetings.


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  54. I live in High Pines. I’ve attended the two most recent annexation hearings (2023 and 2017). The residents of High Pines are overwhelmingly against annexation. Coral Gables leadership knows this, yet they keep trying to annex. It feels like harassment. It’s annoying to have to rebuff CG’s advancements. CG should stop wasting its time and resources.

  55. This is the closest to being down the middle post I have evert seen on the Inciter. I salute the editor for describing the process. It’s quite involved. Contrary to some of the agitating commentary, there is public engagement aplenty in multiple forums – within the community, at Miami-Dade County, and at our city. Mr. Asrani’s past experience has no basis with regard to present annexations in Miami-Dade. Don’t be alarmed folks, there will be robust debate and we will all have an opportunity to chime in.

  56. So far Kirk and Vince must recuse from any voting on annexation due to their personal conflicts of interest-learned about from comments on this site otherwise most citizens would never have known.

  57. Little Gables YES: Improving Property values of North Gables & Ponce Corridor/ Business District w/ gentrification through eventual removal of trailer park & motels. Plenty of motels west of 57 AV & Hialeah/ Okeechobee Rd for hanky-panky! Plus, proximity to New Gables Fire & Police HQ. Little Gables’ longtime residents already have the 3% Save Our Homes Increase Cap as Homesteaders, so the tax hike won’t be so bad. Aesthetic Improvements to the area.

    High Pines NO: Adjacent to Downtown South Miami, far away from Historic Downtown Coral Gables/Coral Way/ Miracle Mile. COMPROMISE. If we concede to County not pushing for High Pines Annexation, maybe less resistance from them. Less fire fighter shenanigans. High Pines area already looks great.

  58. Lago seems to care about his families personal gain more than his obligation to the residents who put him there. . By no means should he even be allowed to vote or comment on this, due to his families positions in these areas. All decisions on annexation, salary increases and the like should be voted on in the next election. The residents should decide what is right for their community, not leaders who may have financial gain. And Kirk has property in Little Gables too….

  59. Stardate 09-18-2023: Official report from the starship USS Enterpise

    Reports have been received by starship USS Enterprise from the Vulcan home world of a misguided political news platform known as “Gables Insider”. This platform, which appears to communicate to a minority of residents of a community known as “Coral Gables”, has published a tirade disguised as “news”. The crew aboard starship USS Enterprise has been tasked with exposing the captain, a Mr. Baños of the “Gables Insider” vessel, as guilty of malicious attempt to mischaracterize a variety of ongoing issues within Coral Gables and misguiding residents.

    First Officer Spock has come to a simple conclusion that the “Gables Insider” has been mis-titled. Based upon the endless tirade, shown above, the crew aboard starship USS Enterprise has now deemed the platform a new title. This title shall appear in reports as…

    “The out to get Mayor Lago Insider: Your Most Manipulative Source for Coral Gables Narratives.”

    Aboard the starship USS Enterprise, crews are encouraged not to listen to narratives such as the Gables Insider. For this reason, the USS Enterprise has classified the Gables Insider as “story time” and removed any mention of it’s status as viable or trustworth “news”.

    This concludes the official report of the starship USS Enterprise.

  60. Mr Banos, Residents will not likely have their voices heard in a public forum as you have eluded to in yuur last sentence. Past experience tells me so. In my opinion the bigger the government gets, the less efficient it becomes despite the coffers getting filled with a bigger tax base. The ratio of revenues vs expenditures as a result of annexation will stay the same as it is now. Perhaps its appetite will get bigger. Perhaps we will need eight commissioners instead of five with full time jobs. More police means more pensions and the same for fire fighters. And yes, more power to unions and politicians.

    Unless there are legal or political barriers created by our charter or the State, we should put this issue on the Nov 24 ballot.

  61. @Na – how often do you see police officers patrolling the streets of Coral Gables?? I walk the area every morning and go around the golf course and have not run into ONE police officer in the morning hours. When I leave for work, I travel thru Coral Gables and don’t see any police officers. I do, however, see police officers every so often at the corner of Alhambra and Coral Way ticketing people who turn left from coral way onto Alhambra! I don’t consider that to be a safety issue. Little Gables is a safe neighborhood without the Gables control and high taxes! NO TO ANNEXATION!!

  62. There’s no increased revenue for Coral Gables if it annexes High Pines/Davis Ponce. Coral Gables will pay the county mitigation fees to offset lost revenue from this area, which is a donor (profit center) neighborhood.

    There are many reasons Coral Gables should, or shouldn’t, annex High Pines/Davis Ponce. Please cross “increasing city revenues” off the list. Thanks.

  63. To me is very simple decision : The additional taxes that the City will receive by these new areas will pay for all the expenses like police, garbage etc. If the additional cost is more than additional income the City will receive then the answer is very clear NO

  64. Annex nothing. Take better care of our existing city and care less about these surrounding areas.
    Enough unresolved city issues already and plenty of funds to take care of them without further complication.
    As in life being careful and frugal resolves all issues. Waste, and no amount of money will be enough.
    Bureaucracies are mutual benefit societies.

  65. I believe that both the annexation of Little Gables and changing the election date should be placed in the ballot. These two very important issues should be decided by the citizens of Coral Gables and not the politicians.

  66. I previously made a comment about this article but censorship on this platform is also disappointing. Thanks for deleting a constituent’s point of view.

  67. Yes to annexation of Little Gables! Naysayers above, your properties become safer with increased patrol from police and fire of this area. Right now it’s a desert of life safety…which in turn, affects you! And the home values of those on the cusp.

  68. I agree with Lynne. The City of Coral Gables wants to increase their tax revenue. However, the City of Coral Gables needs to find other ways to accomplish that and leave Little Gables as is. It is not right to continue to increase resident’s expenses, especially those on a fixed income. The high inflation rates have already devastated lots of homes. The increase in homelessness is awful and nothing is done to fix it. It is wrong that our elected official only look to protect themselves and not their communities or the residents that they work for.

    Police services are already covered by our high taxes and all residents, despite neighborhood, should be entitled to fast and reliable service.

    No annexation for Little Gables.

  69. 120% True; Nooo Annexation
    Fix the problems they have Fire and Police ;
    But for our Gables Community get rid of the hourly motels,
    And Trailer parks.

  70. HIGH PINES: NO ANNEXATION! This article mischaracterizes our consent, big time. Majority AGAINST annexation.

  71. Coral Gables has already created hundreds of homeless people by tearing down beautiful old garden apartment buildings and kicking people out of their homes so that they can build new million dollar condos.

    And if annexation were to take place, hundreds more will become homeless and many older residents on fixed incomes..(Some who have lived in Little Gables for over 30 years)…will not be able to afford to live in Coral Gables.

    Creating homelessness will be the legacy of those pushing for annexation.

    The number one complaint from Little Gables residents is the response time from police and fire departments.

    That problem must be fixed.
    Fix it!
    Everyone in Miami-Dade County, which includes Little Gables, and Coral Gables, and the city of Miami and all the other cities in Miami Dade County, should be able to have the benefit of the closest 911 emergency service.

    Spend the money on fixing the 911 emergency service.
    Perhaps that’s more important than some of the other non life-saving projects that are funded.
    Everyone in Little Gables will be served as quickly as possible by the closest emergency response dispatch.
    Problem solved.
    Little Gables: NO ANNEXATION
    Coral Gables Residents: Please demand to vote…and please vote against annexation.
    Thank you kindly.

  72. Disappointing that the article doesn’t touch on the reason residents should be voting NO on annexing Little Gables…the mayor’s brother is not only a real estate partner at Greenberg Traurig (red flag), but he is a lobbyist for the largest property owner in Little Gables, the trailer park (covered by Political Cortadito). We all know how this will ends, real estate developers will swoop in and build cookie cutter monstrosities. Another real estate hustle à la Francis and the corrupt City of Miami commissioners. The City Beautiful residents should see through another grifter enhancing his pockets rather than the advocating for what the residents want.

  73. I oppose annexation consideration until Lago is out of office. This is based on conflict. He announced on June 8 2021 that his brother bought a house at in Ponce and he wanted to revisit annexation again.

    I’m concerned he will influence staff to make the numbers work to support annexation. Specifically, I am concerned it will appear to be no cost to existing residents. Recusing himself from voting is useless when he’s working behind the scenes to manipulate in his favor. See video link. 4 hours 15 minutes in.

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