VILLAGE OF PINECREST, FL-A fight is brewing in this sleepy, affluent bedroom community over the future of a $12 million, 22-acre parcel of land that is currently home to more than 1,000 varieties of tropical plants and more than 1,200 rare birds and animals.

Parrot Jungle, a world-renowned bird sanctuary and tropical jungle theme park adjacent to Pinecrest, 20 minutes south of Miami, plans to relocate to Watson Island in Downtown Miami by early 2003.

The Village of Pinecrest wants to buy the property and turn it into a park. That concept is widely supported by Pinecrest’s 19,000 residents. But the details are in dispute.

Next Tuesday, the village council will meet to consider purchasing the property for $12 million. The council will also consider a proposal by a Miami consultant and fund raiser that would turn over management of the park to an unnamed tax-exempt, non-governmental organization.

Two groups of homeowners near the property oppose the scheme and pledge to block its adoption. They hope to delay the land purchase until voters can pass a charter amendment ensuring that the park is operated as a passive, public park managed directly by village staff.

The homeowners have hired GDB + Partners, a Coral Gables public relations firm, to represent them.

“It’s not so much the price of the property that they are opposed to, although $12 does seem a bit pricey,” GDB Managing Partner Seth Gordon tells What the homeowners oppose, Gordon says, is turning over management of the park under a long-term contract to a non-government organization that would heavily “program” the park with crowd and traffic-inducing commercial enterprises designed to generate funds to benefit the organization.

According to the proposed plan, admission fees, membership and corporate sponsorships are expected to produce $470,000 total income. Operating expenses are budgeted at $436,000, including $250,000 for salaries of the non-government organization employees.

The proposal does not specify whether the projected $34,000 profit would go to the village or the NGO. It does specify, however, that maintenance of the 20-acre park, which some have estimated at $270,000 per year, would not be paid for from the projected income. That expense would come out of village coffers.

As for the $12 million price tag on the property, local real estate agent Steve Yenzer tells that’s not out of line for Pinecrest, where the average price for land is $625,000 per acre but $700,000 isn’t unusual. Yenzer said eight of the 22 acres is clear land that could easily be developed.

Pinecrest Village Manager Peter Lombardi could not be reached for comment.

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