Civics 101: Your guide to all of Miami-Dade’s cities, towns and villages

Our Civics 101 series has mentioned Miami-Dade County, cities, towns, and we’ve taken a dive into what millage rates mean, how to speak up at a public meeting, and how ordinances go from proposal to law.

But for this latest entry, we wanted to zoom out a bit and look at the municipalities that make up the 305. Longtime residents may already know a lot of this info, but we want to give a brief refresher and look at the 30-plus cities, towns, and villages that make up Miami-Dade County. 

So, I know Miami and Miami Beach are different things, but how many other cities are out there?

Miami-Dade County currently has a total of 34 municipalities. We say currently because a few places have come and gone or been absorbed into other areas over the years.

The oldest municipality is the good old city of Miami, which was incorporated back in 1896. And the newest kid on the block is the town of Cutler Bay, which was founded in 2005. 

And what about the ones that are gone?

In some cases, neighborhoods that we know as part of a larger city — like Coconut Grove in the city of Miami — were previously their own cities and eventually annexed into a larger municipality. 

Islandia, located in the upper Florida Keys but not in Monroe County, was a city from 1960 until it was abolished in 2012.

How do they all break down?

If you don’t want to draw a side-eye from a longtime resident or elected official, here’s a breakdown of each kind of municipality in Miami-Dade:

Cities: Aventura, Coral Gables, Doral, Florida City, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Homestead, Miami, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, Miami Springs, North Bay Village, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Opa-locka, South Miami, Sunny Isles Beach, Sweetwater, West Miami

Towns: Bay Harbor Islands, Cutler Bay, Golden Beach, Medley, Miami Lakes, Surfside

Villages: Bal Harbour, Biscayne Park, El Portal, Indian Creek, Key Biscayne, Miami Shores, Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, Virginia Gardens

Why so many?

It depends on who you ask, but many of these founding stories boil down to developers with a very specific vision for stretches of undeveloped and unincorporated parts of early Miami-Dade: see cities like Coral Gables, Opa-locka and Miami Springs, or North Miami

Sometimes it involved  a group of residents in a particular area looking to take more control of their municipal services and to advocate for themselves when County Hall, and representation from their county commissioner, seemed too distant. 

And in cases like Virginia Gardens, it can be verrrry specific. This village incorporated after Miami Springs approved a law that banned horses in city limits. So 50 residents decided, in a move that would make Lil Nas X proud, to take their horses and form their own village near the Springs.

And why hasn’t there been a new city in a while?

There are a couple reasons why it’s been more than a decade since a new municipality was incorporated, but the most notable one is that there was a five-year moratorium placed on any incorporation efforts back in 2007.

Even after it was lifted in 2012, it still takes a while for new annexation — when an existing municipality essentially absorbs an unincorporated area into its boundaries and governmental control — or incorporation efforts to get going. 

Much of this has to do with the process: residents in an unincorporated area get surveyed about plans to form a city, then there’s a petition process. If that gets a certain level of support, then it goes to county commissioners, and then to voters in that area. Annexation follows a similar timeline.

And even if it gets approved then, the city has to establish a name, set up its government (including electing a mayor and commissioners), and set up an agreement with the county.

The most recent effort, which would’ve created a new city in a northeast section of unincorporated Miami-Dade, failed during last November’s election.

Are there any areas still being considered?

There are three municipal advisory committees active within the county right now. And these boards are set up to study whether a proposed city, town or village is feasible. 

One is looking at an area called Biscayne Gardens, that borders existing cities like North Miami and North Miami Beach.

The other two are for an area just west of Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay (that looks a lot less likely after a recent commission decision), and the other is a little bit south of Cutler Bay and borders the northeast stretch of Homestead.