In Miami Shores council vote, development is the defining issue

Miami Shores, a lush suburban village north of Miami known for its beautiful tree-lined streets and single-family homes, faces development pressures, an issue that is front and center in its April 11 Village Council election.

The village’s comprehensive development plan was passed by its preceding council in 2018. Last year, village staff members discovered that it contained several discrepancies and inconsistencies that needed to be fixed in the plan’s Future Land Use Element and Future Land Use Map. Consequently, the village hired a consulting firm, Calvin, Giordano, and Associates, in 2022 to aid in rectifying the errors. 

Opponents say the process ultimately went beyond just rectifying the inaccuracies. Miami Shores’ current comprehensive plan allows for the addition of 1,255 residential units, a major increase in density. 

Concerned that this additional development will change the character of the community, 1,500 of the village’s 11,000 residents – 13 percent  – have signed a petition seeking a rollback of the plan.

“There are certain things I support,” said Miami Shores resident, Sebastian Omeñaca. “Our recreation center is in need of an upgrade. But I’m opposed to the addition of housing and motels. It will only attract more people to the Shores.”

“What makes Miami Shores unique is that it’s a secluded oasis,” he said.

“Infrastructure needs to be addressed to sustain our community,” said another resident, Dennis Leyva. “The Village just completed a beautiful renovation of Brockway Library which I use regularly and is having a grand opening on April 26.”

Future Land Use Map (

The Miami Shores municipal elections happen on Tuesday, April 11, although in-person early voting is available Saturday, April 8, at the Lawton McCall Community Center, 9617 Park Dr.

Residents will choose three new council members from a pool of seven. The top two vote-getters will earn terms of four years, while the candidate who finishes third gets a two-year term.

The new council members will join two incumbents in determining what happens with the comprehensive plan. 

Here’s a look at who is running:

Andrew “Andy” Bellinson

Bellinson is a 20-year resident of Miami Shores. He owns Bellinson Law firm. He says he is running for the Village Council to bring resiliency, transparency, and unity back to the community and ensure that Miami Shores remains a vibrant and unique community without giving control to developers. 

George E. Burch

Burch was born in Fort Lauderdale but grew up in Miami Shores. He is a retired veterinarian and is married to outgoing Councilmember Alice Burch. He has held leadership roles at Miami Country Day School as a trustee and with Miami Shores Presbyterian Church. Burch is also known for his charitable contributions to local organizations. 

Wesley Castellanos 

Castellanos was appointed in January to the Miami Shores Village Council. He has experience as an architect and certified general contractor, and served as chair of the Village’s Historic Preservation Board for four years. In campaign materials, Castellanos says he is dedicated to preserving the village’s history and in investing in the quality of life for its residents. 

Jerome Charles

Charles is a 44-year resident of Miami Shores. He has served as an award-winning editor for Discovery Communications, the parent company of The Discovery Channel Latin America. Charles says he wants to preserve the village’s unique character. 

Deepak Ganju

Ganju is a 30-year Shores resident, a small business owner and the founding director of Holding Hands Foundation, a non-profit organization. He recently led a civic upgrade project for road design at Miami Shores Elementary School. Ganju’s priorities include restructuring the comprehensive plan, revitalizing community facilities, accelerating septic to sewer conversion, addressing sea-level rise and improving permitting, zoning, and code enforcement procedures.

Jesse Valinsky

Valinsky is a 14-year resident of Miami Shores. He and his family own and have operated Steve’s Pizza for 50 years. Valinsky believes he can bring “a different kind of energy” that will benefit the council and village.

Peter Walsh

Walsh is a 20-year resident of Miami Shores. Walsh and his spouse have a strong attachment to the neighborhood’s history and traditions. He publicly opposes the additional development permitted in Miami Shores’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan and says he wants to make it the safest neighborhood in the county, drawing on his experience as a former prosecutor. 

The majority of candidates running are in favor of revisiting the village’s current comprehensive plan.

Daniella Hakim is a junior at Florida International University majoring in Digital Communication and Media with a Minor in Marketing. She looks forward to pursuing her passion for writing as a journalist and novelist.