MIAMI -- To fish hatchery owner Paul Radice, the farmlands sandwiched between bustling Miami and the vast Everglades are ideal for his business.
The well water is unpolluted by parking-lot runoff and is the natural temperature for his tanks of exotic koi and African cichlids. Traffic is light and there are few strip malls or fast-food joints.
This landscape, the only subtropical farm region in the continental United States, is protected by a boundary line that was drawn two decades ago to keep development from pushing westward.
Now, to the dismay of some farmers, including Radice, developers are snapping up Miami-Dade County's dwindling open land and hoping to persuade politicians to push the boundary line closer toward the Everglades.
Radice warned that new residents would ''change the character of the area, and they'll want the area to change with them."
Plans by major developers call for more than 16,000 homes to be built on land beyond the line, which is known as the urban development boundary. Currently, development beyond that line is restricted to one structure for every 5 acres.
Miguel De Grandy, an attorney for Texas-based developer D.R. Horton, said the proposed developments are needed to meet demand, especially with soaring housing prices putting homeownership out of reach for many middle-class people.