Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore
|Francisco Garcia, Director of Planning & Zoning, City of Miami|
The major concerns were demolition, lot splitting, tree abuse, construction and historic preservation. The bottom line is that neighbors need to be vigilant and it works in many cases. Call the police, call the city, wear down the developers so that they know that the Grove is mad as hell and won't take it anymore.
One problem seems to be that most of the city commissioners don't care about the Grove. They don't care about trees and they feel that the fines are too high as it is, while Grovites feel that the fines are too low ($500 per tree for residential, $1000 for commercial), but along with the fines are high fees for mitigation, which are based on the tree's diameter, so the mitigation fee could be as high as $50,000 per tree, but the scofflaws have to be caught and that's where it's almost a case of Crime Watch, but it will be Tree Watch and Over-development Watch.
The one person who made sense the whole evening was Francisco Garcia, Director of the City of Miami's Planning and Zoning Department. Francisco admits the department is understaffed and that's why residents need to speak up. If you see something, say something. He spoke about the white box houses and said that they are legal, that while houses are supposed to match the neighborhood, for some reason these houses are permitted. It's a question of taste and what the developers can sell.
But there is talk of making changes - changing the rules to prevent specific style houses. But Francisco did make the point that it could affect everyone, including those against the new style housing, who may want to sell their own property one day, so it's a good idea to think this out first.
Francisco told the crowd, "We are mindful of what you are saying, we are taking notes."
For Zoning questions and inquiries, please contact the Zoning Division, 305-416-1499. Call 100 times if you need to. If you see the City chopping down trees, you have a legal right to have them stop on the spot and come back later, just tell them you are researching what they are doing. A list of emails and phone numbers for the various people in the Planning and Zoning Department is here. Print it. Save it. Use it.
Laws were enforced in 2010 and today they are not being enforced. A stop work order should be issued if trees are destroyed and multi-dwelling are planned out for a single plat lot.
Properties that were singled out for the mess they have become are:
3600 Hibiscus ( a beautiful house used in many commercials)
4384 Ingraham Highway
4200 Grove Street
3737 Justison Road (trees just "mysteriously" died)
But of course the list goes on and on.
Proper notification is needed for a warrant, that is when a single lot is being split up, or a waiver, that is when a house is going to be demolished - neighbors within 500 feet of the property should be notified, but many are missing the notifications. There are only 15 days to appeal and if someone is out of town, they may not have the 15 days. The best solution is to have neighborhood groups receive notifications, too, and also, once a year, you can sign up at the NET office, and have the notices go directly to the Village Council, who will monitor the situation for you.
One solution talked about was to have an Overlay for Coconut Grove as part of Miami21 that will protect our trees and raise fines.
Someone asked if the City Zoning Department ever turned down a warrant, the answer was "no."
The bottom line is that the city uses Coconut Grove as a cash cow. A small house on a property that brings in $6000 per year in taxes, will possibly bring in $60,000 per year by having new residents and by having four properties on one plat of land. Greed. Always greed.
The best line of the night came from our County Commissioner Xavier Suarez who said, "The Grove has been waiting a long time for some down zoning. 5000 square foot lots don't belong in the Grove." He said that a clue to over-development is street widening. He was opposed to the SW 27th Avenue job. Too many trees were removed and the street was widened and straightened out, which caused the removal of so many trees. The answer he says is mass transit. And down zoning.
Commissioner Ken Russell was present at the meeting too, and he, along with Commissioner Suarez seems to want to put the developers on the run. People are taking a stand to save the tree canopy and stop the over-development. The Grove will not be sold out anymore.
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