' Lot splitting in favor of growth over preservation'
|3701 Park Ave. Coconut Grove|
Their lawyer seemed in agreement that this is actually a ‘building site’ by NCD-3 code and therefore needs a warrant to divide it into two 18,000’ lots. Their argument was that by going through the historic preservation board, they were being open and transparent, publicly showing their plans and hoping the board would approve waivers on lot width and the splitting, among others. Arguments that this was the realm of the planning and zoning board and this would set a bad precedent on lot splitting resulted in deferral until the next meeting on December 3, when the head of P/Z is supposed to show up and bless or deny the lot split. The sense is they’ll approve it anyway, as P/Z apparently didn’t object the lot split when meeting with the historic housing board.
We thought it would be good for you to dig into this a little more. The former owner spoke up on how that lot itself was part of the heritage of the property. The lawyers for the developers tried to make the case that early 20th century houses were customarily 50-80 wide and ½ acre deep, which approaches these dimensions. They cited homes in the NE of the US. That might have been true there, but certainly that is not the style of early homesteads in the Grove, which had large lots and smaller homes. That rebuttal, voiced in the meeting, was left unchallenged.
In the end, this looks like typical lot splitting in favor of growth over preservation. Our position was that part of the historic designation should have included the lot itself, in its full size. We simply don’t have a lot of large lots like that left in the Grove and they are being routinely split.
The problem with the warrant process is two-fold: 1) only abutting neighbors are involved and they often don’t get notified or realize the importance of protest within 15 days 2) the city can grant the subdivision anyway, even over protest. It is an uneven application of the intent of the law, which is to curb increased density. If you have the resources or activisim, you can win, otherwise, you lose.
When this development is done, any trace of the historic look/feel of that property will be permanently gone. The garage/quarters gone, the old house renovated but ‘tacked onto’ an expansion which nearly triples the size of the residence, and a brand new home built on the other half of the property.
Having said all that, the developers at least aren’t plopping down more ‘box homes’ and have thought out this carefully, and have solicited input from neighbors.
In the end, however, this is just another lot split and loss of a big lot with an historic home to a more densely populated couple of lots.
For many of us, that just doesn’t feel right, especially to the former owners and people who have lived in that house and spoke up in opposition.
Just thought we’d let you know. La Brisa is a great example of a way to preserve a grand old home and estate, as was Marta Week’s handing over her 8 ½ acre estate to Deering Estate 2 years ago. It is a pity this one isn’t going a similar route, or at least approval of the new custom home but not the building of a second.
Frankly, passing legislation that strictly forbids subdividing lots would go a long way to avoid all the exceptions that are routinely given. And Francisco Suarez’s proposal to ban starting construction on a lot until final plat approval would fix some other problems, like illegal subdividing and then starting construction and claiming it is too late to follow the law.
DSP Geosciences and Associates, LLC
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