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Thursday, June 07, 2012

School issue deferred by Planning & Zoning Board

Last night, the City Planning staff recommended to the Planning and Zoning Board that the issue of the Montessori school planned for 1621 S. Bayshore Drive be studied further. It will come before the board on Wednesday, July 18.

Between South Grove and North Grove, along Main Highway and S. Bayshore Drive, there are already about six school zones and the neighbors are concerned about another school joining the lineup. But more importantly, the flavor of the neighborhood. Neighbors don't feel that a school belongs in the historic neighborhood where the school will bring commercial interests to the residential area.

Joan Rodriquez, who is owns the school, says there is a long waiting list. This of course worries neighbors.

The main issue is zoning. Is this a case of special "spot zoning" or is the location already allowed? Joan tells me that a variance is not being requested. She says that a variance is sought when an applicant cannot meet the code requirements. Joan's application was reviewed by the Zoning Department prior to submittal and it was found to meet code requirements.

According to Joan, "This application seeks an 'Exception.'  An Exception or Warrant is required for schools in most transects/districts in the City in order to ensure that the design and configuration are appropriate, and that potential impacts are addressed and mitigated.  In other words, it meets code requirements but is still subject to review to ensure that it is designed and operated appropriately.

I see it like this: If it is allowed under current zoning laws, then there is nothing that the neighbors can do. I also wonder why someone would want to intrude on an area where the neighbors don't want them. It sort of has a bad omen to it, why start off on the wrong foot and negative vibe with neighbors? What's the point when there are probably hundreds of other locations for the school?

Joan's response: "I am not doing it to upset the neighbors, I want to put the school in 
Coconut Grove because there is a need for it.  Many of our current students' parents live in the Grove, and you know there are many more children who need good schools - all the better when it is near their homes.  A school is not a commercial use, and if you look around the County and the entire country, schools are located in residential areas everywhere and become an intimate part of their community fabric."

She went on to say, "I understand that some neighbors are objecting, but you have others who 
are supportive and very happy to see the school there.  In an attempt to balance the prerogatives of both, provide solid educational programming, and be a good neighbor, I have intentionally limited the enrollment and physical size of the school, as well ensuring that the bulk of the existing features of the property, including the historic home and the ample tree resources are preserved.  That's what the Grove is all about."

Here is a PDF of the Miami Zoning Code
, where I am told by Joan that on page 110, which is a chart, it shows that the school is permitted. It takes a bit of time to open and is hard to navigate. And I don't quite understand the chart.

Comments are open, but only the civil ones will be posted. The ones calling people anti-education or children haters or anti-business are nonsense and stupid and won't be published. Let's have an intelligent conversation or none at all. Thanks.

For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A small school within the historic home is the only economically viable way to preserve the home. No one will pay over a million dollars for that lot without scraping the house and then build 2-3 "mc-mansions"... Come together to save the house and the open lot with trees. The mini-school is the best way!

June 07, 2012 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Grove Girl said...

Can Joan guarantee that parents won't be using Natoma Manors and Bay Heights as a cut through method for shuttling their children back and forth to school?

Can she promise, without any hesitation and will she put the promise in writing, that this 'school' will not turn into Ransom and that Tigertail won't become a parking lot?

When I hear those answers, I might re-evaluate my opposition. Why can't she put the school in Center Grove where there are plenty of empty buildings.

As for 'the need,' a private school that costs thousands upon thousands of dollars per year to handle up to 100 kids, does not address a need. It addresses a select few. A very select few.

June 07, 2012 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Real estate values are up and everyone wants to be close to downtown again. With the exception of Ransom, there are ONLY single family homes lining the bluff. Someone will want to buy that property. It cannot be carved up easily for three McMansions, but even if that were true, the impact is significantly less than 100 children. A "mini-school" is maybe a dozen children, not 40 or 100 students.

June 07, 2012 1:53 PM  
Anonymous John Aguilar said...

Why worry if the school gets built? This will help mold the minds of the younger generation. Plus the convenience of sending your child to school within the neighborhood is something you should be thankful for!

June 07, 2012 3:31 PM  
Blogger Sledge said...

100 rich kids, plus a dozen people making the money are the only beneficiaries.

Thousands of people who live in the Grove or pass by would be affected by even worse traffic.
As if the other schools and Mercy Hospital"s daily jams weren't enough.

Simple math.
Carlos I.

June 08, 2012 10:11 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Sounds like the main objections to the new school are traffic and commercial development. Maybe the commercial objection is really about traffic too. So people want to drive everywhere, don't want destinations in their neighborhood, and don't want traffic? Those are contradictory and you can't have it all. Single use zoning makes us slaves to our cars and makes city traffic slow and dangerous. Keeping destinations out of an area to please NIMBY neighbors just makes the traffic problem worse and pushes the problem onto other neighbors.

Beautiful tree canopies make the Grove a rare walkable area in South Florida. Coconut Grove has a chance to escape the tyranny of cars by carefully allowing mixed neighborhood uses that preserve trees and appropriately sized buildings. Neighbors should embrace businesses, trees, and walkable streets all working together to make the best use of advantages it already has.

June 08, 2012 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allowing the school to use the property would push another neighborhood's traffic into the Grove.

How many kids in the immediate vicinity will be attending the school? Probably not many. If any do attend, their parents will probably drive them there anyways. Then the whole liberating people from their cars idea goes out the window.

June 08, 2012 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They would have to drive. There are no sidewalks on that side of the street. Then they would need a crossing guard to get across South Bayshore Drive. Can you say even bigger traffic jam?

June 08, 2012 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are 4 other Montessori Schools already in the Grove. One just received approval for expansion to 5th grade and purchased a 14,000 square foot building on 27 Ave. It's an excellent school, fully accredited and with 125 new spaces to fill. It is Coconut Grove Montessori. We do not need another school in our neighborhood.

June 08, 2012 8:23 PM  

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