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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore

Francisco Garcia, Director of Planning & Zoning, City of Miami
The Grove Neighborhood Meeting Wednesday night at Plymouth Church was about angry neighbors confronting a few city workers from the Planning and Zoning Department. People are tired of the abuse the Grove is receiving from developers who are not only destroying the tree canopy, but also overbuilding out-of-character homes on single house lots.

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.

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...

Thanks for your summation, Tom, since many of us weren't able to attend. I would like to add, however, that I m not in favor of becoming homogenous like Coral Gables. What makes the Grove the Grove is the mix of people and architecture. Would like to see it stay that way.

April 28, 2016 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Doc Ward said...

I,ve been a Grove property owner since 1999 and I second the anonymous comment above.

April 28, 2016 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There has been a lot of negative comments about how Developers are ruining Coconut Grove. I agree with everyone that the tree canopy needs to be preserved and that they should work within the rules and guidelines that have been established but also ask yourself who is responsible for the recent resurgence that has happened in the past couple of years. I've been a Grove Resident for the past 22 years and I've been here when it was the place to be and I've been here when it was a ghost town with more vacant stores then occupied ones. Right now, the Grove is going through a major upswing that everyone should be thankful for .. it raises your property values, it brings new restaurants/stores for you to shop in, it brings life to a community. You now walk through Center Grove and there are people walking around, the restaurants are full, it is a fun place to live and work. You complain about Developer's greed ... I bet in your line of work you are trying as hard as you can to make as much money as you can - does that make you greedy?? When is the last time you walked into your Boss's office and told him you want to work for less money because you don't want to be greedy. Developing is a high risk high reward business and people are investing millions of dollars into your community and they should be allowed to make a return on their investment.

I urge everyone to take a step back and think of the alternative..think what would happen to the Grove in all these 'evil developers' pulled their money out of the Grove. The old wood frame houses would continue to fall into disrepair as the current owners aren't doing anything to renovate them, the stores and restaurants would slowly disappear, your property values would drop..Would you prefer the ghost town?

I've not advocating giving free rein and a chainsaw to Developers but lets take a step back, stop being so xenophobic, and embrace the changes that are happening in the Grove - because the majority of them are good for everyone - and the alternative might not be as rosy as you think.

Stop trying to push the Developers away and instead work with them to come up with a common goal..making Coconut Grove a vibrant Community.

April 28, 2016 9:28 AM  
Blogger Lance said...

Be careful what you wishing four , code is already tuff before you asking for more restrict code check your house.You may have several violations and code enforcement not only was creating for developers.I never here people complaint about drugs , bullets fire in schools , overgrown lots , lack of gas lines , broken side walks.

April 28, 2016 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also ask yourself, "What have I done to make the Grove a better place to be?" before you jump all over the people that are investing money to revitalize your neighborhood. Are you renovating your house, are you opening up new shops and restaurants, are you buying the old wood frame house and fixing it up so that someone doesn't build a new house on that lot?? It's so easy to sit back and complain about what people are doing that you don't like instead of actually doing something yourself.

April 28, 2016 10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many Grovites are not fans of the trendy white, boxy contemporary style houses. The reason you don't see them in Coral Gables is because they know what they want, have rules, a design board and support the rules so as to not destroy their quality of life. The Grove and other historic areas need to establish rules, design board, preserve historical buildings before a demolition permit is granted and support these efforts.

April 28, 2016 10:17 AM  
Blogger Lance said...

I built my own white box , white because is the most efficient color , impact glass (required by code) ,hig efficiency AC and appliances , best insulation available , led lights , on demand water heater, concrete roof (white by the way) my FPl bill on 4000 sqf $175 . I move to the grove I dining on the grove my kids play here , I shop locally cut ma hair ,put gas,ride my bike,locally.
The last time someone told me what to do in my life and Thad we all do the same I was in the communist country.
I respect that you don't like that white boxes.
But you have to agree that I don't like old ranches homes Buid 50 years ago ,completely inefficient Whit mangos trees next to septics tanks.
I'm sure if Edison was alive today he will use let light bulbs his house and no the one that he invented.
Open to progress include everyone en this discussion .

April 28, 2016 10:37 AM  
Blogger Jane Issa said...

Coconut Grove is evolving in the wrong direction, it's historical charm is waning with every project the City imposes because they have no vision other than greed. It will soon look like everywhere else.

April 28, 2016 11:10 AM  
Blogger Grovite said...

9:28 - people don't come to the Grove bc of new, zero-lot line white boxes. That crap degrades the rest of the neighborhood. People come because of the feel of the community which is built upon the lush vegetation, tree canopy, coherent architecture and proximity/accessibility to the water. If developers need to squeeze every last penny out of their "investment" by selling crap to foreigners who 1) won't spend much time here, 2) don't understand/appreciate the history and character of the neighborhood and 3) will dump their investment at first sign of distress, then ciao, no need for you here, no thank you. Bring me responsible development approved by the community that actually ADDS to the neighborhood.

April 28, 2016 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Commissioner Suarez it's so nice to see someone in government with a conscience.

April 28, 2016 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Commissioner Suarez is a politician his son running son for mayor

April 28, 2016 12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same people who were at that meeting demanding more restrictions on others, will cry to the heavens that their freedoms have been taken away when they are fined for their own actions, or when their property value declines, because the restriction on the property are so strong and severe.

People don't want less freedom, they just want everyone else to have less freedom.

April 28, 2016 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

y'all live in Brickell Extension. the Grove died almost two decades ago. Didn't anyone send you the memo?

April 28, 2016 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While there were many good things that happened at the neighborhood meeting last night it fell a bit short of our hopes. The amount of disinformation promulgated by the director of planning was impressive. He and the other politicians managed to disrupt the meeting sufficiently so that we could not execute the agenda, and could not form working groups to tackle the problems confronting us.
According to the code there is only one way to divide the lots we are objecting to, that is by warrant. Appendix A.3 sec 3.6 .g “ Wherever an existing single-family residence or lawful accessory building(s) or structure(s) is located on one or more platted lots or portions thereof, such lots shall thereafter constitute only one building site and no permit shall be issued for the construction of more than one single-family residence except by Warrant.” It does not say unless the lot is replatted, or except by waiver, or except by right, or except if the developer or the Market wants it. Further, it does not say unless the resulting replatt would result in lots of 5000 square feet or more, or any other size, or if the resulting lots are of approximately the same size as other lots in the immediate area. It doesn’t say that this law is applied on a block to block basis or that it is too complicated for ordinary citizens to understand.
Article 7 of Miami 21 requires that Warrants be published on the web site within 5 days of the final decision and that people have 15 days to appeal. The web site is Most of these warrants, about 90 per year, have to do with outdoor dining, signs, and parking. They appear to be called class 2 warrants because they were, prior to 2010 called class 2 permits. There is only one class of warrants. There is only one replatt listed in the past 4 years in 2015 # 0051 at 3643 Thomas Ave in the SW Grove. There are no replatts in 2013, 2014, or 2016. The only logical conclusion is that the building permits were issued in error or due to corruption. The facts that formerly lot subdivision was denied in our NCD by not granting a warrant, and the disinformation promulgated by the planning and zoning department on numerous occasions, and the activity of lobbyists, and the amounts of money involved in these developments , well which, error or corruption , would you conclude?
Waivers and Warrants are published on the web site above as required by Article 7 of the code, there is little need to obtain this information from the NET office unless you do not have internet access. No warrants for these three sites have been published, the process has been circumvented. The platting and streets committee may not grant a warrant, any building permits issued as a result of their replatts or temporary replatts are in error. Article 7 specifically states that permits issued in error must be corrected, they cannot violate the law ( see above). There are no subdivisions permitted by right in our NCD. there are no subdivisions permitted by waiver in our NCD. If the straight forward law regarding lot splitting cannot be enforced changing the code to require an exception for lot splitting would not be enforced either. It would only gain time so that developers would have another year or so to continue exploiting the property rights of south grove homeowners

April 28, 2016 1:30 PM  
Blogger Your Neighbor said...

to anon at 9:28
We do not object to developers per se It is only when development destroys the nature and character of the neighborhood that our property rights are infringed upon. We have a well thought out code for zoning and building. When developers depart from the code they are breaking the law, it hurts us all.

A second problem seems to be the selective enforcement of the code. Individuals who would like to make reasonable modifications to their homes to make them more livable are denied permits or are forced to make changes they do not want in order to do their projects. While certain developers can violate the law with impunity. It certainly is not all developers or contractors many of whom complain about the unequal enforcement.

April 28, 2016 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loss of tree canopy in many ways will make Miami less livable because trees are natural air conditioning systems and also mitigate flooding.

April 28, 2016 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Andy Parrish said...

There seems to be confusion as to what "lot splitting" means. For example, if there are 5 contiguous platted lots owned by one owner that are now "for sale" as one parcel, and If each is at least 5000 sq. ft., then there are "potentially" 5 buildable platted lots. If there is one house that straddles two of those lots, and that house is not demolished, one reading of the code would be to conclude that there are only 3 ADDITIONAL houses that can be built in addition to the existing one. If there is a unity of title covering all 5 lots--which there often is so that the Homestead tax exemption can apply to all 5 lots--then one can argue that those 5 platted lots should be treated as one, and that it is "lot splitting" to make even one more buildable homesite. But if the unity of title can be dissolved, and the house straddling two of the lots is demolished, then an owner or developer can argue that there are now 5 buildable platted lots. The devil is in the legal details.

April 28, 2016 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Andy Parrish said...

There are two main issues: Lot splitting and Tree preservation. Lot splitting, and the overly large new houses that usually accompany it, are very difficult to regulate because Florida is a “Property Rights” state. A property owner with multiple contiguous platted lots is normally entitled by State and common law, to maximize the use of his/her property so long as not incompatible with zoning laws based on the “health safety and welfare” as determined by the governing authority. In our case, that’s the entire City of Miami. That’s the point Francisco Garcia made repeatedly last night. His department’s powers are limited by law and by the City’s budget. Miami is not going to hire 20 more arborists to supplement the 2 now on the payroll.

Certainly enhanced penalties and fines for non-compliance with the zoning laws, including the NCD overlay requirements, will help to rein in “good” developers, but the “bad” ones will always try to find a way, legally or illegally, because enforcement always comes “after the fact.” We all know this.

Where we can make some immediate and affordable progress on both issues is on the Tree Preservation front. Today a lot owner/developer is entitled to make “reasonable use” of each lot. If a tree on a buildable platted lot is inconveniently located from the developer’s standpoint, that developer is entitled to “mitigate” by either relocating or removing that tree. Removal requires new trees be planted elsewhere to replace it, even if it is hard to imagine “Mitigating” the intentional loss of a 100 yr. old oak or banyan tree.

So what can we do, besides more fines and later on, perhaps, something like a “down zoning”, which I believe is unrealistic to hope for? My experience on the HEP Board is (1) we cannot rely on surveys and certified arborist reports paid for by the developer. We need (2) an independent Tree Survey identifying and locating each and every specimen/heritage tree in Coconut Grove. Google maps and other technology should help with this. With this Tree Survey in hand, we need (3) to amend the existing Coconut Grove NCD to protect each specimen/heritage tree, together with a specified distance from its root ball for each species, by NOT allowing mitigation, but instead requiring the developer to design any new structure leaving that specimen/heritage tree in place. In other words, “reasonable use” in Coconut Grove needs to include the survival of the specimen/heritage tree, which is required to enhance the “health, safety and welfare” of Coconut Grove.

In my opinion, such an NCD amendment could get approval by the City Commission if it has our Commissioner Russell’s support. If passed, it may even start to encourage more “eclectic” architecture in the Grove again, as well as protect our tree canopy. Isn’t that what the Grove is all about?

Andy Parrish
3736 Irvington Avenue

April 28, 2016 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Grove is Mad as Hell & Not Going to Take it Anymore NOR will it be placated by a group of SUITS COME to Soothe & Lull the concerned home owners into a false sense that all one needs to do is call the officials’ public service lines & voila meaningful action will be in the works! Nice Idea, truly hope that works out!. ..HOWEVER...... It is an insult to the intelligence of those in attendance at Grove neighbors’ meeting on 4-27 to state that “The one who made sense all evening was the director of planning & zoning.” From the city’s perspective perhaps, soothe those tax payers, let them know “we’re there for them” does make sense…. But residents/homeowners/,taxpayers don’t get too comfy. What demonstrable action will CITY be taking on non-conforming overbuilding projects already in the works? While there were some good things that happened at the neighborhood meeting last night it fell way short of accomplishing intended action plan. The amount of disinformation promulgated by the director of planning was impressive. He and the other politicians managed to disrupt the meeting sufficiently so that neighbors’ could not execute intended agenda, not proceed with work to be done in continuing efforts to tackle the problems confronting them. None the less, Grovites are a highly intelligent, resourceful and resilient group who Will Not Take It Anymore. BACK TO WORK FOR US, WE’VE NO TIME TO BE PLACATED OR BE SOOTHED!

April 28, 2016 4:41 PM  
Anonymous fabio i said...

i think 90% of you should actually state who you are are, where you live, and what you've ACTUALLY done for the grove. It's real easy to sit at your desk and type away at the keyboard complaining about the politicians and developers (of which i am neither) but not actually participating in person.
I attended the meeting last night, and was sitting next to Mr. Falco... Also present were several key Grovites including some business owners, realtors, and long time residents. I have been a resident of the grove for well over a decade. I own two businesses in Center Grove and live in the S. Grove.
In the early 2000's I went to city hall with several of you when HomeDepot was trying to build their massive store on 32nd/US1 in violation of the big-box store rules we had in the Grove, they got ordered to stop when they started to take down trees in the parking lot before they had permits. I am also the founding member of my neighborhood in the S. Grove and do my best to keep all the members of my group up-to-date.
NCD3 is nothing " new" I have had to deal with it's technicalities etc when we remodeled our house but I did so knowing that it's all for the Grove adn its spirit.
I am not against the white boxes, but I do think that there should be some sort of addition to NCD3 that limits the amount of houses on a block or road that are of a specific style to rightfully maintain the VARIETY and ECCENTRICITY of the houses in the Grove. I think that because much of the city considers us tree-huggers, we should also add to that and make sure that NCD3 requires very high energy efficiency ratings for new construction. Think insulation, rainwater recycling, solar panels, on-demand water heaters, etc.

The tree canopy is however something CRITICAL. I don't say this because i am a tree-fanatic -but I say this because TREES are the #1 reason the grove is in such great shape after so many hurricanes. Many of you that read this may not have lived in miami long enough to go through a couple strong CAT 3-5 Hurricanes. The amount of trees in such close proximity actually create a protective "shield" that protects our homes. it's very easy to see what i mean, even if it's been 10 years since the last hurricane hit us, drive down LE Jeune, and note the sizes of the trees on the cross-roads on the grove side VS the gables side.
that's because the gables side did not have a dense tree canopy, they had trees that made and still make (IMO) much of it look like a planned development which useless lawns in front of the properties and just about 75% of the trees you see are 10years or less because the previous trees got toppled over by hurricanes. (I am not talking about palm trees either, i am talking about oaks, banyans, poincianas, and fruit trees) Besides the hurricane protection factor they are a big factor in keeping temperatures down.

April 28, 2016 5:42 PM  
Anonymous fabio i said...

I think when a property is sold, a city mandate should include a TREE survey by a city managed arborist for properties within NCD3 as part of the closing documents. That coupled with overhead imagery in the GIS database which is becoming higher-res every year can be a helpful way to protect the canopy. Proctected trees become part of the parcel of land that cannot be touched. I can name at least 2 Grovites that built around the oaks on their property, it should be a mandate for everyone in 33133. If you don't like it, then i hear there are plenty of pre-contruction condos for sale in Edgewater.

The luxury highrises coming up are not going to kill the grove either. I thknk they are a betterment- especially when you compare it to the unsightly parking lot one of the projects is replacing, and well, the Grand Bay, as iconic as it was, fell victim to bad times.

Last night was somewhat unorganized, but the way I look at it, Margaret was able to get some odd 300 Grovites and 4 or 5 elected officials into the same room and at the very least start a conversation about this. Kudos to her - And every one of you that was there too, even though i disagree with some of you, thanks for coming.

April 28, 2016 5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Anonymous above! The Grove has an intangible feel, a je ne sais quoi. Hard to pin point. Half of the people here are not True Grovites. I don't care if you have been in the Grove for 80 years and your family and ancestors are buried in Peacock park or if you just moved 2 days ago, we all have the same rights as True Grovites to express how we feel. It concerns me to read of people that have lived in the area for many years and don't see anything wrong with what is going on. They are either developers themselves, feeding on the developers one way or another whether they're doing legal work for them, supplying the brick and mortar or otherwise. True Grovites understand what is going on. Developers are decimating OUR trees to make an extra buck. Developers are hardly strapped for cash... they're making hundreds of thousands of dollars hand over fist, keeping a tree in place that will steal 100 sq. feet from the home they're building is not going to make a dent in their pockets (a loss of $60K) in comparison to what we are losing, that Grove feel. The beautiful landscape. I am not against modern, I am against zero lots and trees being removed. If you want the Grove feel... there is only one place for that: Coconut Grove. If we allow the developers to have it their way, Coconut Grove will just turn into another area of the City of Miami and lose what the Grove is known for.

April 28, 2016 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The large, oval, brown seed of a tropical palm, consisting of a hard shell lined with edible white flesh and containing a clear liquid. It grows inside a woody husk, surrounded by fiber.

GROVE: A small wood, orchard, or group of trees.

BUILDERS: Don't fuck it up.

April 28, 2016 6:37 PM  
Blogger Your Neighbor said...

In response to Andy Parrish's post. The law needs to be interpreted in light of the intent which is to assure that there is no increase in density. As all of the disputed lots in S.Grove currently under construction were formerly single family sites it seems clear that the law applies as it would be read. Demolition of a residence in order to circumvent the letter of the law should make no difference. The Euclid vs Ambler realty case decided by the supreme court 90 years ago is settled law which says that reasonable zoning laws supersede common law. The South Grove has no sanitary sewer system, the infrastructure was laid out over 100 years ago, thus both zoning regulations and health safety and welfare considerations argue for the ban on increasing density. The intrusion of greater density damages the property rights of current residents and places them at greater health safety, and welfare risk.

April 28, 2016 10:05 PM  
Blogger Your Neighbor said...

In reply to Andy Parrish's 2nd post about tree canopy, sounds like a GREAT IDEA, would potentially lead to better use of land as well. Love it. Your Neighbor

April 28, 2016 10:15 PM  
Anonymous Andy Parrish said...

If you love the Grove, then the “intent” of the zoning regulations should indeed counterbalance or even outweigh the “property rights” argument that owners and developers advance. That will undoubtedly be decided in court, provided there is someone willing to pay for it. In the meantime, we need to find practical and affordable ways to slow the bad actors down. Even if Francisco Garcia were completely on the Grove’s side—and I for one believe he strongly leans our way—he serves at the pleasure of the City Manager who answers to 5 commissioners, not just to our District 2 Commissioner.

Enhancing the fines and tweaking the Grove NCD may be the only avenues available to us. Even they will take some considerable time. Asking for a moratorium on all projects already in permitting would undoubtedly embroil the City in lawsuits so I doubt the City Commissioners would support a moratorium. It may very well be that citizen vigilance as detailed by Monk Terry at the recent Plymouth meeting, with relentless daily phone calls and emails and meetings with Code Enforcement and other City officials, is the interim path we have to follow until legislation can be passed.

I will point out that the last time we had an assault on the Grove--the first attack of the McMansions-- it only came to an end with the financial meltdown in 2008. Since then, Miami 21 replaced the old zoning code. You can draw your own conclusions from that.

April 29, 2016 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SIMPLE: If you cut down a tree illegally, you will be fined, and you MUST replace it in the same place with an equally sized tree chosen by the coconut grove tree committee. If this committee doesn't exist, that's the first step.

To hell with all these developers building multi-million dollar condos with their foreign cocaine money!

April 29, 2016 4:18 PM  
Blogger Tony Scornavacca Jr. said...

Fabio, Lance, Andy, Tom, excellent insights. (Anonymous, why not state your name?) ... After 57 years here, I still think that the bay, the trees, and the people are what makes this place cool.

April 30, 2016 3:14 PM  

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