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Friday, September 30, 2016

My feelings about the Victoria Mendez case

I have mixed feelings about the Victoria Mendez case. I guess in the end I'm glad she kept her job; no one wants people to lose their jobs. She could probably make lots of money working for a private law firm, but she likes working for the City, which is a good thing.

I think when Ken Russell first brought the subject up, it was exciting for us Grovites because something was being done about the over-development here in the Grove. The first shots were fired and all city commissioners voted against the Battersea Woods project. Then it lead to Ms. Mendez' issue.

I learned a few things from the last commission meeting. I learned that Ms. Mendez is highly respected by many.

Another thing I learned is that there a are a couple of lines in the NCD (Neighborhood Conservation District) code, which state that the Grove is protected from over-development and lot splitting and that even if another code is sited that contradicts the NCD code, that the NCD has priority and THAT code is adhered to.

It's simple and it's the law. So if everyone protected the code and abided by the law, there wouldn't be any problems in the future.

I think we have a good City Commission - five people who are going to start protecting Coconut Grove and the city. I think we've all had enough of the greed and over-development.

Here are Al Crespo's thoughts on the subject. 

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.


Blogger John Snyder said...

I generally agree, however there appears to be something fishy (not just an honest mistake) going on at the Zoning, building,planning, legal departments. From 2005 when the NCD was first in effect up through 2013 lot splitting did not happen in the Grove. The 4200 Grove st. property was the first case of lot splitting since 2005 we have found, it was a single family site and was split into 4 small lots in 2014-15. We know people who tried to divide larger sites in 2010 and were required to get a warrant, then told a warrant would not be approved.
So the law was working and then it stopped working.
Building permits and replats require that a zoning department person approve the conformity of the project to Miami-21 and the NCD zoning code, they consult with the City Attorney's office to make these determinations. They are being approved even when they violate that law.
Citizens need to demand an investigation to hold the responsible parties accountable.

September 30, 2016 6:47 AM  
Blogger Elvis Cruz said...

Over-development is still happening all over the city. There are four separate Special Area Plans in the works for the NE section alone!

The most recent Special Area Plan, in Wynwood, added 2.5 million square feet of floor area to the existing zoning (which had already been recently up-zoned). To put that in perspective, that's about the size of 25 Home Depot stores!

The Special Area Plan laws (Miami 21 section 3.9 and 3.9.1) are an urban planning nightmare; purposely vaguely written, they encourage over-development.

The SAP laws should be repealed immediately. Coconut Grove should not wait until the developers want to place a cluster of 24 story towers at the Home Depot / Milam's property.

Nor should Coral Gate wait until the same is proposed at the Sears property.

September 30, 2016 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least the saga has put everyone on notice to cleanup or expect heat.

September 30, 2016 7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former attorney for a big City, I think every City Attorney is in conflict between their duty to give advice to the people who appoint them and the public who they are representing. There always loom ethical issues because of this inherent conflict of interest. Reference to an independent third party such as the state ethics agency is one way of handling this problem. Charges of police misconduct are a common example of the use of independent counsel.

September 30, 2016 9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the first post, something is going on and everyone knows it, however, yesterday's commission meeting was the wrong forum, as many said, and where are those emails? I have no opinion unless I see the missing emails and how they relate to what happened at Battersea Woods. I'm on Russell's side but what he presented was too vague.

September 30, 2016 6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go Ken, Go! Keep looking and learning and working for the people who elected you and not for the developers or other commissioners. Maybe this didn't turn out as you hoped, but it changed the way city officials will behave when they know someone is finally watching them. It wasn't a fun lesson to learn, but keep up the good work overall!

September 30, 2016 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is the link to the e-mails, 67 pages, pages 58-64 are disturbing, pages 20-30 go through the shopping for an opinion, the property was 2 platted lots and an unplatted lot, the developer built houses on the platted lots, sold them, and then said the site was never aggregated. Goldberg made a mistake because he was mislead.

October 01, 2016 7:38 AM  
Anonymous swlip said...

A city attorney has a tough job of deciding when to pick a fight and spend taxpayer resources on litigation. If a law can be reasonably interpreted in more than one way, courts will construe the law in favor of the rights of property owners and against the city. So, picking a fight where the law doesn't clearly favor the city can easily end up wasting a lot of time and money. I don't think this case was anything more nefarious than that.

If Russell really wanted to air things out, here, the proper thing to do would have been to endorse the ethics investigation that Mendez requested.

October 01, 2016 6:19 PM  
Blogger Elvis Cruz said...

The law is very clear. From Miami 21, NCD-3, section 3.2:

Properties shall not be platted, re-platted or configured in any way that destroys a
median, green space, landscape easement or road configuration that contributes to the
character of the subdivision within the NCD-3 area.

In the above quote, "green space" is defined by Miami 21 as:

An Open Space outdoors, at grade, unroofed, landscaped, and free of impervious surfaces.

The city has been breaking the law in allowing those plattings / replattings in Coconut Grove.

If the City so chose, it could protect those properties, and the character of the Grove, by enforcing its own laws.

October 04, 2016 3:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steps are being made (thanks to Save the Grove and many friends!) but there's still a ways to go. Can only hope city, developers, and attorney were put on notice. Kudos to Ken Russell for having the courage of his convictions, on behalf of the Grove, in spite of some of the ugliness.

Meanwhile, former single house property on Hibiscus subdivided now for 3 houses. No construction yet but what will happen...? Down the street, 3640 Avocado, too late, construction was supposed to stop but builders got in there pre-dawn. Now two houses going up on single rez property. ALL the trees that were there are GONE. House on the left looks to be about arms length from the property line, its unbelievable, and no more than 5 ft on the othe sides. What an eyesore that will be! And what a damn shame.

October 05, 2016 12:23 AM  
Anonymous swlip said...

Actually, that definition of "green space" is rather vague. Whose "green space"? Would that be green space on a person's private property? The other items in that list - "median, ... landscape easement, or road configuration" are clearly not items that are private property. In that context, a more reasonable reading of "green space" would be public green space.

Assuming that "green space" does refer to unbuilt areas of private property, what is the meaning of "destroys"? Does that mean that a property owner can't impinge at all on the unbuilt areas of his property? That would lead to an absurd result, preventing a property owner from making even a small addition to an existing house.

And what is meant by "contributes to the character of a subdivision"? If you can't give it a concrete, objective definition, then it is simply subjective and, for enforcement purposes, meaningless.

If the City tried to enforce this, the City would lose.

October 06, 2016 1:52 PM  

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