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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Community meets to discuss self governance

Lourdes Slazyk, Tucker Gibbs and Arva Moore Parks
Concerned neighbors have had it and they are not going to take it anymore. The Grove 2030 community forum, "Pathways to Self Governance," took place Saturday morning at the Vizcaya Village garage. This was a community conversation on how to achieve the Grove 2030 Goal: "By the year 2030 Coconut Grove will govern its own municipal affairs," which could mean different things and is meant to be ambiguous.

Moderated by Katy Sorenson, former Miami-Dade County commissioner, the forum went well. Lots of familiar faces came out to try and make sense of what is happening in our village today. The consensus was that over-development and tree destruction need to be stopped. There were a few paths to that end.

Panelists were Arva Moore Parks, local historian; Tucker Gibbs, attorney and activist; and Lourdes Slazyk, former city employee who worked for years with planning and zoning and was a wealth of knowledge. They all were, actually. 

Arva and Tucker talked about the history of Coconut Grove, going all the way back to the 1820s and ended up with today and discussed how we ended up where were are today.

The first issue brought up was how do we secede from the City of Miami, which was discussed so many times over the years. In 1925, Coconut Grove, it's own city, was overtaken by the City of Miami and ever since then, people have been trying to leave the city. To secede, the Grove needs permission from Miami-Dade County, who has power to make or break municipalities. They are in charges of borders and have a very strong control over everything that happens in the county.

Katy Sorenson (left) and Arva Moore Parks address the community.
We do have the NCD3 and NCD2 codes that are part of Miami21, and those can be changed. The advantage to them is that they are done already, they are overlays that are meant to protect our village, although the City of Miami's Planning & Zoning Department always seem to find ways around them. NCD stands for Neighborhood Conservation District. NCD2 covers the Village West and then the overlay of NCD3 covers all of the Grove, including Village West. These codes need to be changed or made more clear so that certain things cannot happen in the village, including building cookie cutter houses and big white box houses.

NCD3 has protected us from big box stores, it controlled the size of the Home Depot and apparently it is meant to control lot splitting, which is a law that developers seem to break every time they do it.

The City Commissioners can amend the code and make it more clearer. Three of the five need to agree on this. The planning department needs specific standards to work with, ie, no tree cutting, no white boxy houses, no lot splitting, etc.

Easier than seceding is to get historic designation, this was agreed upon by all three panelists. "Historic designation is the safest way to stop demolition," said Lourdes. Arva said that the large condos are not the problem, the demolition of houses and lot splitting is the problem. She specifically pointed out the way that South Bayshore Drive is going and was not pleased with it. Speaking of South Bayshore Drive, Lourdes suggested protecting certain areas by making them "scenic corridors." Coral Way is a scenic corridor and South Bayshore Drive, Main Highway and Tigertail to name a few, can become protected scenic corridors.

If zoning is specific and clear in the code, it's a powerful tool. But you do need to get support from the politicians to make the changes.

Arva made it clear again, "If you want to save the Grove, make it historic," she said. "You don't have to do all the other stuff. The proliferation of white box residents have destroyed Coconut Grove," she went on. 

Arva says the benefits of Coconut Grove becoming historic are good in that, "There is not one location in the US where historic designation has not brought up property values. We have very good laws to protect our trees but not good laws to protect our buildings. Ironically, the trees grow back," she said.

Historic designation does not effect the interior of the home.

Back to secession, studies have found that without raising taxes any higher than they are now, we will receive better services if we are our own municipality. 

The bottom line is that there are options and people are ready to do something about it, while there has been more than one group trying to make changes, the best idea would be to converge into one strong group. The Village Council will take on this mantle and discuss more of this at Friday's Village Council meeting at City Hall (3500 Pan American Drive) at 6 pm.

Kate Callahan, president of the Village Council, suggested that the City start broadcasting the meetings on tv, so that more people can get involved.

Photos by Harry Emilio Gottlieb

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many communities benefit from a "bulk ordinance" that restricts the sq. footage that can be built on a lot. Historic districts allow for lowered real estate tax assessments for historic structures. Both would be helpful in Coconut Grove.

November 13, 2016 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe we should try prying the 4 million out of the BID budget to preserve the Grove and we should reinstate the 5 am alcohol law to the entire business district!

November 13, 2016 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aeva Parks is absolutely right

November 13, 2016 8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feasibility of splitting away is largely a function of the property tax base. How do you get the necessary base-----more density, meaning the higher the better and the closer to the water the better. It could be done, fiscally speaking, but at a cost in traffic. Also, duplication of services is costly. Cooperation of other local governmental entities is required. Becoming part of the County is an alternative that solves some public services issues. Historic designation is easier.

November 13, 2016 9:01 PM  
Blogger sunn said...

Dear Grovites, I planned to live the rest of my life in Charming Coconut Grove, & run a Bnb....but the owner of the little 1939 charmer I have rented the past 5 yrs, sold the property...before they throw me out & build another 2 white boxes.....I hope the area will become "historic designated". ( IF SO I will offer to BUY the property) Since they would not be able to make any money on it unless they re-built. YEAH Venezuela is playing a big part....... It has 2 precious 1/1 cottages on Indiana between Bird & Shipping......PLEASE HELP Sonia

November 14, 2016 12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Grove needs to take care of its sidewalks and lay them throughout town.

November 14, 2016 9:01 AM  

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