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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Neighbors are in a race to stop over-development

3600 Hibiscus Street was destroyed last summer

Government moves slow. Developers move fast.

Of course the Coconut Grove Playhouse comes to mind when you think of slow government and also the NCD reviews/rewrite.

NCD3 covers all of Coconut Grove and there is an overlay called NCD2, which is Village West. NCD stands for Neighborhood Conservation District, but what is being conserved? Trees are being knocked down so that greedy developers can cover most of the lots with houses rather than have greenery remain and over-development where more than one house is built on a single plat of land. 

I asked Commissioner Ken Russell what the delay is in changing and tightening the new NCD laws, which he and others have been working on for quite awhile now.

"It may seem that the process of improving the NCD portion of our code has taken too long. I understand that frustration, but I am dedicated to a process that really involves the public. We’re seeing it in an unprecedented way with our planning and zoning department as well as my office sitting down with the various stakeholder groups of the Grove like 2030 and GroveWatch. We’ve had many meetings and worked through the proposed changes over several months," said Ken.

He went on, "Once these changes are taken into account by the department, the proposal will make its way through the PZAB Planning Zoning Appeals Board and eventually to City Commission for a vote. I initiated this process last year and have been involved throughout. It’s important to get it done, and more important to get it right. Most importantly, it needs to be enforceable and then actually enforced. In order to anticipate the loopholes that could be exploited or the manpower needed to review and enforce the new code, we’ve been as thorough as possible. The end legislation will need to survive challenge from both developers and residents."

As I write this a cool little house on Kumquat is being demolished to make way for a big white box that will most likely take up most of the property, eliminating many trees and putting another nail in the coffin of the old Grove.

The Planning and Zoning Department agreed to work on a complete re-write of the NCDs, working along with neighborhood representatives along with Commissioner Russell.  
"Preserving the historic, heavily landscaped character of Coconut Grove’s residential area,” is the goal. Grovites want the Grove to remain the Grove. The City of Miami has failed Coconut Grove. They have let an historical gem fall to developers.

David Villano, head of the Grove 2030 group says, "We've been meeting regularly with the City's planning and zoning staff, and with the District 2 office, for more than six months. And despite their assurances that new legislative elements will be added to the NCD zoning overlays to better protect the Grove's single family neighborhoods, they really have little to show for it. We do know that there has been push back from commercial and development interests who don't want to see such changes. I'm left wondering if our leadership lacks the political will to bring about real and substantive changes. I guess we'll see."

Commissioner Russell says, "I look forward to getting the final legislation complete soon after August." I hope we can hold him to that.

"The intention of this higher standard of criteria and review was a good intention, but we’re seeing that it needs to be tightened up.  Last year, I escalated one instance of lot splitting on Battersea to the point that I asked for the removal of our City Attorney. I felt that a developer was exploiting what some felt was vague language in the NCD portion of the code.  It was not vague to me. I read the code quite clearly that lot splitting as they were doing it was not legal.  That started this long process of revising the code and improving it for conservation in the Grove," says Ken.

As for the Coconut Grove NCD Working Group, it represents civic organizations community-wide including Grove 2030, the Coconut Grove Village Council, the Coconut Grove Civic Club, the Coconut Grove Treeman Trust, Grove Watch Group, Coconut Grove Village West Homeowners Association, and others.  All of these groups are on the same page - preserve Coconut Grove and drive out greedy developers.

Here are the key recommendations, which were developed through many months of outreach into the community:

·      Creation of a Coconut Grove Community Oversight Board
·      Significant massing reductions within singe-family districts
·      Protection for heritage trees
·      Increased Green space requirements in single-family districts
·      Provisions to deter land banking
·      Preliminary review for historic significance for all structures older than 50 years prior to        demo waiver

Commercial interests are against any changes to the NCD. Is it any wonder? They won't be happy until the village is covered over with cement. People don't like when I call Coconut Grove "the village," but as far as I can see, we are still a village and hopefully will remain so.

The Herald explains it all in this article.

Other Related articles:

A Murder caught in the act

Community Meets to discuss Self Governance

Appealing in the Name of the NCD-3 Code

Saving an Historic House on Park Avenue

Stopping Lot Splitting one property at a time

Does the City side with the developers?

Battersea Woods re-platting denied by Commission

Housing Summit left more questions than answers

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 dan said...

Just yesterday a beautiful, old mid century style house on Kumquat was torn down. As a neighbor, I am quite scared as to what will be put up next. How can we ensure that at least the existing code is enforced?

July 25, 2017 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That shack that you call a house is a nuisance and a danger to the neighborhood. No bank will finance you to buy that wreck. No insurance company will cover you. Every shingle will become a projectile in a hurricane. Regulations did change and there are not many options for a non complying structure, but demolition. I'm glad its gone a that a new house is on its way.

July 25, 2017 7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 7:08, how do you feel about the greenspace that has been eliminated and the google earth aerials that tell the story. While your reasoning is valid, I can tell from a mile away you've got skin in this game...my bet would be you don't believe in global warming either.

July 25, 2017 9:10 PM  
Blogger NewGrovite said...

I'm new to the area but it appears the Grove Taliban seeks to impose Sharia design standards on everyone in the Grove.

July 26, 2017 12:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell it like it is, NewGrovite. The freewheeling Grove of the past, and what made it so great to live here, was the mix of styles and personalities. Imposing design standards goes completely against what the Grove always stood for. Should the city enforce its zoning laws and tree laws? Yes, of course. But I, for one, am glad some of these old homes are coming down after years of sub-care, tropical storms, salt air, whatever. I may not love many of the designs that are replacing them, but I am firmly against the design police turning our little town into Coral Gables, where you can't put a boat or truck in your driveway and where the color of your house is regulated.

July 26, 2017 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I owned 3600 Hibiscus Street for 10 years. The house was perfectly fine..in fact it was quite beautiful. The focus should be on what makes the Grove an attractive neighborhood. The architectural diversity and the lush canopy is important and is what creates the desirable atmosphere. We are polluting the pond that we swim in by destroying existing homes and removing trees for the sake of individual profiteering.

July 28, 2017 12:50 PM  

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