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Monday, February 26, 2018

He approves of the new NCD draft here's why

LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The City of Miami has embarked in an incredible effort to make changes to their zoning code in Coconut Grove after many residents have urged our government officials for better city planning and zoning rules. This is the best example of getting results from our government after an effort of activism by residents. It has been long in coming as this effort has been in the works for many years. I commend Commissioner Russell’s efforts and dedication to listen to the people and taking action to move this forward.

As a lifelong resident of Coconut Grove and a business owner dedicated to real estate, I truly understand the pressures that have been placed on our Village over the past years due to the heightened growth spurt we are experiencing. Miami, in general, is facing many problems with transportation, affordable housing, infrastructure deficiencies and much more that is only being compounded with the market pressures of supply and demand. Coconut Grove, one of the most desirable neighborhoods in South Florida, is under a great deal of pressure and needs assistance and guidance in order to make sure we continue to grow in a responsible and sustainable way. 


The city’s planning department, after many public meetings and workshops, has released their first draft of their proposed changes to the zoning codes specifically within the Coconut Grove neighborhood NCD district. In the past few days I have witnessed many conversations, social media postings, emails and meetings where many residents are in attack mode from both sides fighting for and against the effort. Unfortunately, many of the issues being discussed are based from lack of information or “alternative facts."

This proposed zoning code change is complex and affects many areas of Coconut Grove in different ways. Each section of the Grove (North, South, Central and West) have their own struggles and issues. The update to the code is an attempt to address each of these and establish a new set of rules that will improve property values and quality of life for its residents. The most difficult part of this is that every person has a different perspective on what is valuable to them. These values range from affordability, walkability, larger homes, larger green spaces, and so on. One fact for sure we cannot have it all. Something has to give when many shareholders living in the same neighborhood have different needs and wants.

Over the past years I have been very involved in this process and there are a few items which ALL residents are in agreement with. They all want: 1) Protect and increase Tree Canopy 2) Increase affordability 3) Reduce traffic. I have not heard any opposition to these three dominant issues.

I want to point out a few very important discussion items that have been addressed in the past few days but rattled with wrong information. 

1) Increase of tree canopy and green spaces is in direct relationship on how large a structure can be built on a property. The new code is looking to consider all areas of construction as part of this equation. Not only looking at the building footprint but also any other hardscapes such as driveways, pools, patios, auxiliary structures. This new code has an emphasis on protection of all mature specimen trees as well as a bonus system to allow to build more if additional mature trees are planted. This all makes great sense and will NOT decrease property values. The reason I can say this with utmost confidence is that the new proposed code is allowing the same lot coverage ratio as in the neighboring zoning code for Coral Gables. In addition their code does not include any bonus system to increase building size. Their code has been in existence for many years and is strictly enforced. No one can argue the property values in Coral Gable are low.

2) Increase affordability in dense urban areas can only come from two sources – Government funding to subsidize costs or increase in density. Both of these are very tricky to get right, but if done correctly can be hugely successful. This new code offers the ladder to increase density in two ways. First,  in the high transit areas (SW 27 Ave, Grand Ave, SW 37 Ave, S Dixie Hwy) that are currently zoned T4 & T5, the new code will allow more units to be built but will NOT ALLOW increase in building size. This will give the property owner the option to either build larger, more expensive units (as the code reads today) or within the same building envelope size squeeze in a higher quantity of smaller units. The more units built on a parcel will directly relate to a lower p/unit cost. The key factor here to ensure the end product will be offered at an affordable price. The new code will require the increase in units to contain a % of affordable units for every market rate unit that is built. Secondly, in the other lower density T3 areas, the new code will allow auxiliary units behind a main structure, (aka “granny flats”). This will allow extended family members live on the same property and create affordability. Many residents are concerned this will turn T-3R (single family) zoning into T-3O (duplex zoning). I find this hard to happen simply due to the constraints of the lots sizes and setbacks. The code makes it very difficult to add auxiliary structures to single family sites. Most of the time it simply does not fit. In addition, with the new reduction in lot coverage being proposed, this will be even more difficult. Property owners building new construction will decide between making larger living spaces in their main home versus adding the detached auxiliary structure. 

3) By adding the density in the right areas as described above, we can begin to create a community where residents live, work, and play in the same neighborhood and reduce transit needs. Coconut Grove is very strategically located in Miami being 20 minutes to the airport, downtown, beaches and bordering along Biscayne Bay. We also have great public and private schools, retail, offices, parks, grocery and churches. These attributes check all the boxes needed to create a sustainable and vibrant local community. In addition the Miami-Dade metro rail system borders the west boundary of the Grove. In many cases the train stations are within walking distance from residences and can also be accessed via our new trolley system.   

These three main items have proven to be important factors in many vibrant urban cities. The best solution at the end of this process is for each shareholder to walk away a little happy and a little upset. That will be the most successful outcome for all of us. To reach this goal we must each negotiate our position knowing the facts and listening very closely to consultants and professionals in the industry. When each of us are faced with important personal decisions, such as financial or medical, we all consult with professionals to try to achieve the best results. We must all use the same due diligence here and truly understand the long term effects of our decisions. We are not the first city to experience these issues. By studying and applying the same concepts that worked in great communities in other modern day cities is our best option. We do not have to reinvent the wheel, simply copy the best attributes that have proven success in other cities. 

Marcelo Fernandes
Owner of Grove Properties and Chair of the Coconut Grove Village Council

These are his personal comments.

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12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great, sound insight and analysis, Marcelo. Thank you. I happen to agree with most of your points. I hope that your opponents can resort to logic as opposed to shrill irrational responses, which has been their M.O. since this conversation started. Good luck.

February 26, 2018 4:56 AM  
Blogger Lance said...

No exactly accurate,this code isn’t the same like Coral Gables.Code compliance should be the priority.If the proposal pass you me an every grove resident will lose 15 to 20% of value.Marcelo next to your office there’s a ilegal construcción goin on cited by city of Miami as unsafe structures and the use your Parking lot everyday ,any comments?.If you an you felons members of the village council are aware of this situation and remain inactive you think that’s right.? your commissioner Russell remove trees on his personal home and you mention him like our champion? Before we confuse people we code and regulations lets talk about morals.Take a look at this blog constantly attacking developers but promoting new developments.Where is the Moral in thes town ? Sorry village.

February 26, 2018 9:48 AM  
Blogger Grapevine said...

Lance or Guillermo or whatever your name is, you talk like a big man but you remain anonymous.

As for calling me out constantly about accepting ads, I would like you to know that the ads I accept are for small developments that take the place of small developments, they are the same size and unless they advertised, you wouldn't even know they were there as they are not OVER-DEVELOPED and both very unobtrusive. They fit in with the neighborhood. I don't accept large development ads and never have.

On Friday, I turned down a $1500.00 ad from a large condo developer who isn't even in the Grove! If you would like to reveal yourself and email me, I will show you the ad they wanted to place, and and the ad I turned down. I'll give you their contact info, too, so you can verify what I say is true.

In 13 years, I have run two ads for new condos - The Arbor and the GlassHaus - both small buildings that have taken the place of small buildings of the same size.

Over the years I have turned down thousands of dollars in ads including from politicians who I did not care for.

Sorry Lance, but unless you reveal yourself, you sound like a fake and morally ignorant yourself.

February 26, 2018 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you live on a small lot in the Grove? Wake up and smell the roses. With the new NCD changes you will have a hard time adding to your home or selling it because 50% of your property will need to be reserved for green space. That does not include your pool, driveway or patio. Think there's a market for 2000 sf of living space? Think again. So, yes your property value is going to go down. And if you have a septic tank on your property, any bonus you receive for planting trees won't help because you can't plant a tree on top of the septic tank. Sign this petition: https://www.change.org/p/jose-goyanes-hands-off-my-home-preserve-coconut-grove-property-rights/w?source_location=psf_petitions

February 26, 2018 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom. You are like a little bully on the playground. You can dish out whatever you want, scream at the top of your lungs that people are greedy and corrupt; that they are building buildings that go against the zoning code without a shred of proof or any real knowledge or understanding of architecture or the zoning codes...but when someone calls you out you fly off the handle and resort to name calling. Who are you to decide what fits and doesn't fit in the Grove. Who deemed you the Architectural mouth piece for the Grove? Do you have any sort of Architectural training. Have you even read through Miami 21?? The pot can't call the kettle black .. or at least if you do, have the balls to admit it.

Long time Resident,
Hank B.

February 26, 2018 11:52 AM  
Blogger Grapevine said...

Well Hank, I see what you are saying, but everyone has a point of view here and I am giving my opinions. This particular post is a letter to the editor, I don't agree with a word he is saying, but here is his letter giving another point of view.

I don't work for the city or the government, I am not an elected official and I don't have any say in what goes on around here. This is all my opinion, I am not making anyone come back here to read me daily. Although you seem to be obsessed with the Grapevine and hang onto my every word.

I am not on the city commission or village council, yet you seem to put a lot of weight in what I say, you seem to lose your temper over it. I'm not quite sure why. Again, I don't have any power, so why get yourself upset over it?

As for screaming. I was not screaming, I was trying to explain to Guillermo, er, Lance, that I do not sell out and do not take money from the developers I personally despise. I have a couple of ads from small condos that fit in with the landscape. But I have refused ads from big developers over the years.

Also, I have never ever called anyone corrupt. EVER. Greedy, yes. Corrupt. No. The problem with the Grove is the building code. That needs to be changed. The developers are taking advantage of the current code. I didn't say they were breaking the law.

Keep reading Hank, it's good for circulation. The Grapevine's circulation, not yours.

February 26, 2018 1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Limiting lot build-out to a severe degree will clearly adversely affect the value of smaller lots. People pay premiums for older, sometimes dilapidated houses for "lot value" precisely because they want to knock them down and build new, bigger houses, with modern amenities, pools, and garages. Restricting the ability to include these in new homes (because the property foot print restrictions will be so tight) will clearly drive down the demand and price for small lots. New houses in the Grove bring tax revenue and new community members. We should welcome progress and new development.

February 26, 2018 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the comment that there isn't a market for 2000sf homes in the Grove--there isn't a market for poorly-maintained or architecturally insignificant homes in the Grove. There are lots of us out there who don't need an oversized, pretentious, butt-ugly contemporary home and are happy to be in a smaller, manageable setting-close to the bike path, the airport, the beach, downtown Miami and the Gables, the U, and all with a beautiful tree canopy over our heads.

February 26, 2018 9:27 PM  
Blogger Elvis Cruz said...

Whenever you don't understand a situation, look for the financial interest.

Tom Falco is right. Greed is harming Coconut Grove.

Elvis Cruz
631 NE 57 Street
Miami, FL 33137
305 754 1420
ElvisCruz@mac.com

February 26, 2018 10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The market is the market, what you “don’t need” and your personal architectural taste has nothing to do with it. Obviously your statement is wrong as “butt-ugly” homes are being built and bought all the time. Maybe your architectural taste is bad?

February 26, 2018 11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand how zoning laws can be revised, changed and bent but transportation laws, rules and funds are always stuck behind red lights.

February 27, 2018 9:10 AM  
Blogger Max Boschetti said...

Just hire DPZ to do the code so it is done right and stop screwing around. The Grove is the oldest and most cherished part of Miami. It is a finite resource and in demand. It will never be affordable! The tree canopy is a joke when the fine for clearing the lot and building zero lot line is insignificant compared to the profits made per lot. It needs to be coded without an option for fines for clearing lots. There also needs to be a stipulation for time to development from purchase date to stop speculation.

March 04, 2018 9:36 PM  

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