Motivated by a fear of “McMansions” and a love of trees, neighbors to a proposed development of seven single family homes in South Miami want the city to reject a builder’s request for a waiver of land regulations.
The dispute has included discussion of environmental conservation, as well as some of the finer points of local development rules.
The “waiver of plat” application process has been anything but expeditious, and final consideration by the commission is scheduled for Tuesday’s commission meeting.
The city’s planning board first heard the proposal in June, when it received a unanimous recommendation of approval without much scrutiny from neighbors.
However, when the two applications were first scheduled to come before the City Commission on July 2, the commission pulled them because of a technical issue. But that did not stop a number of neighbors from expressing their objections to the project in the hopes of preserving more than two and a half acres of densely wooded land at 6520 SW 56th St.
The commission took up one of the applications on July 16. Neighbors told the commission about the abundance of wildlife they’ve seen on or around the property, including a variety of birds of prey, hummingbirds, cardinals, orioles, butterflies, raccoons and the occasional red fox. Many of them see it as one of the last pieces of relatively undeveloped property in the city. The site is fringed by Australian pines, but has dozens of oaks and palms on the interior, including two 70-foot-tall live oaks.
However, the issue was deferred because of confusion over the county’s rules about waivers of plat. The county’s ordinance about subdivisions states that the recording of a plat (the normal and lengthier platting process) will not be required if “the land to be subdivided is to be divided into no more than six (6) parcels” along with a few other conditions. However, both the city attorney and the developer’s attorney have said that county staff had told them that because the waivers of plat were sought through two applications, their application is consistent with county rules.
The applications were kicked back to the city’s planning board, where board members Antoinette Fischer and Yvonne Beckman voted to recommend denial of the waiver of plat resulting in a 3-2 vote in favor of approval.
The mother-daughter team organizing the opposition to the waivers of plat, long-time resident Patricia Donly and her daughter Tina Pellicane (a veterinary ophthalmologist who now lives in Davie but shares with her brother fond memories of the land across from her childhood home), started a petition that explains their view of the ecological value of the site, and states the site is an example of limestone karst topography that could have “as yet unknown archeological significance.” The petition, which has so far received more than 100 signatures according to Pellicane, asks the city to reject the platting proposal and find a way to purchase the property to build a park, preserving the site.
But land-use attorney Melissa Tapanes Llahues, who represents the developer, has a different perspective. Tapanes Llahues told the commission on July 16 that the proposed homes (which are planned to be two stories and larger than 5,000 square feet) “are not McMansions under any definition.”