Tuesday’s commission meeting had its own share of flip-flop votes.
The commission took a break after it approved in a 3-2 vote the first application to create three lots—two roughly 124 feet by 100 feet on Miller Drive, and one lot that is 75 feet by about 246 feet.
When the meeting started up again, Commissioner Valerie Newman, who (along with Commissioner Bob Welsh) voted against approval, requested reconsideration of the application to add conditions to the approval, including the offered setbacks and demolition of existing structures. While the conditions were approved unanimously, when the Commission took a vote on the entire application as a whole again, Commissioner Walter Harris, who first voted for approval, voted for denial, resulting in a 3-2 vote to reject the waiver.
Tapanes Llahues was flummoxed.
“That was insane what just took place,” Tapanes Llahues said.
When asked by City Attorney Thomas Pepe to explain his rationale for voting against the waiver, Harris said “I found it out of character and the more time I thought about it the more I just found it out of character.”
Before the commission voted on the second application, Pepe revealed some members of the commission, including Harris, received ex parte communications from members of the audience during the break.
Harris said a member of the audience had spoken to him about her concern over his vote, and that a friend of his, planning board member Yvonne Beckman, had given him a dirty look, though she did not say anything.
“I changed my vote because the opportunity came back,” Harris said. “I was fairly unsettled about the vote in the first place, and the opportunity to vote again came back and I just considered that God’s way of saying I could vote the way my conscience wanted me vote.”
Pepe said the private communication was inappropriate. At the advice of the Pepe, the commission voted again on the conditions and approval for the first application.
After the second application failed 2-3 with Harris voting against it, the commission reinstated their approval of the first application.
Tapanes Llahues told the commission that the city’s rejection of the one application would cost her client time and money because the company would now have to go through a longer approval process with Miami-Dade County. Under the circumstances, the city could be liable for these losses, she said
“Do you understand the liability that you’re presenting towards the city?” Tapanes Llahues asked commissioners, after they reversed their approval. “That this application, exactly as presented before you today, will be approved through the [county] subdivision process and that this commission will be held liable for the loss of profits, the time wasted as part of this ridiculous occurrence that just occurred here?”
When the hearing on the second application began, she added: “Negligence on behalf of individual commissioners and this commission as a whole will only require your city residents to pay for your negligence in terms of liability.”
One resident didn’t see liability as a reason to vote one way or another, but rather that the commission should consider the merit of the waiver in the context of applicable land development laws.
“That somebody votes because we’re afraid that we’re going to get a lawsuit?” Maria-Teresa Beyra asked. “I am shocked because I don’t see anywhere in the ordinance or in regulations that that’s a consideration you should have.”