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Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove trolley garage neighbors ask judge to reconsider decision

Miami residents fighting to stop a controversial trolley garage in their West Grove neighborhood want a judge to reconsider their case, arguing the city misled them in public notices.

In court papers filed late Monday, residents say the first notice they received in May 2011 indicated the garage in the 3300 block of Douglas Road would be used to store and maintain Coral Gables trolleys. But a second notice mailed two months later, which their attorneys contend took the place of the first notice, said the building would only be used for parking, storage and offices, with no mention of maintenance.

Developer Henry Torres is building the garage as part of a land swap deal with the city of Coral Gables so he can build a luxury, mixed-use condominium project, Merrick Manor, where the trolley garage now sits on Le Jeune Road.

Monday’s filing comes after University of Miami law students obtained emails indicating Miami’s project manager in the city zoning office objected to building the garage at the new site, which abuts a historic black neighborhood. Attorneys say they also found additional laws that address the city’s appeal process, which residents said was difficult to navigate.

In his ruling earlier this month, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ronald Dresnick told residents that he did not have jurisdiction to consider their case because they had not exhausted the city’s appeals process.

While the city sends notices of the project’s application by mail, it only posts its final decision online. Residents argued finding the posting was difficult. Furthermore, they said, keeping track of it and paying a $1,000 appeal fee within a two-week window was unreasonable.

Dresnick, however, ruled residents were not constitutionally entitled to any more notice and the postings met the standard for public notice.

Resident Clarice Cooper, who grew up in Coconut Grove and has lived across from the garage site since 1981, also filed a civil rights complaint in April with the U.S. Department of Transportation. She contends that building the garage in the historic black neighborhood will create excessive noise, make streets unsafe and pose environmental concerns.

Meanwhile, Coral Gables has sued the developer, claiming that the city contracted for a garage that complies with zoning rules, and is getting one that doesn’t.

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