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Letter: If Coral Gables parking-garage plans sound too good to be true, they probably are

 

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When elected officials borrow money to pay for that which they want rather than that which is truly needed, bad things tend to happen. When put off, those pesky unmet needs grow and cause major problems. Next thing you know, you’re driving through raw sewage en route to the new $2.2 billion baseball stadium.

Coral Gables officials have known for many years that two city-owned parking garages on Andalusia Avenue need to be replaced. Unfortunately, parking garages lack the cachet of big palm trees and a Lovers’ Court, so city officials don’t want to borrow the money required to replace them.

Instead, City Manager Pat Salerno is working on a plan to entice a private developer to replace the garages. When Salerno first pitched this idea to the City Commission in 2012, he asserted that such an arrangement could replace existing parking and add new parking at “little cost to the city.” If that strikes you as implausible, then welcome to the club.

The city’s projected cost to build a 1,000-space garage is $28 million. The only reason that any developer would agree to build it is that they see an opportunity to make a great deal of money, and that would, ultimately, be at the city’s expense.

Parking fees are the second-largest source of revenue for the city. The garages in question netted the city many millions over the years. If the city assigns the “excess” development rights associated with the garage sites to a developer, it could easily end up costing far more than simply borrowing the money to build new garages. Either way, its going to be expensive. There are no free lunches, and there will be no free garages.

This matter will come to the City Commission in the near future, and residents should pay close attention to the details. Too often the commission rubber-stamps whatever the manager wants. This is too important for that sort of thing.

Katherine de Blij, Coral Gables

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