As a member of the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board, I have followed with great interest the escalating debate over certain speculative amendments to the city’s zoning code — amendments that some fear would permit the operation of nightclubs and lounges within Downtown Coral Gables.
Although puzzled by Don Slesnick’s apprehension over a rather inchoate issue, I am grateful for the former mayor’s persistent vigilance and lasting concern for our city’s well-being. Also deserving of gratitude, however, are those on the other side of the divide: the BID, City Hall officials, and everyone working on behalf of the Gables to bolster its appeal and safeguard its relevance among younger generations.
Internecine feuds and petty political quarrels are unfortunately common throughout South Florida. Happily, though, Coral Gables has once again come to enjoy a relatively congenial brand of politics, and so the occasional squabble over a controversial matter is nothing if not a sign of a healthy body politic.
But, perhaps it is best to allow this particular issue to acquire a discernible form before we begin to worry, because sensible solutions, as we far too often discover, can become lost amidst the fear of improbable outcomes. On the one hand, it is unlikely that flashing neon signs will make an appearance in the Gables any time soon. Nor, contrary to the implication of others, should we expect the Gables to languish in obscurity for want of a nightclub.
In fact, sensible solutions often lie just beneath the surface. Perhaps, for instance, the issuance of conditional-use permits would prove a reasonable compromise. These permits would allow the city to evaluate candidate businesses on a case-by-case basis and impose operational restrictions. Moreover, the city could require a public hearing before issuing each permit, thus affording residents ample influence over the process.
I believe we can expect this issue to properly mature over time. In the meantime, let us not agonize over problems that do not yet exist.
Tony Newell, Coral Gables