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Hialeah neighbors protest plans for 10-story building

A group of Hialeah neighbors expressed its opposition to the construction of a new 10-story residential and commercial complex on the west side of the city where one-story medical offices now operate .

The nearly $20 million project that a Miami Lakes doctor plans to develop includes the construction of 80 apartments of no more than two bedrooms for people over 55 years old, about 220 parking spaces, as well as medical offices. The proposed site is at 7000 W. 12th Ave.

“A project of this magnitude will have a great impact on our neighborhood,” said Milagros Capó, a neighbor. “Imagine the traffic which is already heavy in the area. With this project we are doomed. Ten floors are too much for this area!”

Dr. José Orcasita’s project was presented by his lawyer, Ceasar Mestre, during a neighborhood meeting held on Feb. 10. Two days later, nearly 20 neighbors attended a public session of the Hialeah Planning and Zoning Board to oppose the project.

That night, however, Mestre decided not to present the project because the previous night the Hialeah City Council had approved amendments to the Zoning Code of the city that, among other changes, reduced the minimum number of parking spaces.

Ileana Abreu, a neighbor, said that until last week the number of parking spaces required in Orcasita’s project was 301 and under the new changes that number would be reduced to a few more than 200.

“A building this size would need hundreds of parking spaces, not only for residents but also for clients, employees and visitors,” Abreu said. “The authorities must protect the interests of the neighbors and not only those of the developers.”

That night, one of the surprises of the Planning and Zoning Department was the presence of Jorge González, who in July 2012 was one of the three persons who made a mysterious visit to the apartment of the “boletera” Deisy Cabrera, hours after she was arrested in possession of forged absentee ballots in one of the most recent scandals of electoral fraud that affected important political figures in Miami-Dade County.

González replaced Jesús Hernández on the Hialeah Planning and Zoning Board in November, recommended by council member Vivian Casals Muñoz. González reiterated that on that night he had just visited Cabrera to take her a “steak sandwich.”

In October, Cabrera pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of illegally possessing multiple absentee ballots. She agreed to serve one year of probation and stay out of local politics during that time. Prosecutors, in exchange, dropped a felony voter fraud charge.

“Jorge was never accused of anything,” said Casals Muñoz, who was also in the group that visited Cabrera on that mysterious night. “Jorge has the capacity and the integrity to be part of that board.”

Mestre said that regardless of the new changes in the zoning codes, he would seek to work out a compromise with the city for the project to provide only one parking space for each of the 80 apartments.

“Let’s commit that each one of the 80 apartments will have only one car,” said Mestre, who is also a council member of the neighboring town of Miami Lakes. “We are trying to do the best we can by bringing this beautiful project without disturbing or upsetting neighbors. In my personal opinion this is going to raise the value of properties in the area.”

According to Mestre, the project would also include an aid center for 41 elderly on the fifth floor besides a pool and a recreation center for the residents.

“Dr. Orcasita wants to do something very pretty […] because he is thinking of retiring. He lives in Miami Lakes and knows that when he retires he does not want to stay in his house,” said Mestre. “He wants to do something very luxurious and has spoken to a few of his neighbors who also have plans to come to live in that building.”

The biggest problem for Henry Pernas, a neighbor who owns an adjacent pawn shop, is the impact on traffic that the project would bring to 12th Avenue and side streets.

“The parking spaces projected for that building will not be enough and the nearby properties will be the ones affected,” Pernas said. “I believe that authorities should take into account this serious problem and come to the defense of the community.”

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