Key Biscayne

Key Biscayne

Council hears about proposed ordinance on restricting events at Village Beach Park


Special to the Miami Herald

Key Biscayne’s Village Council heard a briefing at Tuesday’s meeting of a proposed ordinance prohibiting party rentals, weddings and animal shows specifically at The Village Beach Park.

Parks and Recreation Director Todd Hofferberth gave the briefing, coming in a response to a complaint that a wild animal — a mountain lion — was brought to the park for kids to pet by guests of a private party last year.

There is nothing “in the books” to enforce an ordinance to prohibit animal shows, party rentals or weddings at the park. Public demonstrations, gatherings, performances and athletic events are already not allowed there.

Mayor Franklin Caplan said of the proposed ordinance: “This is unusually restrictive. Are there really multitudes of events and multitudes of animal shows? Could we not regulate this as having time, place and manner conditions?”

The park is open to the public at all times and is available to residents on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s designated as a passive park with the only regulation being a “no nuisance” rule — a vague term and not one that would warrant an officer to intervene, like say, if a big cat was brought in as entertainment for kids.

Village Manager John C. Gilbert noted concerns of trying to find a balance so residents could continue to enjoy the park without party-rental items like bounce houses taking over the majority of the area. He also stressed safety issues: “Somebody comes in and brings in two bounce houses and a climbing wall — we’ve got liability issues.”

Vice Mayor Michael Davey recommended that people should have to get permits to host some of the events. Council member Mayra Pena-Lindsay agreed and said, “This is like the noise issues, we need an ordinance in order to take action but we don’t want it to be so limiting. A wedding for 200 people in a park without a permit is a problem. Trucks unloading party rentals is an issue.”

The council chose not to take any action on the proposed ordinance. The issue will be revisited at a later date when Hofferberth puts together and presents a Comprehensive Management Plan for The Village Beach Park to the council. It was recommended that he include the village’s other parks, like the Village Green, in the plan.

Mayor Caplan said to Hofferberth: “When you bring it back – include staffing and narrow down on things that are really a problem. I think we’re all in favor of trying to make this situation better.” Caplan concluded, “We need standards — so go in and develop standards and come on back.”

During public comments, resident Cecil Sanchez brought up the village’s lack of parking spaces. Just before her arrival to the meeting, Sanchez said that if the fire rescue had to go between the curb and Hampton Lane, they wouldn’t be able to pass; “There were cars parked on either side of the swale into the street.” She also said that when guests visit houses they park in the street. “We have too many cars, too little parking spaces. What are we going to do about this?”

“We are doing a traffic circulation and traffic study,” Caplan answered. “I share your concern — we all do. It’s obvious; we think it’ll get worse. We’re looking for solutions.”

Sanchez, who has an office in The Square Shopping Center at 260 Crandon Blvd., said: “It’s very hard for patrons to park because most of the people that work there take over the parking spaces.”

She says she believes it happens at all the shopping centers in the village. “I think we need to address this because it’s not going to get any better.”

In other council news:

The Florida 300 Catamaran Race — a 300-mile distance race from Islamorada to Cocoa Beach, will make a stop along Key Biscayne on May 19, but a special permit is needed for the vessels to be allowed on shore while the racers and organizers stay overnight at the Silver Sands Resort. In a unanimous decision, the council granted permission for the village manager to grant a special permit to Warren Green, an organizer of the event, so that the vessels could be allowed on shore for the night. Green said he would like to hire a local police officer for overnight security of the vessels. Racers will resume the race the next morning to their next stop, Singer Island.

Council member James Taintor advised Fire Chief Eric Lang and Police Chief Charles Press to ask the Urban Areas Security Initiative Program to grant the village a boat or mobile-command watercraft vehicle to help “thrawt disaster and terrorism.” The Security Initiative is a Homeland Security grant program that dedicates funding in support of select high-threat, high-density urban areas; the City of Miami serves as the key’s local authority. Lang pointed out that all requests have to be approved by City of Miami. Key Biscayne’s fire and police departments have been receiving grants from the Security Initiative for more than 15 years to fund emergency-management training for fire and police staff as well as equipment sustainment. To date, the village has received more than $500,000. Taintor said the most recent annual grant of $16,380 is minor compared to what other municipalities are getting. Lang concurred, saying that every year the grant money is getting lower and lower. “Try to get a boat out of this deal,” Taintor told Lang. “If you don’t ask you won’t get.”

A unanimous decision in favor of this resolution allows the village manager to execute the agreement for joint completion of the UASI program between The City of Miami and the village and to authorize the emergency-management training for the fire and police departments.

Read more Key Biscayne stories from the Miami Herald

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