Palmetto Bay

Soapbox

Letter: Palmetto Bay ‘downtown’ project is a waste of money

 

How to sound off

To submit your letter, e-mail sandron@MiamiHerald.com, or write Soapbox, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, FL 33172. Fax: 305-376-5287. Letters must address a specific LOCAL issue, and must be signed with a name, city or neighborhood, as well as a telephone number for verification purposes. Letters more than 350 words will not be accepted, and writers are limited to one letter every four weeks. Letters will run as space allows, and may be edited for length, style and clarity. The deadline for letters is noon Wednesday.


The village of Palmetto Bay is aggressively promoting a plan for a village downtown in the Franjo Road area. They call it "downtown redevelopment" even though this area never was a downtown. If the project moves forward, village tax money would pay for the infrastructure. The Village Council budgeted $2.8 million this fiscal year for the project.

According to the Miami Herald, Palmetto Bay Village Hall staffers selected people to come up with a plan for a village downtown east of U.S. 1 in the Franjo Road area. Members of this task force created the redevelopment proposal. With advance knowledge of the proposed development, task force members had the chance to buy land or options to buy land before the project was common knowledge. Mayor Shelley Stanczyk's husband is on the task force, and she has been aggressively pushing the project. These facts raise the question of conflict of interest.

Only now are residents being told about the proposal. There’s been no ballot referendum asking villagers if they wanted tax money used to pay for infrastructure in the Franjo Road area.

If the redevelopment proposal is approved, nothing prohibits Task Force members from working on the project itself. As a result, these people have a vested interest in seeing the proposal approved.

Consultants have been hired to do studies. But, how objective are these consultants? There's a history of consultants producing studies that simply confirm what the village wants to hear. So far, the Village Council has authorized spending over $250,000 on four studies.

The project includes seven-story buildings, stores, restaurants, etc. If the project is even mildly successful, it will substantially impede both northbound and southbound traffic on U.S. 1, creating many nightmare scenarios.

If this area is actually ripe for development, then private investors will proceed with it, without using Palmetto Bay’s tax dollars.

Margery Glickman, Palmetto Bay

UM health center will worsen traffic

I recently learned, by reading the Miami Herald, that the University of Miami is about to build a major healthcare center on its campus on Ponce de Leon Boulevard near the Bank United Center. The article was very positive about the benefits of adding this type of facility in Coral Gables. What was not addressed was the added impact on traffic congestion in this already overtaxed section of the city.

As a resident in a nearby neighborhood, I don't recall ever hearing about this project before now. Seems like the same pattern occurred when the university went forward with its "Convocation Center" — now known as the Bank United Center. No publicity in advance, no discussion about traffic impacts, and no public hearings to debate the project. That project has significantly impacted the adjacent residential areas by making Ponce de Leon Boulevard and other nearby streets congested whenever there is a function going on in the center — situation that happens all too frequently.

Has anyone considered the impacts of adding a large healthcare center in this area? This will potentially add hundreds of cars per hour during the day, making access to and use of this important artery yet again more difficult. As a long-time resident of the city, and as someone interested in maintaining the quality of life in central Coral Gables, I have to ask "Is anyone in our city government actually paying attention to the impacts of development?" I am sorely afraid that the answer is "no." Years ago I was amused by the comments of a former mayor suggesting that "Coral Gables has no traffic problem" with the logic that the traffic consists of “cars that are not stopping in Coral Gables." Sadly, we've continued to develop 'stops' in our city that have resulted in a homegrown traffic problem.

It is time for residents and city administrators to face the fact that we can not keep adding to the density of our city without considering the impacts on the residential quality of life for the existing population. These projects that seem so appealing have hidden costs paid by those in the surrounding neighborhoods. The least we can expect is to be consulted when plans for major development are being brought forward. Are you paying attention mayor, commissioners, city planners?

Phil Rinaldi, Coral Gables

Council members should not have personal newsletters

On Feb. 21, Cutler Bay council member Peggy Bell used the town's official email system to send out her first newsletter after eight years in office. In the process of creating this newsletter, she copied and pasted 7 out of 12 articles from our community website, cutlerbay.net, without our knowledge or approval. Her actions are unbecoming a representative of the residents of Cutler Bay.

This brings up a much broader issue. Should any individual members of the Town Council be allowed to send out newsletters using the town's official email system? Earlier this month, Pinecrest's Village Council voted to have staff, not the mayor, write their newsletter after the mayor used their newsletter to criticize fellow council members. Cutler Bay should follow Pinecrest’s lead and do the same.

A newsletter written by an individual council member creates the potential for abuse and lawsuits. The information may be biased, self-promoting, and in an election year such as this, could act as a thinly veiled political advertisement.

A newsletter written by staff with contributions from town staff, council members, schools, and community organizations would be much more valuable to our residents. It could inform the public of town-wide news and events and highlight the community and it's residents, without the potential pitfalls noted above. Our Town Council has even allocated money in the budget for an official town newsletter.

Hopefully, the Town Council will to discuss this issue at their March 19 meeting and make a decision that will be in the best interests of the town and it's residents, and not favoring individuals on the council.

Tom Condon, Cutler Bay

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