Coral Gables

Coral Gables

Coral Gables tentatively agrees to split lot

After two hours of discussion, the Coral Gables City Commission tentatively agreed to allow a property owner to split a lot on Granada Boulevard.

The owners of a 3-acre property at 6801 Granada Blvd. want to split the land, leaving an 8,600-square-foot home on one lot and a canopy of trees on the other, where another home would be built later. From Granada, the lot’s driveway snakes through a thick canopy of oaks, Australian pines and other trees leading up to the home.

The proposed split would demolish the serpentine driveway in favor of a straight one, and it would leave the existing home, designed by renowned architect Alfred Browning Parker, mostly untouched except for the demolition of a standalone garage that’s been remodeled as a guest house.

The lengthy commission debate and comments from the supporters and detractors displayed how seriously Coral Gables takes its strict land-use regulations. While in some cities, large lots are commonly split so owners can build so-called “McMansions,” lot splits are rare in the City Beautiful.

About 10 neighbors came to the meeting to oppose the split, saying it would crowd the neighborhood and lead to the removal of trees on the second lot when a home is built.

Celeste De Palma of the Tropical Audubon Society said any trees that would come down could affect migrating birds who stop to rest in the city’s canopy.

“In honor of our mission, we ask that you deny this application and keep preserving the tree canopy in Coral Gables,” she told the commission.

In a 3-2 vote with Vice Mayor Bill Kerdyk Jr. and Commissioner Vince Lago dissenting, the lot split passed on first reading.

“There’s always a compelling argument, but the point of this the zoning code is her to preserve the quality of life of the residents of Coral Gables,” Kerdyk said. “I can’t support this from the lot-split perspective.”

But the rest of the commission made it clear that the initial approval does not mean the deal is done. Commissioners requested more information from city staff and the property owners before hearing the matter again in June. One of the things commissioners asked for was a report on the number and species of trees on the property.

The property is owned by the Dalmau family, who were longtime residents of the neighborhood before moving to Spain a few years ago. Zeke Guilford, an attorney representing the Dalmaus, told the commission that a house could be built on the new lot without destroying any trees.

“It’s nothing we can’t work around,” he said, adding that the new home would fit in with the architecture of the neighborhood.

Gil Haddad, an attorney who lives across the street from the property and represented a group of neighbors against the split, said the split would alter Parker’s vision of entering the property through a thicket of trees before the house appears in a clearing at the junction of two canals. He added that he even the guest house should stay put.

“Doesn’t that cause us worry that we’re going to take down an Alfred Browning Parker structure?” he asked.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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