Palmetto Bay

Palmetto Bay

Palmetto Bay extending public-use hours at historic Thalatta Park

 

Lola.Duffort@gmail.com

Earlier this month, the Palmetto Bay parks department received a letter from the state instructing them to make “minor changes” at Thalatta Park, the historic bayfront estate that the village often rents out for weddings.

Parks department director Fanny Carmona says she’ll gladly fulfill most of their requests — she intends to wrangle a little on park public-access hours — but she wants to make just one thing clear.

“We have never been not in compliance,” she says of the grant contract and management plan the state attached to the money it provided the village to purchase the park back in 2005.

The grant contract doesn't stipulate how many hours a week the park ought to be open. Carmona says that while that alone could technically get the village off the hook, what’s more important is that the village has always been up front about its hours and the weddings to the state, and it’s never been a problem before.

Because the park was purchased with $2.7 million in help from the Florida Communities Trust, Carmona submits a stewardship report each year. The state, in turn, replies with any changes or updates it needs to see. Every report for the past three years has included the park’s hours, and says that the park sometimes closes during regular hours for special events. The last report, Carmona points out, even notes the site’s “growing popularity as a wedding venue” and the revenues generated.

That’s why she was surprised, she says, to get an FCT letter on May 8 — exactly a month after receiving her annual all-clear from the same agency — telling her that weddings were all right but to stop booking any new special events during regular hours, Fridays, or Sundays.

“We are suddenly being admonished for supposed noncompliance of operational hours when no such requirements exist and open hours have been approved by the State for the last three years,” she wrote in reply on May 16.

Nevertheless, she said in a phone interview this week, “We’re grateful for FCT and for their partnership,” and the village will make changes so long as it’s understood that these are “new requests.”

The park’s hours previously scheduled 26 public-access hours a week. The village is now offering to open the park up for public use from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday from May 15 until Sept. 15 for a total of 63 public-access hours a week.

For the rest of year, the village wants to keep the park closed on Fridays and Saturdays for private events, with the public welcome from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, for a total of 41 public-access hours a week. It’s also agreeing not to book new events during regularly scheduled public hours. Both the state and the village are in agreement that no events already scheduled will be canceled.

In addition, the village has already added a prominently featured disclaimer on its dedicated Thalatta website noting that the park was purchased with FCT funds and that its primary use is as a public park. There have long been physical plaques at the park itself, Carmona says, but it was an oversight not to include the information on the website.

The state’s letter comes after months of agitation on the part of village resident David Singer, who called the village’s use of Thalatta Park “criminal” during its April council meeting, warning that he would “do everything in my power to make sure the village of Palmetto Bay is investigated for the misuse of Thalatta Park.”

He filed a complaint with the FCT that month, alleging that the village had violated nearly every stipulation in its grant contract to the state.

Another Thalatta activist — though mostly online — has been former Palmetto Bay mayor Eugene Flinn, who is running for his old seat in the upcoming November elections. Flinn helped organize the park’s purchase with FCT help back when he was mayor, and it was under his leadership that the council also started renovating the estate with the explicit intent of making it suitable for weddings and other private events.

He says there’s no political motivation behind his anti-Thalatta commercialization efforts and no inconsistency between his stance now and his actions as mayor.

“Obviously, part of how we were going to pay for preserving it is through the use of events,” he says, “what’s inconsistent is that public use has become ancillary to the park.”

Read more Palmetto Bay stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
An aerial view of the Weeks-Wulf energy efficient home and property given to the Deering Estate Foundation.

    Palmetto Bay

    Philanthropist donates land, house to Deering Estate

    What’s an environmentally conscious philanthropist to do with her pristine seven acres of tropical hardwood hammock and 10,500-square-foot energy efficient home when she decides to move away? She donates it to a historic and environmental preserve dedicated to hands-on ecological education that’s conveniently located right across the street.

  • Palmetto Bay

    Despite losing appeal, Palmetto Bay official continues fight against environmental suit

    Palmetto Bay Vice-Mayor John DuBois continues to fight a county lawsuit against him, ongoing since September 2012, which alleges he illegally trimmed mangroves and filled wetlands on his 8-acre bay-front property.

  • Soapbox

    Letter: South Miami mayor is a mosquito-control novice

    It was reassuring to learn in Soapbox (Mosquito spraying can have negative consequences, Aug. 17) that South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, a professor of biology at Florida International University, has discovered what most residents of his city knew decades ago – that mosquitoes breed in standing water, including the contents of bromeliads. But it wasn’t reassuring to learn that Stoddard apparently now feels qualified to advise the rest of us about his belated discovery – and to impose on all his neighbors his own conclusions about the impact of mosquito spraying in this region. If Stoddard had lived here during the weeks after Hurricane Andrew, he might have acquired a greater understanding of how far the quality of human life can deteriorate in a former swamp when mosquito spraying is suspended even temporarily.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK