Coral Gables

Coral Gables

Coral Gables to get $1.3 million, shorter poles in FPL settlement

In the wake of Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet’s recent decision to allow Florida Power & Light to build 88 miles of transmission lines through Miami-Dade County, the city of Coral Gables has added more terms to the settlement of its lawsuit against the utility.

Coral Gables had joined other cities like Miami, South Miami and Pinecrest to fight FPL’s plans to build two nuclear generators at Turkey Point and run 80- to 100-foot transmission lines up the county along U.S. 1 to a substation in Coconut Grove. After the decision-day settlement took the Gables out of that fight, the city still planned to pursue its lawsuit against the utility over violating its franchise agreement. Now that suit has been settled, too.

City Attorney Craig Leen said once he knew where the decision was going, he wanted to get everything he could out of a settlement.

“I think we had to settle this case,” he said.

Coral Gables will receive $1.3 million, a guarantee of shorter power poles and a free cost study for putting the lines underground from Florida Power & Light, under the terms of the settlement. Instead of 80- to 100-foot poles running along 2.5 miles of Ponce de Leon Boulevard, the poles will either be 77, 81 or 85 feet. The city will also be able to bid out the maintenance of the city’s power poles instead of having to go with FPL.

A city-owned building at 4520 Ponce de Leon Blvd. will either have to be demolished to accommodate the construction or the lines will have to be put underground — an expensive option the city has not ruled out.

“If we decided to go underground, we will get the best deal we can get,” Leen told the City Commission at a meeting Tuesday.

The $1.3 million was originally meant to be in compensation for the razing of the building, Leen said Tuesday, but he negotiated for it regardless so the city could consider using it to help pay for putting the lines underground.

“I feel we got more value than the building,” he said.

FPL has also agreed to work with the city to have the only tenant in the building, high-end interior decor store Azul & Co., stay in the building for as long as possible for the remainder of the its lease term. The lease expires in 2018. If the store needs to be relocated sooner, FPL will pay for it.

In an emailed statement, FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said the settlement shows the utility is willing to work with all parties involved to reach an accord.

“This agreement with the city of Coral Gables supports FPL’s goal of making this the best project possible and working with governments and community leaders to achieve that,” he wrote.

Robbins wrote the utility has not yet commissioned a cost study for putting the lines underground. He would not comment on any other negotiations with any other cities.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners said they want the cost study done in five to six weeks. They were pleased with results of the negotiations.

“We got the best deal possible through very good negotiations over a long period of time,” said Mayor Jim Cason.

In other business, the commission approved the solicitation for proposals for the redevelopment of two decades-old public parking garages on Andalusia Avenue. The city wants to tear down the existing garages and build a larger one behind the Actor’s Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre and a smaller amount of parking with a mixed-use development at the site across from the Publix at 2551 LeJeune Road.

The city would prefer to offer a land lease of the site across from the Publix for a private development that includes some 150 parking spaces in exchange for the construction of larger garage behind the theater, altogether adding up to 1,000 spaces.

Commissioners also want to see proposals that include state-of-the-art security features, an automated fee collection system, bike racks and a plan for getting some kind of green certification, or recognition for environmentally sustainable building.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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