North Miami Beach protesters rally against hotel by Greynolds Park

04/15/2013 11:45 AM

04/15/2013 11:47 AM

At the moment, city officials say there’s not a single hotel operating in North Miami Beach.

But that may soon change as developer Braha Dixie is planning on erecting a mid-range Hyatt hotel along West Dixie Highway.

The 10-story project, which is currently undergoing an approval process, is expected to consist of a mix of 260 overnight and extended-stay rooms, along with space for offices, retail and restaurants.

While Mayor George Vallejo and the council hope the project becomes the catalyst that helps revitalize West Dixie Highway, some residents and park-goers don’t agree with a development of that height being erected next to the entrance of Greynolds Park.

On Sunday, nearly 40 protesters showed up at the proposed construction site to show their disapproval of a rezoning that the council approved last year to allow a development.

They held up handmade signs, waved the Florida flag and chanted “no high-rises.”

Their efforts were met with honks and waves from drivers and passengers of passing cars.

“It’s beyond my wildest nightmares,” said Letty Dykes, 55, of Biscayne Gardens, during the protest.

She said she would be OK with a two-story building being built on the property, but not the 10-story one that’s proposed.

“I don’t like big buildings as it is, but to do that here, that’s horrible,” Dykes said. “It’s totally wrong.”

When the council changed the property’s zoning into a general business district, it allowed for an up-to-15-story building to be developed, but Braha Dixie agreed on a restrictive covenant that limits the building size to 10 stories.

“My client chose not to go 15 stories for a residential project because that didn’t make sense for them, and it didn’t make sense for the city,” said Keith Donner, a spokesperson for the developer. “What does make sense is a mixed-use project anchored by a hotel.”

Protesters fear that a 10-story building will be harmful to the park’s environment, cause noise and air pollution, and take away from the ambience of the park.

Kim Lumpkin, chairwoman of Friends of the Oleta River, the group that has spearheaded the protest efforts, said she feels encouraged by the support the protest efforts have gotten from the community.

Through grass-roots efforts, the group has spread the word about the project. As of Thursday, the Save Greynolds Park Facebook page had more than 1,720 “likes” from people around the country.

“Just by looking at the surrounding environment, they can see how such a development will affect everything — from environmental to traffic to the park. Just everything in the surrounding area,” Lumpkin said. “They aren’t against development, but I think people realize that we don’t need development of this size in our city.”

On Facebook, the group is encouraging people to speak on the issue at a council meeting to be held at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, at city hall, 17011 NE 19th Ave.

In addition to protest efforts, an appeal has been filed against the city claiming that the council’s decision violated city code. It also says the city failed to properly disclose private conversations between city officials and interested parties as required under state law.

City attorney Darcee Siegel said the city’s procedures are in compliance with state law.

“These people are making it sound as if there is a nuclear winter in North Miami Beach,” Donner said. “What they’re saying is completely over the top.”

Donner insists that the project will not have the adverse impact that protesters say it will.

“This is abutting the park entrance. The park itself will be fine,” Donner said. “There is a tiny minority of people who will only be satisfied with a two-story log cabin and with a yogurt store and sewing-machine repair shop on that property. That is unrealistic and unreasonable.”

City planner Chris Heid said the project still has a series of approvals to go through with both the city and the county.

“Ultimately, Miami-Dade Parks is going to have to be okay with it,” Heid said. “The park is as important to us as any resident. We know what a treasure it is. We aren’t going to allow a development that benefits the city but harms the park.”

Vallejo stands by the council’s choice to allow for the project to move forward and believes that, once completed, the property will have a positive impact on the community.

“There is always a small group who’re opposed to everything you do,” Vallejo said. “The park itself is not going to be affected; life is going to go on as it has long after this project is built. A few years from now, people will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.”

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