Miami approves Tequesta plan, urges action on garage sales

Parts of the site of a prehistoric Native American village will be protected as a high-rise development is built above it.

03/27/2014 6:57 PM

03/27/2014 11:06 PM

Miami city commissioners approved a plan Thursday to preserve the remains of a 2,000-year-old Native American village found on the downtown site of a planned multibillion-dollar high-rise development.

It was discovered in 2005 when developers began excavating what had long been a parking lot. Since then, archaeologists have discovered eight circles of holes in the limestone bedrock where, they say, supports for Tequesta huts may have been anchored.

After weeks of negotiations, preservationists and the Miami-based MDM Development Group agreed on a plan that would build two-story glass enclosures above and around two of the circles.

A third circle will be encased alongside the remains of the foundation of the Royal Palm Hotel, built in 1897, which were also discovered on the site.

Archaeologists have described the Tequesta Indian site as one of the most significant Native American finds in Florida.

In other business Thursday, commissioners urged the city’s code enforcement office Thursday to regulate illegal garage sales.

The issue vexes commissioners, who say garage sales, which should take place just twice a year per home, have turned into weekly retail operations in some areas, rivaling department stores.

“I think we need to take control,” said Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort.

The commission voted unanimously to allow homeowners to apply for a permit at no cost before hosting a garage or yard sale. The city has been charging $28.50 for the permits, but found few people actually apply.

Eliminating the cost will make compliance less of a hassle, said Commissioner Francis Suarez.

City rules limit garage sales to twice per year. Among other provisions, items cannot be showcased on the public right of way, new and bulk items are prohibited and no more than two signs can advertise the sale.

A homeowner who holds an unpermitted garage sale will not be able to apply for a permit for a year. Violations can result in fines.

Commissioners said they are frustrated with the lax enforcement of illegal garage sales. Gort said he expects code enforcement officers to crack down on weekly front yard retail operations.

“If you look through my neighborhoods you see all types of sales taking place constantly,” he said.

The commission Thursday also voted to expand a plan to do away with opaque metal shutters that protect many downtown storefronts. An identical plan was approved for Coconut Grove last year.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff attempted to include downtown with the Coconut Grove community at the time, but business owners resisted.

Sarnoff said he would reintroduce the ordinance after downtown business owners saw results in the Grove.

On Thursday, the provision passed unanimously for downtown business owners. They will be given three years to replace their shutters with hurricane-resistant windows. Decorative and transparent shutters would still be allowed.

Sarnoff, who represents Coconut Grove and downtown, said the new windows will make downtown more open and pedestrian friendly, even when businesses are closed in the evening hours.

Downtown business owners originally balked at the high cost of replacing their shutters. The cost can range from $35 to $150 per square foot, depending on quality.

The Miami Downtown Development Authority will help businesses pay the removal costs and offer financial assistance for businesses that undergo the upgrades.

Information from Reuters is included in this report.

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