Residents of Sunny Isles Beach fed up with congestion on Collins Avenue spoke against a proposed 18-story extended stay hotel on the west side of the street last Thursday night. But commissioners narrowly approved the project anyway.
Developer Robert Finvarb plans to build the Residence Inn by Marriott at 17700 Collins Avenue. The extended stay hotel will consist of 194 rooms with kitchens, rooftop pools, two meeting rooms and a restaurant. Rates are expected to be $175-$375 per night.
“It is not really a hotel room, but a living unit,” said Clifford Schulman, an attorney for the hotel. “It is one of the first projects to improve the west side of the Collins Avenue.”
Residents expressed their concern that this project would become the starting point for high rise developments on the west side of Collins, which now consists mainly of strip malls, restaurants and retail stores. The east side of the street mainly consists of high rise developments that have led to congestion on Collins Avenue, residents said.
“Tonight, I draw the line,” said resident Gloria Taf, whose comments were met with thunderous applause from the audience. “It is already congested so you can barely get through. Where is the quality of life we are entitled to?”
Vehicles would be able to use Atlantic Avenue, which would help to relieve traffic, said architect Kobi Karp, who designed the hotel. The hotel would be “a very low generator of traffic” with 90 percent of traffic entering on Collins Avenue and exiting onto Atlantic, said the project officials. A traffic study revealed there would be double the traffic if an 110,000 square feet office building was placed there, project official said.
Resident Tony Schneider, who lives across the street from the proposed hotel, found hard that to believe.
“That traffic study is completely bogus,” Schneider said. “Cars that don’t know the area would be driving on Collins. It would be horrible.”
Schneider also called out commissioners to keep their campaign promises from the recent election.
“Many of you who ran said you wouldn’t touch the west side of Collins,” Schneider said.
Resident Howard Gordon also called for newly re-elected commissioners to remember their promises or “otherwise we are going to be in a concrete canyon.”
Mayor elect and current Commissioner Bud Scholl said during his campaign he stated he would not approve variances to projects, which the proposed extended stay hotel does not have.
“We don’t have a hotel like this,” Scholl said. “When we have family members come to town they have to stay at the Marriott in Aventura.”
Commissioner Jennifer Levin also voiced support for the project, adding the proposed narrow hotel building would cast a “small footprint” on the city.
“We need a hotel like this in Sunny Isles Beach,” Levin said. “Most of the west side [of Collins] is strip malls. It will provide a service for visiting family members to have somewhere to stay.”
Scholl also added that there is a tradeoff between residents and owners’ property rights, which could lead to lawsuits against the city if not taken into account.
“If we don’t like the rules, we should change the rules,” Scholl said. “My particular reality would be no but we have a responsibility to protect the city as a fiduciary. We could be sued in short order.”
Mayor Norman Edelcup, who presided over his last meeting as mayor, agreed that the city must protect itself against litigation.
“The city could be sued,” said Edelcup. “We can’t let emotions rule. In order for the city to be successful, the city has to be adaptive to growth.”
Commissioner Jeanette Gatto voted against the project and was concerned about how residents would be affected.
“It never occurred to us the west side [of Collins] would be up for grabs,” Gatto said. “I am nervous about the traffic impact and noise. The hotel would bring a different dynamic.”
Vice Mayor Isaac Aelion also voiced his disapproval of how traffic will be affected and stated that the impact of this decision will be felt 2-3 years down the road. “It will impact society,” Aelion said. “Enough is enough.”
The commission passed the proposed hotel projects 3-2 with the condition the hotel would seek a special events license and police service for events.
In other city news:
▪ A proposed 26-story condo and hotel development at 16800 Collins Avenue was deferred to the next commission meeting on Dec. 18 after commissioners voiced their initial disapproval of requested variances for the project.
▪ Lewis Thaler, who ran for mayor of Sunny Isles Beach in the recent election, said he has filed a lawsuit calling for a new election since neither Scholl nor he got more than 50 percent of vote, which he says is required by the city.