An animated audience excitedly left Cutler Bay Town Hall on Wednesday after the council denied several variances that would have approved construction of a CVS, retail space and residential development on Old Cutler Road.
The council voted 4-1, with Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin dissenting, to deny a resolution approving a variance application to the town code relating to required buffer areas. The Village of Old Cutler Corp. submitted the request.
“(The project is) not in compliance with the growth management plan, as set out with just the 10-foot buffer on the north side,” said Henry Iler, principal at Iler Planning, one of the town’s planning consultants. “If we were to allow this project to have a reduced buffer, it will not serve to protect the neighborhoods to the north and could have the opposite effect. The lack of an adequate buffer could be detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the community and create negative visual impact on the neighborhood to the north.”
“Staff recommends denial of the requested variance to the town’s buffer area requirement of 25 feet in order to allow a 10-foot buffer as proposed by the applicant,” Iler said.
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Village of Old Cutler Corp. proposed a commercial mixed-use development consisting of a 15,852-square-foot CVS building with a drive-thru facility, and a 40,536-square-foot, three-story mixed-use building, including 6,698 square feet of ground-level retail and 18 residential units on the second and third floors.
The “buffer” is a 25-foot-wide area required by town code for space between commercial developments and single-family residential neighborhoods. The project planned for a 10-foot-wide buffer along Southwest 200th Street. After deferral, the applicant eliminated its request for a buffer variance along Southwest 87th Avenue, with its site plan including the full 25-foot-wide buffer along that street.
“My concern is very typical with what happens with this type of situation with developers,” resident Eduardo Varona said at the meeting. “They know the site, the shape of the property. … They know the wicked stepsister’s foot isn’t going to fit in Cinderella’s slipper, but they buy the property with the expectation long ago that a CVS was going to go there. Well hey, if people know what they are buying … we don’t give away any land, for example right of way.”
Residents and council members have waited weeks to hear the resolution, which was deferred in June at the request of the applicant.
Iler Consulting worked in conjunction with the town’s planning and zoning department.
“Our role as town staff is to provide as much information and documentation to the town council so they can make an informative decision as they go through the quasi-judicial hearing,” Town Manager Ralph Casals said. “Our planning staff and planning consultants provide testimonial and are available for any questions from the council and the public.”
The denial of the first resolution resulted in the failure of three associated resolutions, and the proposed site plan.
“The applicant claimed the unusual shape of the property has made it impossible to locate the buffer fully on the site, pointing out that a 25-foot-wide buffer would remove an entire row of parking (50 spaces) on the north boundary,” Iler said. “That would make reasonable development of property impossible because the property is too narrow to incorporate parking elsewhere.”
The town council unanimously passed a resolution approving Chanterelle Properties’ request to permit a rezoning from single-family residential district to neighborhood residential district on the property across 87th Avenue from the Village of Old Cutler Corp. site. The proposed CVS site is 3.64 acres, with Southwest 200th Street to the north, Old Cutler Road to the east and south, and Southwest 87th Avenue to the west.
“I think this is a very poor decision by my fellow council people,” Sochin said on the dais. “Our town has grown to probably 47,000 people and to not do that and end up with a big piece of ugly blank land I think is a terrible mistake on the part of our council.”
“I wish I could see into the heads of my fellow council people,” he said. “These people have gone out of their way to do everything to meet our requirements, with what I think is a beautiful project.”