The all-night rave parties and drum circles that disrupted the sleep of Upper Eastside residents are over.
After a year and a half of complaints from neighbors and a shooting incident, the American Legion Harvey W. Seeds Post #29 was found guilty of breaking city code and was fined more than $20,000 at a City of Miami zoning hearing.
On May 18, the Code Enforcement Board issued the Legion an Affidavit of Non-Compliance for renting the facility to outside promoters for commercial events, which is illegal, according to Code Enforcement Director Sergio Guadix.
That reprimand was accompanied by a $250 fine per day applied retroactively to March 3, the first time the Legion, located on 6445 N.E. Seventh Ave., was cited for breaking city code. The total amounts to $20,250.
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Roger Kidder, interim commander of Post #29, declined to comment on the fine. He said he plans to change the Legion’s image and the neighbors' perception of it.
"We know there's been some things in the past, and we want to leave that in the past. Before people didn't know what the rules are and I'm trying to clean it up," he said. "Right now we are making it geared toward the families."
Kidder said he wants to revitalize programs like the Boyscout troop and an instructional course that teaches veterans to play the guitar. He also wants the post to work with homeless veterans to help get them off the street.
On May 19, one day after the fine imposed by the city, Kidder held a gathering at the Legion's Post with other veteran organizations to try to find ways to improve services for veterans.
For his part, Louis Bourdeau, president of the Bayside Residents Association, who has spearheaded the neighborhood's efforts to regulate the activities at the Legion, doesn’t want the facility to be shut down, but is content the “disruptive” parties are over.
“No one is against the Legion. We want them to be successful, but they need to respect the neighborhood,” Bourdeau said. “You come to enjoy living in peace and quiet, and there’s a certain expectation that you can go to bed and night and have a peaceful night sleep without having a night club in your backyard.”
Post #29 is surrounded by residential homes and duplexes to the west and north and by a condo complex to the south. It faces Biscayne Bay to the east.
The location and its surroundings create an “echo chamber,” Bourdeau said.
The city's Code Enforcement Board is also pushing for revocation of the Legion’s business tax receipt, which would prevent the non-profit from operating as a business.
If that were to happen, the Legion would not be able to organize events for the general public, charge admission or rent the facility. It would also mean the bar it houses, Harvey’s By the Bay, could not serve visitors or even Legion members.
The last reported incident on the Legion premises was on May 11 during an event called “Words and Wine.”
“The party was advertised, open to the general public, admission was being charged, and for-profit operations conducted from their bar,” said Miami Police Commander Manuel Morales via email.
According to Morales, police shut down operations and cited post representative Dion Wright for, who hours before had attended a city hall meeting to discuss the noisy parties and why the Legion was renting the establishment to outside promoters.
While Wright was technically arrested, he wasn't taken to jail -- he was given a court summons, and can appeal both the arrest and the ordinance violation for which he was charged.
Susan Pierres, a resident of the Palm Bay Yacht Club, who at times has heard the noise from her 20th floor apartment, agrees with Bourdeau.
“Nobody’s intention was to kill the American Legion, but it was affecting the surrounding community,” she said.
Correction: This post has been corrected to reflect the fact that Dion Wright was not taken to jail following the May 11 incident described in the eighth paragraph. According to Cmdr. Morales, Wright was technically "arrested", but was given a court summons, and can appeal both his arrest and the ordinance violation for which he was charged. We apologize for the error.
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