After years of delays and lawsuits, North Miami Beach won a legal victory that will make it easier for a controversial 10-story hotel to break ground near the entrance to Greynolds Park, a 249-acre urban preserve that is one of the last well-protected natural areas of North Miami-Dade County.
But another lawsuit challenging the project remains pending.
A special three-judge Miami-Dade Circuit Court panel recently upheld North Miami Beach City Council’s 2012 decision to allow the hotel, a 260-room Hyatt with space for offices, shops and a restaurant. The judges’ three-page decision was unanimous.
Attorney Charles Baron filed the lawsuit on behalf of himself and several other residents, challenging the city’s rezoning decision. Baron said he was planning further action this week.
“The Circuit Court is the first stop for this type of appeal, so this is just the first decision,” Baron said. “This litigation was filed in the fall of 2012, and it took roughly 19 months and that included roughly three months from the time we had the oral argument to the decision, so that says to me that it was not an easy decision for the court.”
Keith Donner, a spokesman for the developer, Braha Dixie LLC, called the lawsuit “unfounded” and “frivolous,” and said the litigation would not stop the project from moving forward.
“A tribunal of three Circuit Court judges reaffirmed that everything was done completely in accordance with North Miami Beach land-use ordinances and state law,” said Donner. “We're getting architectural drawings, permit drawings, and have been forging ahead.”
The project, which would be located at 17400 West Dixie Hwy., near the entrance to Greynolds Park, alarmed some residents, who protested that the 10-story hotel would harm the scenic park environment, bring additional traffic, cause noise and air pollution and cast a tall shadow on neighboring properties during the day.
Mayor George Vallejo and the City Council hope the project will help revitalize West Dixie Highway, but a second lawsuit, filed by the Friends of Oleta River, still needs to be resolved.
That suit deals with the site plan and asserts that Braha Dixie improperly obtained a conditional-use exemption to build the hotel.
“The first lawsuit has nothing to do with the other,” said Stuart Reed, attorney for the Friends of Oleta River. “Ours is about the conditional-use application and site plan and the other was a zoning matter. The city shouldn’t be giving away the land. There is a lagoon near where the hotel would be, and it’s a special place. There are turtles, snook, and you can feed tarpon from the lagoon.”