A divided Palmetto Bay council approved plans for a new fire station to serve northern areas of the village and part of neighboring Pinecrest.
But neighbors of the station site are concerned about traffic and noise, and have threatened to sue to stop the project.
The council approved a site plan for the station in a 3-2 vote, with council member Joan Lindsay and Mayor Shelley Stanczyk dissenting. They said they wanted to delay the item long enough to give residents time to confer with the Miami-Dade County fire department about what would make the site acceptable – and to avoid litigation.
“The reason we wanted to defer it is so that they and [the fire department] could meet, come back, and incorporate what they felt was important into the resolution and have a complete job. As it stands now, it’s going to go to court, I believe,” Stanczyk said Tuesday.
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Gary Pastorella lives directly east of the vacant 1.17-acre parcel the fire department hopes to buy, at the southeastern corner of Southwest 142nd Terrace and Old Cutler Road. He is leading the charge against the station.
“I didn’t purchase a home next to a fire station,” he said on Tuesday. “Yes, the fire station is fantastic, but it doesn’t belong in a [residential] district.”
He wants the fire department and the property owner – the Old Cutler Presbyterian Church – to agree to split the lot and build the fire station directly on the corner, on the western part of the parcel, away from his home.
He also says he wants the fire department to address concerns about well-water – surrounding homes aren’t connected to the county’s public water system – and to promise mitigating conditions on things like lighting, noise and landscaping.
If he doesn’t get that, “or plans we can live with,” he says he’ll sue the village for violating its own charter under the Neighborhood Protection Amendment voted in by referendum in 2012.
The amendment, drafted by Lindsay following the controversy surrounding private school Palmer Trinity’s expansion, states that non-residential developments in residential areas “shall not disrupt or degrade the health, safety, tranquility, character, and overall welfare of the adjacent or nearby single-family residential properties by creating negative impacts on those properties … that exceeds that of adjacent single-family properties.”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s chief financial officer, Scott Mendelsberg, said at the zoning hearing on Monday that while the general location of the fire station was non-negotiable, he would certainly talk to neighbors about whatever other mitigating conditions they wanted.
He specified on Tuesday that the department would consider Pastorella’s suggestion to move the station to the western corner of parcel.
“I’d have to look at it in detail, but if it’s something that’s feasible, and doesn’t have a substantial delay, and would result in all of the neighbors agreeing that they’re not going to sue us, certainly I would be willing to look at that,” he said.
Palmetto Bay also has coverage issues in the southern part of the village, and the fire department has been trying to site a station at the Palmetto Bay Village Center, the private office park located at the former Burger King world headquarters. The property owner has thus far only been willing to let the village consider site-plan approval for the station within a greater rezoning package that would allow it to develop about 20 acres of forested land, and has been instructed by the village to address concerns voiced by environmentalists in opposition to the project.