The Palmetto Bay Village Council will be voting on whether to grant a local developer the rights to build 485 condos along historic Old Cutler Road and Southwest 184th Street.
The developer is switching gears: A plan approved eight years ago called for 100 townhomes and 300 senior housing units on the property. Right now, developer Scott Silver has the right to build up to 400 multi-family units plus a hotel; he’s hoping the council will approve transferring the rights of 85 units from another of his properties nearby to this one.
The property in question is about 80 acres. Silver would build on half of the acreage and donate the other 40 acres to the village to use as open space. The village has said it might build a fire station at the north corner.
Eighteen of those acres are environmentally protected wetlands; the other 22 acres are restricted by covenant as a “buffer zone” between Old Cutler and the office buildings that make up Palmetto Bay Village Center (the old Burger King headquarters).
The buffer zone was intended to preserve drivers’ views. It was mandated by Miami-Dade County in the 1980s, back when the community objected to the building of offices along Old Cutler. At the time, Palmetto Bay was not an incorporated city.
In 2008, the Village Council voted to upzone the property, which had 311,000 square feet of office space, from zero homes to 100 town homes and 300 senior housing units.
“2008 was the start of a great recession, nobody was really looking to build until last year,” Silver said. “Today, it makes more sense to not have an age restriction. There aren’t higher-end apartments and condominiums in Palmetto Bay. This offers a housing type that just doesn’t exist in Palmetto Bay.”
At the time, Silver said a senior housing facility “would lessen traffic flow,” records show.
In March, the council passed on first reading two ordinances and a companion resolution that would allow 485 homes to be built without restriction. The vote was 4-0. Vice Mayor John Dubois, who opposed the project, recused himself from voting because he lives blocks away and thought there might be a conflict.
On Monday, the ordinances and resolution are up for second reading. If they pass, the developer will be given the right to build but would have to come back to the council with site plans for specific approvals.
Some residents have been very vocal about 2008 ordinance, saying the increase in density would significantly increase traffic on already-congested Old Cutler Road.
“This was a bad deal for the residents in 2008, and if this thing passes, it’s an even worse deal for the residents now,” said Patrick Fiore, a village resident who served on the council from 2010 to 2014.
“We’ll probably get a five-fold increase in traffic,” Fiore added. “Say there’s two cars for every home, plus service vehicles. The number one issue in Palmetto Bay is traffic; it’s a joke down here. The situation has really deteriorated the quality of life.”
According to the U.S. Census, in 2010, Palmetto Bay had 8,372 housing units. Another 485 homes would increase housing by about 6 percent.
Mayor Eugene Flinn has been adamant about moving the plan forward. During the week, he’s even given tours of the 40 acres that will be donated if the plan is approved Monday.
“I plan on working with our environmental clubs and groups and the county to restore and enjoy this area,” Flinn said. “We’ve got a walking path that goes through it right now. I’d like to see biking paths, maybe some nature signage in there identifying the different species; make it an area where you can just sit and enjoy.”
The village would be responsible for preserving the land. Flinn estimates the cost will be $10,000 to $12,000 a year.
“That’s a rough estimate. We don’t have a budget for it yet, but we will, and we will seek grants for it,” he added. “For the cost of two or three movie nights, we can provide sustainability and preserve nature.”
Fiore: “What good is going to the park if you can’t get to it?”
The council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Village Hall, 9705 E. Hibiscus St.