Coral Gables

Coral Gables commission denies country club outdoor seating plan

At its meeting Tuesday, Coral Gables commissioners denied a plan for outdoor seating at the Coral Gables Country Club, directed the city attorney to take action on a dispute with the Miami-Dade County and passed a new plan for guardhouse operators.

The main item

After rounds of discussion from residents and a few former elected officials, the Coral Gables commission affirmed an appeal related to placing pavers at the Coral Gables Country Club and denied a conditional use for expanding the club’s cafe.

The appeal came from former Mayor Don Slesnick and wife Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick, along with Vincent and Carol Damian. Commissioner Slesnick recused herself from voting on the appeal item but she voted on the conditional-use ordinance. The appeal item passed 3-1 with Mayor Jim Cason voting no. The ordinance passed 3-2 with no votes from Cason and Commissioner Vince Lago.

The Slesnicks and Damians asked the commission to overturn the historic preservation board’s decision from May 2014 to allow for keystone pavers at the club.

Residents at the meeting were split between long-time neighbors who oppose the expansion of the Liberty Caffe to the front yard of the club and newer residents who support the outdoor seating.

“This is one more intrusion that really isn’t needed, isn’t wanted isn’t desired,” Don Slesnick said.

Others said the pavers and the proposed six tables, 22 chairs and two umbrellas would not be a significant change and would add to the cafe and the club’s character.

“We live in Miami, outdoor spaces are something that we should have,” resident Bob Liu said.

Ultimately, the Liberty Entertainment Group will be allowed to keep some existing benches that are outside the club but nothing else for the time being.

“I would love to see the outdoor dining however I just don’t think it’s compatible at this time with the congestion we get in that area,” Vice Mayor Frank Quesada said.

The city commission previously denied a similar 2009 request from Liberty that called for eight tables and 32 chairs for the outdoor area.

Other business

▪ Solid waste dispute: The commission granted the city attorney permission to seek a dispute resolution and settlement with Miami-Dade County over placement of a solid-waste special assessment on the tax rolls.

The assessment was approved by the commission in June in an effort to collect delinquent solid-waste fees that exceeded $850.

City Attorney Craig Leen said the county tax collector and property appraiser’s offices have been unwilling to place the assessment on this year’s tax rolls. The resolution argues that based on Florida statute the two offices are ministerial and cannot prevent the action.

“The issue for us is that although they are calling these delinquent fees, this is an imposed special assessment this year for work that has done by the city over the past seven, eight, nine years that has never been paid for,” Leen said.

Commissioner Patricia Keon said the county might be hesitant because placing the assessment on the rolls could make Miami-Dade officials seem like debt collectors, but she ultimately supported the city attorney moving forward.

“I think they feel maybe they’re being placed in the position where they are acting as a collection agency for delinquent fees which is not something that they have traditionally done,” Keon said.

▪ City guardhouses: In an effort to increase safety, the commission approved an item that would allow guardhouse operators to ask a specific set of questions to drivers entering certain communities.

The ordinance is intended primarily to get drivers to roll down their window and to state their reason for visiting the neighborhood and their destination. The commission plans to fine tune the language of the law after receiving input from Police Chief Ed Hudak.

The new rules would be in effect from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

▪ Citywide transportation plan: Commissioners approved an item allowing staff to negotiate hiring Atkins North America to prepare the city’s comprehensive transportation plan.

The plan is intended to identify multimodal forms of transportation, identify bike and pedestrian paths and recommend other transit improvements.

The next meeting

▪ When: 9 a.m. Oct. 13.

▪ Where: Coral Gables City Hall. 405 Biltmore Way, Coral Gables

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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