Coral Gables

Elementary schools, trees and marijuana hot topics at Coral Gables meeting

On Tuesday, Coral Gables commissioners will hear a proposal from a developer and neighbors on how they will compromise to protect the elderly oak.
On Tuesday, Coral Gables commissioners will hear a proposal from a developer and neighbors on how they will compromise to protect the elderly oak. Joey Flechas

Elementary schools, oak trees and marijuana dispensaries were all hot topics at Tuesday’s Coral Gables City Commission meeting.

Although the room did not overflow with residents, somewhat controversial decisions and discussions took place — some that have been long in the works, and others that have recently sparked a flame.

Find the full agenda here.

PASSED

▪ An ordinance was unanimously passed on second reading not allowing marijuana dispensaries in the city and prohibiting the public consumption of marijuana. If it at some point the substance becomes legal, the ordinance will limit where they can be located.

▪ An ordinance was unanimously passed on second reading, establishing a proposed settlement regarding the Oak tree on Lisbon Street. Gables residents and attorneys for a developer that wanted to build a mansion near a 125-year-old tree came to an agreement Wednesday that would accommodate both the developer and protect the historic tree.

The compromise on protecting the elderly oak was presented. The original plan was to build a giant home, but the new plan would build three separate smaller homes on the property — two of 2,400 square-feet and another home of 1,900 square feet, which would be the home with the tree on its property.

They also agreed to have no construction within 25 feet of the tree, to have two arborists monitor the construction site several times a month and to prohibit the trimming of any branches larger than four inches wide.

The proposal outlines how the three properties will be planned, keeping in mind that each property would need space for driveways, septic fields, drainage systems and swimming pools. It still has to go before the city’s Board of Architects.

▪ The William A. Cooper scholarship program was officially established. It aims at helping MacFarlane Homestead or Golden Gate resident students complete their educational and career goals will be presented Tuesday. The maximum award is $5,000 a year, but the average award will range from $1,000 to $3,000.

▪ Residents will soon be seeing funky, colorful public art at two traffic circles in the Gables. A resolution was passed, approving an artist that will place her art at two traffic circles located on Segovia Street at Coral Way and at Biltmore Way. One will sit on a small reflecting pool. Both will possibly spray water and light up in the evening.

DISCUSSED

▪ The city announced it will be sending the Miami-Dade County School Board a public records request, along with a letter asking to amend Henry S. West Laboratory's attendance policy, which would hopefully get the school to be a neighborhood school, City Attorney Craig Leen said.

More than half of the students in Miami-Dade go to a school they picked through Controlled Choice, such as a charter or magnet program, rather than the neighborhood school dictated by attendance boundaries.

West Lab, a magnet program in Coral Gables, accepts students from all over the county, making it difficult for Coral Gables students to get into a school in their own backyard.

About 16 percent of students at West Lab are Coral Gables residents. About half of the more than 500 students on a waiting list for the school are Gables residents, commissioners said.

A Miami-Dade Public School Board representative, along with an attorney for the city, came before the City Commission to discuss the issue.

Often, residents can live a block away from one school, but end up having to commute across town to another school, one resident argued.

Coral Gables is the only city that is tied to this type of process. The rest of the county is zoned, getting the opportunity to attend the school that is designated to them, most likely the closest to their home.

And commissioners want to know why.

In one of their records request, they asked for the reasons, motives or goals for creating and maintaining the Controlled Choice program at the local three elementary schools; removing other county schools from the program.

Weeks ago, the City Commission contemplated buying seats for the children of residents. Coral Gables officials are considering paying the school district a one-time fee of $23,000 per student to establish a separate lottery program just for residents who want their children to attend West Lab. But commissioners say its an exceptional burden.

As it stands now, the oral proposal is to buy between 22 and 44 seats per grade level. Commissioners will soon announce when the next discussion will be.

Read more about the issue here.

▪ The City Commission selected a contractor to take charge of the project to renovate the Venetian Pool.

Bejar Construction, which submitted the best bid of $773,365, will oversee a slew of renovations at the 1920s-era landmark at 2701 De Soto Blvd.

Commissioners stressed that the project would not change the pool, but rather preserve it The improvements to the pool and the surrounding property will include roof replacement, window repair, cabinetry, pool repair, beach sand replacement, concrete work, and drainage, among other things.

At a future commission meeting, the construction company will present a more detailed plan and presentation, when renovations are expected to start, and if it will affect public operations.

Follow @MoniqueOMadan on Twitter.

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