Coral Gables

Coral Gables plans to support historic homeowners association in county lawsuit

Coral Gables City Hall
Coral Gables City Hall

Coral Gables will join in a dispute between a developer, homeowners in a historic area of the city and Miami-Dade County over the development of a long-awaited community center.

The City Commission voted to allow the city attorney to include Coral Gables in a lawsuit between the project’s developer, Bahamian Village LLC, and the county. The item also urges the county commission to act quickly to settle the case and allow for completion of the center.

The plans for the center have been in the works for about a decade. The proposed center, at 280 S. Dixie Hwy., is also called Bahamian Village and is named after the Bahamians that settled in the MacFarlane Homestead Historic District of the city and helped develop Coral Gables.

City Attorney Craig Leen said the city took a particular interest in getting involved after the Lola B. Walker Homeowners Association was named in the lawsuit. Leen said he’s concerned that the litigation could impact the association and prevent the center’s construction.

Commissioners Vince Lago and Patricia Keon co-sponsored the item and said the neighborhood deserves to see the center completed after years of stagnant development.

“It seems that there has just been one hurdle after another in attempting to get this done,” Keon said.

Members of the Walker Association echoed that sentiment at Tuesday’s meeting and said that they simply want to see the center built in their lifetime after fighting to preserve the predominantly black neighborhood.

“We only wanted to develop that piece of property so that we could take care of our part of the City Beautiful and it hasn’t happened,” said resident Judith Davis, a founding member of the Walker Association.

Other business

▪ Cameras and plate readers: Security cameras and license plate readers are coming to certain areas of the Gables. Commissioners approved an item to bring a closed circuit TV system and the readers to the city at a cost of about $1.3 million.

The city initially budgeted $1 million for the technology and Tuesday’s item included a $350,000 transfer from the capital improvement fund balance to offset the contract and other costs that may add up to about $35,000.

“We want to change the calculus in the minds of the criminals that, when they come into the city of Coral Gables, there’s a higher likelihood that they will be photographed or have their license read,” said Assistant Police Chief Michael Miller.

The cameras will be placed in areas of Miracle Mile and at the boundaries of the city including the intersections of Southwest Eighth Street and 57th Avenue and Southwest Eighth Street and Ponce de Leon Boulevard. In the south Gables, the cameras will be placed at the intersection of Old Cutler Road and 57th Avenue, among other areas.

▪ Public safety building: The commission a request by staff to develop plans for a new public safety building, which would replace the current building at 2801 Salzedo St. and house the police and fire departments.

The city is considering developing a new building in a city-owned parking lot at the corner of Salzedo Street and Alcazar Avenue. The current building was constructed in 1973 and faces multiple structural issues and needs considerable repairs, according to an engineering study.

City staff estimated that costs for rebuilding the facility, either at its current location or another lot, would range from $17 to $33.5 million.

▪ Styrofoam and solar panels: Commissioners approved two items they hope will aid sustainability efforts in the city: preliminary approval of a Styrofoam ban and a resolution waiving permit fees for solar panels.

The ordinance bans the use of expanded polystyrene, primarily known as Styrofoam, by city vendors, at special events and by food service providers in Coral Gables. Violators will be subject to fines that begin at $50 and can increase to $500 after a third violation in a one-year period.

The city will create an education campaign for business owners after the ordinance’s final approval.

The solar panel waiver item is only for city fees and does not apply to potential state or county fees. The city has issued about 35 permits since 2007 with fees ranging from $100 to $300.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3