Amid a crowded chamber of residents standing up against Donald Trump’s tree plantings, Doral’s City Council on Wednesday passed several ordinances on first and second readings, along with a joint Miami-Dade County agreement.
The meeting, split into morning and evening sessions, lured more than 100 residents.
Three council members started the day with a new role.
▪ Pete Cabrera, who previously served nine years on the council and later ran and lost for mayor, was again elected on Nov. 4.
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▪ Sandra Ruiz is now the vice mayor after the city’s charter rotation rule took effect.
▪ Christi Fraga, the previous vice mayor, is now a councilwoman.
▪ RESOLUTION: Doral came into an agreement with Miami-Dade County to fund a $1.6 million construction project along Northwest 97th Avenue. The joint deal states Doral will pay for the project on county roads — the construction of Northwest 97 Avenue from Northwest 70th to 74th streets — but then will be reimbursed by the county.
▪ FIRST READING: An ordinance was passed that would make it unlawful to dump any substance, liquid, or material in any stormwater drain. Also, landscapers will be prohibited to sweep, blow, cast, or discard vegetative debris, including trash, grass, plant or tree clippings, mulch, or the like, into any stormwater drains.
▪ FIRST READING: An ordinance was passed, agreeing to the creation of a citywide recycling program for residences. It’s not an enforceable program, rather an incentive to encourage those to recycle. Homeowner associations will be providing recycling bins after the city saw a rise in textiles going into landfills.
▪ SECOND READING: An ordinance was passed, approving pilot program, that would extend the hours of alcohol sales and consumption to 3 a.m. through the Miss Universe Pageant festivities — Dec. 1 through Jan. 31. Businesses in the city that would like to apply for the license will be charged $250.
The city said it wants to see how extending the hours impact local businesses when major attractions and events come into town. Council members fear residents will go Brickell, Coral Gables or Miami Beach for a good time out.
“We don’t want to lose residents,” Councilwoman Fraga said. “We want to see how this pilot program works out, especially when Downtown Doral is developed. We want to show our residents that we can also offer a family environment in that atmosphere.”
Many restaurants in Downtown Doral’s plan include full bars, lounges and restaurants with outdoor seating.
During the pilot program, city officials will request police reports and stats to see if crime goes up or down. They said they will look at DUIs and noise complaints to determine whether their decision will affect the citizens positively, or adversely, in order to see if it’s something they want to do permanently.
The Council unanimously decided to invest at least $50,000 in legal advice in hopes of finding legal grounds to defend residents against Donald Trump’s walls of trees.
Since early last year, more than 2,500 homeowners have made noise about Trump’s beautification project of the Silver Course in Doral Park. Former views of green, curvy hills or glassy waters are now blocked by trees that grow dozens of feet high.
More than 100 residents showed up at Wednesday’s council meeting to voice their frustration. But the city attorney told council members that after dissecting the city’s code, there’s very little wiggle room for the city to act.
“We’ve diligently been troubleshooting the issue,” City Attorney Dan Espino said. “But we’ve run out of code. There is no silver bullet that can simply cause the resort to remove their plantings.”
Espino said the current city code doesn’t address the topic of hedge and fence restriction.
“There’s just not enough code,” he said. “Where our code ends is where private property rights begin.”
He added that “had it been addressed two years ago, we might have had a much stronger hand against the resort.”
Then city council members passed a motion to invest thousands of dollars to see what other case law exists in the country, in hopes of finding a solution that would go beyond private property rights, which the Trump National Doral currently has.
Building and zoning officials said they inspected Trump’s resort for five hours, as part of their in-depth analysis of the situation.
“We went to every single corner, every single back yard, every single retention area,” City Manager Edward Rojas. They said they found two flagpoles, four large fountains and an entrance clock built without permits, among other things. But those permits had nothing to do with the areca palms.
Meanwhile, residents decried the loss of their views, telling council members that it’s affecting their health and quality of life.
“We are your neighbors. We elected you. We elected you to stand for us,” resident Michael Claus said. “Do something,”
Other residents hoped for a bit more.
“Us citizens are not looking for divine intervention, though it would be helpful,” Peter Brook said.
In addition to requesting an analysis of Trump’s property and zoning records last month, advocate group Concerned Citizens of Doral asked the city in a formal letter for an analysis of the $2.5 million dollars invested by the city in Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant.
They didn’t get it.
In the letter, residences asked:
▪ Did the City Council conduct and review any independent economic impact study to evaluate the return on this investment?
▪ What is the projected amount of revenue the heightened tourism, productions and investment in the community the Pageant would bring to the City in FY2014 and FY2015?
▪ How many direct and indirect jobs would the Pageant create in the City in the 2014-2015 fiscal year?
▪ In light of the fact that Doral is not nor should be a tourism destination, why would you support the idea if spending taxpayers’ money to “attract tourism?”
When residents took the microphone and asked the council for answers, Mayor Luigi Boria said the comments were off topic and dismissed them.
One resident got rowdy, and Boria told him he would have to have him removed if he continued.
Toward the end of the meeting, Boria told the residents he wouldn’t mind setting up a special meeting dedicated to the residents’ concern on the $2.5 million.
“We will set a date and we will not fight," Boria said.
City Clerk Barbara Herrera asked the council whether Dec. 3 could be a possible date.
Vice Mayor Ruiz said it would be better if council members went home and look at their calendars before officially picking a date, considering “the upcoming holidays.”
Wednesday’s meeting ended without a date.
However, on Thursday, the city clerk’s office set a “tentative” special meeting for Monday, Nov. 24 at 11 a.m.
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