With some misgivings and a promise to review at least part of the issues before taking a final vote, the Homestead City Council has tentatively approved a zoning application by Wayne Rosen that would allow him more flexibility than other developers to build what he wants in an area designated for mixed use — a combination of retail, single-family homes and condos.
Rosen told the Miami Herald that he plans to build 91 single-family homes and that in return, he would pay to renovate the rundown Keys Gate Golf and Country Club, although the golf course is nowhere mentioned in his application that was at the heart of discussion at the recent meeting.
But passage on May 18 is not assured. Some council members are not comfortable with proposed changes to the existing mixed-use zoning code on Rosen’s 20 acres and say they want to revisit the issue before the final vote.
“I think we’re giving up too much with this ‘mixed-use’ dialogue,” said Mayor Jeff Porter, who voted in favor. “If we don’t have some sort of concession, some sort of clarification, it’s going to be the biggest sticking point. I’m giving it a chance to live, knowing that there’s still a chance for it to die in second reading.”
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You have to understand that you can’t ask me to build a golf course without having those single-family homes to to help pay for it. It’s called cash flow.
On April 20, city council members voted 4-2 to move forward with Rosen’s zoning application. Jon Burgess and Stephen Shelley dissented, and Jimmie Williams recused himself due to previous conflicts of interest with Rosen, per a ruling from the ethics commission.
Rosen’s proposal to rezone property and trim the golf course has been a highly anticipated discussion since January, but it was postponed several times. At the recent meeting he proposed an updated application, hoping to get preliminary approval. His new plan proposed changing the zoning definition of “mixed use” and dropped his earlier request to rezone land that’s reserved for a school.
If his application passes on second reading, the move would give him the green light on rezonings to build single-family homes near a beer warehouse, speedway and air base. Rosen has said in the past that he would pay big-time golf course designer Jim Fazio to rehabilitate the course. Rosen has said he would ultimately use $12 million of his own money to do it, contingent upon the council passing the whole package.
“You have to understand this is all revenue-driven,” Rosen told the Herald after the meeting, adding that he still doesn’t have a timeline as to when the course would begin its revamp if his proposal passes. “We’re concerned about rainy season, so we don’t have a specific date. You have to understand that you can’t ask me to build a golf course without having those single-family homes to help pay for it. It’s called cash flow.”
Rosen also told the Herald that he hopes the council “realizes” that his plan promotes “less density and less traffic impact than the 189 multi-family units I am approved for.”
Rosen’s refined plan calls for:
▪ Taking about 11.4 acres off the perimeter of the course. Rosen has said he would use the land to extend the backyards of surrounding homes that would soon be built. The application does not specify what will be done on those acres, however the rezoning would in the future allow for more homes to be built.
▪ Changing the zoning definition of “mixed use” for about 20-plus acres in the Park of Commerce, just east of Kingman Road and south of Canal Drive. That land is adjacent to a Budweiser warehouse and less than a mile from the hazard zones of the Homestead Air Reserve Base and the Homestead Speedway.
Rosen wants the definition of “mixed-use” to change, which is what the land is currently zoned as. Areas zoned as “mixed use” require a blend of commercial, multi-family or single-family homes in the same space. Rosen wants to be allowed to build any of the three categories independently of each other. For example, instead of having a combination of townhomes, retail and single-family houses, Rosen would be allowed to build only houses or only stores, or only condos.
▪ Across the street from the Budweiser warehouse lie 36 acres that are currently zoned for school use, including nine acres occupied by Miami Arts Charter School. Rosen’s original application asked to change the remaining 27 acres to mixed-use. In his new proposal, Rosen took out this request, and the land will remain zoned for a school.
The developer’s plan sparked a three-hour discussion at the April 20 meeting between council members, residents and representatives of the Homestead Air Reserve Base and the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Both are near the Park of Commerce where Rosen wants to rezone.
Most council members believe changing the property’s mixed-use designation would give the developer “too much power.”
Hugo Arza, Rosen’s registered lobbyist, said that the plan merely “allows for more flexibility” and that “micro-regulating at this time would be a loss for the city.”
“You should adopt the [application] and allow the developer to bring whatever they think is most appropriate for that parcel,” Arza said.
Burgess: “Why is the developer dictating to the city what should be built? A city and its residents should be dictating that, not the developer. The developer should conform to what the citizens and the city thinks are the best uses for those lands.”
Let’s focus on getting this request approved and then we can talk about the golf course. I focus on one thing at a time.
Homestead Air Reserve Base and Homestead-Miami Speedway representatives expressed worry over future homes being built so close to their operations, which are noisy. The Speedway said it would create major encroachment.
Larry Ventura, the base’s representative, said the organization wasn’t for or against the project, but would like a provision that would prevent homeowners from taking legal action against the base because of the jet noise. Rosen said he had no issue with that request.
Some residents urged council members to move forward with the plan so that they can get their golf course back. They say it will spur economic growth and increase their property values.
“The Park of Commerce has sat there empty for years and years and years,” resident Larry Meno said. “What it boils down to is that we have an opportunity to have a Fazio name come into Homestead and develop a state-of-the-art facility that will be beneficial.”
Others said they were more hesitant because although they want a renovated golf course, Rosen’s new plan would bring heavy traffic and high-density development.
“Let’s simply have the golf course brought up as a separate issue,” said resident Joseph Sinicrope. “The golf course is not the issue here. What we need to discuss seriously as a community is the rest of that request.”
One resident told the Herald at the meeting that he was concerned about Rosen not “going in-depth about the golf course and not including it in writing on his application to the city. How is he tied to this promise he’s making?”
Rosen told the Herald: “There’s been no question about my integrity and what I say I’m going to do. Nobody has asked me for any type of agreement as regarding the golf course. Let’s focus on getting this request approved and then we can talk about the golf course. I focus on one thing at a time. If it doesn’t get approved, I’ll have to explore other options and see what’s best for me.”
The council ultimately decided not to separate the golf course issue and the rezoning requests, but gave tentative approval and set it for a final second reading.
The vote will come up for second reading on Wednesday, May 18 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Court.