Despite reservations about variances to building codes, Sunny Isles Beach commissioners have unanimously approved a 28-story condo tower as part of a site plan modification of a previously approved community center.
Commissioners previously approved the Sunny Isles Beach Jewish Community Center, which will include a synagogue, preschool, restaurant and banquet hall. Rabbi Alexander Kaller of the Chabad Russian Center said the estimated $15 million community center could not be built without the assistance of the developer of the condo tower.
“This project directly benefits the community not only in a physical but in a spiritual sense,” Kaller said.
Marissa Amuial, an attorney for the project, also touted the project’s benefits.
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“The idea behind the project is to create a little neighborhood for families that want to live near Chabad and utilize the community center,” Amuial said.
Prices for the 22 units in the condo tower will range between $3.5–$4 million each, according to developer Avra Jain. The community center and condo tower will be located at 488 and 500 Sunny Isles Blvd. respectively.
A sticking point in the site plan modification was a request of a height variance of 325 feet to have the units of the condo tower be above Northeast 163rd Street, which runs alongside the site. The city allows for 290 feet.
Variances have become a touchy subject in Sunny Isles Beach with commissioners voicing their disapproval and voting against developers’ requests to modify city building codes.
Resident Gloria Taft said the city should not have to bear the responsibility of balancing the difficulties faced in constructing the condo tower.
“We shouldn’t set a precedence for other developers to ask for variances instead of building to code,” Taft said.
Dr. Regina Gurevich, a resident of Sunny Isles Beach, felt that in this case, an exception should be made.
“This building will allow us to utilize this area and will improve the beauty and quality of our city,” said Gurevich, whose comments were met with applause from the audience. “All people in the community can benefit from the kindergarten and restaurant.”
The commissioners agreed but not without reservations.
“Variances should be taken very seriously but most of the residents will be part of the Chabad, which is a lot of the community,” Vice Mayor Isaac Aelion said. “It will impact the lifestyle and growth of the city.”
Commissioner Jeanette Gatto agreed, noting that the community center would not be built without the approval of the condo tower.
“It is an extremely unique situation,” Gatto said. “I’m really unhappy with the variances but knowing that the community will benefit I will support the project.”
Commissioners Jennifer Levin and Dana Goldman also approved the site but noted their reservations about the variances, which also included a front setback variance of 22 feet and 6 inches where 25 feet is required by the city. Mayor George “Bud” Scholl excused himself from the vote because of business dealings he has had with those involved with the project.
The city currently owns the property at 500 Sunny Isles Blvd but will sell the land now that the project has been approved. A groundbreaking ceremony for the previously approved community center is planned for Jan.11.
The next commission meeting will be held Jan. 15.