North Miami - NMB

After hours of debate, North Miami development plan halted

In a meeting that nearly stretched to the next sunrise, a divided North Miami City Council this week failed to approve its comprehensive plan.

The plan, which has been discussed in several workshops and meetings in recent months, failed with a 3-2 vote at the meeting that began at 7 p.m. Tuesday and ended about 3:45 a.m. Wednesday. Approval required a four-fifths vote.

Council members Scott Galvin and Carol Keys voted against the plan because it contained a clause that would change a 2008 city requirement that land-use and zoning changes require supermajority votes of the City Council.

“I am not against growth but I believe in the supermajority,” said Keys, who has issues with the plan. “It’s to protect us from lobbyists and special interests who will come in here and buy their way into this city.”

The item was first introduced just after 8 p.m. Shortly after that, Galvin asked that a proposed plan change to make those land-use updates only require a majority vote be removed and voted on separately.

Despite some groans from the crowd and occasional outbursts from audience members, Galvin said he would not support the comprehensive plan if the supermajority vote, established in the last comprehensive plan, didn’t remain in place.

“If there is going to be a smart proposal for development and growth in this city, it’s going to earn four of these five votes,” Galvin said.

Speakers at the meeting, many from the Keystone Point and Sans Souci neighborhoods, said the supermajority vote was a good “watchdog” to prevent “runaway growth.”

“It’s worked for us since 2008; if you can show me, as the mayor and council, how it doesn’t work, then by all means change it,” resident Douglas Hindmarsh said.

Others said the four-fifths vote would keep development away from the city and said the city had development without it in the past.

“You are elected by the people of your district and of this city,” former Mayor John Stembridge said. “That’s our government, that’s the way it has functioned until seven years ago.”

Ultimately Galvin’s request did not pass as Mayor Smith Joseph, Councilman Alix Desulme and Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime voted against it.

Hours later, after two recesses and going through and approving each individual element of the comprehensive plan, Desulme attempted to reintroduce Galvin’s proposal to keep the supermajority vote but ultimately withdrew his motion.

Galvin and Keys ultimately did not budge on their position, and when Galvin asked why the other council members would let the plan fail and not support his proposal, he received some push-back.

“It’s the same thing Councilman Galvin, why do the two of you want this to die because of the simple majority?” Bien-Aime said.

The city and its consultant, the Mellgren Planning Group, now have until Sept. 23 to approve a plan on first reading and send it to the state Department of Economic Opportunity. If approved at the Sept. 8 council meeting, the plan will be considered by the state and will likely be sent back for city council approval in December or January. The plan is primarily required to meet the updated state DEO requirements, including complying with Florida laws and adding an optional component to address climate change

Until then, the city will essentially keep the same plan it approved seven years ago and will not be able to approve new land-use amendments.

“I don’t think we should’ve spent five hours because we knew the outcome was going to be this right here,” Desulme said.