Palmetto Bay

Palmetto Bay takes back its approval of controversial housing project

Eugene Flinn, mayor of Palmetto Bay, points out native plants and butterflies in a wooded area on Old Cutler Road that was earmarked to be a city park under a 2016 development plan that was rescinded Monday.
Eugene Flinn, mayor of Palmetto Bay, points out native plants and butterflies in a wooded area on Old Cutler Road that was earmarked to be a city park under a 2016 development plan that was rescinded Monday. pportal@miamiherald.com

Palmetto Bay on Monday reversed its decision of nearly a year ago and said 485 condos could not be built on the property that once housed Burger King’s corporate offices.

Under the Village Council’s preliminary vote, the use of the land will revert to what it was a year ago, allowing 100 condos and 300 housing units for senior citizens. The issue will come back to the council in June for a final vote.

The makeup of the council changed in November when David Singer was elected, defeating incumbent Tim Schaffer. Singer provided the third vote to overturn the council’s May 2016 approval of the higher-density plan. Vice Mayor John Dubois and Councilwoman Karyn Cunningham voted with him to reverse last year’s decision. Mayor Eugene Flinn and Councilwoman Larissa Siegel Lara opposed the move.

Last May, on a 3-2 vote, the Village Council amended the development rights on the property to allow developer Scott Silver to build 485 town homes and raise height limits instead of the hotel, 100 condos and 300 senior housing units that were proposed in 2008. Silver in turn agreed to donate 40 acres of rock pineland and wetlands along the bay to the city, 22 of them for a passive park.

But during Monday’s three-hour meeting, the majority of the council agreed that having nearly 500 homes at that location on Old Cutler Road would increase density and overwhelm the narrow, historic road — even if that meant losing the 40 acres of donated land.

Their reason for taking a new vote on a matter that had already been settled: Circumstances have changed with more development approved in the communities around Palmetto Bay, and congestion on Old Cutler Road has worsened.

Before council members voted, Jerry Proctor, the developer’s attorney, suggested that Singer and Dubois shouldn’t participate. Proctor said Singer’s campaign materials in one of the village’s nastiest election seasons showed his bias.

“He printed a booklet titled ‘Everything you need to know about how Village residents are getting the shaft,’ ” Proctor said. “He asked residents to kick out of office anyone that voted for the resolutions that were voted on 11 months ago. This creates in my mind a significant legal issue moving forward. I believe that individual should recuse himself from these proceedings.”

Proctor also pointed out that Dubois, the sponsor of the agenda item, lives next door to the property and has been the subject of an investigation by the county ethics commission over whether he had a conflict of interest in voting on the project.

Both men voted Monday night.

The mayor, who has been the project’s biggest advocate because of the 40 acres of green space that the developer was going to donate, made a motion to defer the agenda item. No one seconded the motion and it died.

Monique O. Madan: 305-376-2108, @MoniqueOMadan

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