A majority contingent on the Pinecrest Village Council continues to roll back projects years in the making, prompting one frustrated council member to interrupt a vote on Monday night to ask the village manager if it made “any sense” for council to proceed.
Council member James McDonald’s question followed a successful 3-2 vote amending a resolution approving the first phase of a village-wide project to update infrastructure creating safe bicycle and pedestrian routes to all five of the village’s public schools. The interrupted vote would have adopted that resolution.
Council member Cheri Ball sponsored the change, removing construction of about two blocks of sidewalk along Red Road from the resolution, arguing that the sidewalks were redundant and could be revisited during approval of the project’s next phase.
“I like sidewalks, but I think we do tend to keep them on one side of the street wherever possible,” she said.
“It’s easy to say ‘let’s think about this some more.’ That’s a good way for nothing to get done,” McDonald countered.
Vice Mayor Bob Ross and council member Doug Kraft voted alongside Ball, with Ross saying he wanted to get more public input and Kraft saying he thought the sidewalks might be underutilized.
The Safe Routes to School initiative, in the works since 2010, has included several public workshops, and every resident receiving a sidewalk in front of their home has been individually notified, village manager Yocelyn Galiano Gomez told council.
A single resident spoke during public comment on the matter — expressing support for the sidewalks.
In response to McDonald’s question, Galiano told the council that its vote could put in jeopardy the roughly $190,000 the village had received in grants toward the project. She told them it was likely the state would allow the village to keep the little money allotted for signage updates — the only thing left to the project’s first phase without sidewalks — but that the grant dollars for sidewalks might not be available much longer.
Galiano suggested she speak to the state about flexibility for the use of the funds, and the matter was ultimately deferred to the April council meeting, when the council will also consider the second phase of the project.
The council later scrapped longstanding plans for traffic-calming projects along Southwest 60th Avenue in an item deferred from February’s meeting.
Following public outcry over heavy traffic on the residential street, the village worked for years on the project, holding a series of public workshops, commissioning a $40,000 study, and ultimately designing a plan to install chicanes, medians, and traffic circles in phases along the avenue. One traffic circle, at the intersection of Southwest 60th Avenue and 104th Street, has already been built.
Tuesday night’s vote would have authorized the manager to go forward with two other circles: one at Southwest 111th Street, the other at Southwest 116th Street.
A handful of residents came to speak on the matter, mostly in opposition to the circles. A few speakers, like Jason Timmons — who suffered a permanent back injury after being struck when somebody blew through a stop sign — advocated for better police enforcement.
A couple Coral Gables residents also came to speak: The circle on Southwest 116th Street, it turns out, spills out into the neighboring municipality’s jurisdiction. The public works director for the Gables spoke briefly, telling the council that the city wouldn’t permit the project until the village got support for the circle from Gables residents bordering it.
The council voted 3-2 to drop both circles, with McDonald and Mayor Cindy Lerner in the minority.
Galiano followed the vote by asking council if they planned to go ahead with later project phases slated for Southwest 60th Avenue.
“Is there any wish to do anything? Because I don’t want to spin a lot of wheels and spend a lot of money,” she said.
Ross’s response: “Let’s just let it rest.”
Council ultimately instructed Galiano to put Southwest 60th Avenue projects on hold indefinitely, and to confer with consultants about the possibility of a traffic-calming study spanning a larger part of the village in the next budget year.