CRESPOGRAM REPORT

FEBRUARY 4, 2015
BARRED FROM NUMEROUS GOVERNMENTAL COMPUTER NETWORKS FOR TELLING THE TRUTH

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HOW THE MIAMI CITY COMMISSION KEEPS PLAYING AROUND WITH MIAMI 21 TO LET DEVELOPERS MAKE MILLIONS AND MILLIONS WHILE SCREWING YOU, THE CITIZENS OF MIAMI
ARE YOU UPSET AS YOU WATCH ALL THE MONSTER CONDO TOWERS BEING BUILT BECAUSE THEIR CONSTRUCTION SEEM TO FLY IN THE FACE OF INTELLIGENT CITY PLANNING?  WELL, HERE’S AN EXAMPLE OF HOW ABUSING MIAMI 21 LEADS TO BAD PUBLIC POLICY
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This story starts with the Public Notice in the photo above that was posted in the OMNI CRA District on NE 14th Street in January. Here is the significant portion of that notice enlarged.

This was a Public Notice announcing an attempt to change the zoning provisions of Miami 21, the Master Planning and Zoning Ordinance that was adopted by the Miami City Commission after many meetings and much discussion between city officials, and various neighborhood groups, developers and private citizens in 2010.


Almost from the day it was approved, Miami 21 has been under almost constant attack, often, but not always led and/or supported by District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, as he has conspired from the dais and  behind the scenes to do everything he can to help developers add additional floors to their condo projects, thereby increasing their profit, while at the same time creating unintended consequences for everyone else.


After taking the photo of the Notice I went online to the City’s website and looked up the item on the City Commission agenda, which revealed that the applicant was The Melo Group, which in recent years has been one of the largest developers of condo towers in Miami, with numerous condo projects either built, under construction, or like this project, planned for the downtown and upper Short North section of Miami.


The Notice was for a PZ item that had been scheduled to have a First Reading at the January 22nd City Commission meeting, but had been continued to the Commission’s PZ Meeting at the end of March. The Ordinance, a copy that I’ve included below, shows that this is the 3rd time it has been continued.


The most significant part of the proposed Ordinance was the revelation that the request to change the zoning from T-24 to T-36 had been denied by both the Planning and Zoning Department AND by the Planning and Zoning Appeals Board.

Why was this request for a zoning change denied by both the Planning and Zoning Department AND by the Planning and Zoning Appeals Board? 


Because, as you can see below in the Red Highlighted portion of the analysis done by the PZ Board,  it was a clear example of what is called Spot Zoning, and as the analysis points out would open the door to similar requests from other property owners in the future, thereby undermining the overall zoning guidelines for the area.

Rejected by the Planning and Zoning Department AND by the Planning and Zoning Appeals Board, it none the less ended up on the agenda for the Miami City Commission.


How does that happen? How does a project that has been so roundly rejected by both professional staff and by a citizen’s review board keep showing up on the agenda of the City Commission?


One way is to threaten the City Commission that you will take your marbles and go home, thereby leaving the property vacant as the Melo Group did in an August  2014 story in Biscayne Times about the OMNI CRA District.

There’s nothing like a threat made on bogus logic to persuade folks, especially the 5 Dwarfs on the Miami City Commission that they should shred the provisions of Miami 21 to give the Melo’s 12 more floors and approximately 200 more rental units.


Here’s what I mean.


The Melo’s argument starts with a claim that this should be considered a mass-transit-oriented residential project because it will be built next to a Metro-Mover station.  In Miami, you might just as well claim that the project would result in weight loss and better eating habits for the residents if they built  it next to a health food store.


In addition, the threat that the property “won’t be developed at all, and it will remain vacant like most sites in the OMNI area,” is nothing but absolute bullshit on the part of the Melo’ Group.


Take a look at where this property is located, and what is happening on both sides of it, and then ask yourself how long this property will remain vacant. 


The block to its East, highlighted in GREEN is where Emilio and Gloria Estefan plan on building their combination office building/hotel/restaurant, and the block to the West, highlighted in BLUE is where the OMNI CRA’s offices in the Historic Firehouse #2 is located, although it is currently up for sale. The property highlighted in YELLOW is owned by developer Nir Shoshani, who has renderings of the condo project he wants to build on that land that includes a 10 story parking garage. As I wrote last December, his ownership of this property makes him the prime candidate to become the buyer of the OMNI CRA building.


Nor does this map show the other projects that are in various stages of development for most of the surrounding properties.

In yet another case last year, an appeal was filed by an adjoining property owner against a series of waivers the Melo Group received from the City’s Planning Department for their Bay House condo project in Edgewater.

Although the appeal was withdrawn before the hearing after the parties reached a settlement, the allegations underscore the kinds of problems that occur when waivers start being used to circumvent the provisions of Miami 21.


The problem has become acute because after the City Commission agrees at a public hearing to give a Development Agreement to one of these condo projects,they then turn around and waive their rights to any further review of these projects, leaving all future decisions to the City’s Planning Department.


This allows developers, their lawyers and the staff of the Planning and Zoning Department to engage in back room schemes that  sometime lead to major changes and revised warrants being issued by the Planning Department that limit both public awareness of what they’ve done or challenges to these changes.


Adding insult to injury is when the City’s Planning Staff is discovered to have coached developers on how to evade the requirements of Miami 21, as was alleged during a meeting of the Miami Beach City Commission last month during a heated discussion over the Watson Island project.


During that Commission meeting, Sam Dubbin, the attorney who is representing residents on Venetian Causeway against the Watson Island project, revealed the existence of a series of emails between the City of Miami Planning Department and the attorneys representing the Watson Island developers where the attorney for the Watson Island project acknowledged being coached on how to withhold critical information so that their application for a new MUSP application would be submitted in a manner that would be determined to represent “minor” changes, and then, after the fact, they could “go back with a revision submittal to add the skylights,” which would, had they been included as part of the MUSP application, have been considered a major change.

There’s a better possibility of Kim Kardashian becoming a nun than this property remaining vacant.


There is also no small amount of hypocrisy in Melo’s claim that, “traffic in downtown Miami will continue to deteriorate as more residential and commercial projects are built in Miami’s urban core,” if this project is not allowed to increase its building height  by 12 floors.


Currently, only TWO BLOCKS AWAY, the Melo Group is actively engaged in contributing to that traffic deterioration, and also to an increasing parking problem in the area with the construction of Melody, a 36 floor rental tower being built across the street from the Arsht Center.


The YIMBY website pointed out that the Melody project managed to get a waiver allowing them to get around the parking requirements of Miami 21, thereby insuring that overflow parking will be a problem around that building.

The issue today is not so much one opposing development as it is opposing an almost willful effort to push through as many of these projects as possible, and right in the center of the process is none other than Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose fingerprints don’t necessarily show up on every deal, but whose surrogate and sock puppet Alice Bravo, the Deputy City Manager’s fingers do.


Last year the Commission approved the Worldcenter mega project even though they were told repeatedly that what they were doing was illegal because they hadn’t bothered to comply with the notice requirements to the people in the immediate area.


The Commissioners basically told those who objected that they could blow that argument out of their ass, and approved the Development Agreement.


Next week, the City Commission will re-hear and revote on the Worldcenter Development Agreement because in fact they failed to comply with the law.


Time and again the City’s Planning and Zoning Department have failed to look out for the long-term interests of the city and it’s citizens, while going out of their way to coach and guide a handful of developers and their high-priced law firms on how to get around the provisions of Miami 21.


Most of the time the discovery of how these developers were allowed to pull a fast one only comes to light long after the fact when it’s impossible to do anything about it.


The most compelling evidence of how badly the City of Miami, and Miami-Dade County as well, have behaved in allowing some developers to get away with everything but murder is through the traffic congestion and gridlock that has become so bad that virtually everyone in Miami is now talking about it.


There are no longer “Rush Hours” in Miami!  It’s Rush Hour ALL THE TIME NOW, from early morning to late in the evening, and even on weekends!


I know, like all of you who read this know, that the traffic problem going to get worse, perhaps to the point where people just decide that no matter how blue the sky, and green the water, and sparkling the buildings,  living in Miami, or visiting Miami is just not worth the aggravation of having to sit in your car 20-30-40 minutes to get across the Brickell Avenue Bridge, or from one side of downtown to the other because the politicians - especially those in the City of Miami - are more interested in posing for pictures with developers and taking their campaign contributions, the donations to their ECO’s and Foundations, and doing them favors than they are in even thinking about putting a screeching halt to all of these efforts to circumvent the law.


If the City’s Planning Department AND the City’s Planning and Zoning Review Board both reject a proposal to circumvent the provisions of Miami 21, then that should be enough to stop that proposal in its tracks!  Period!!!

It’s Miami, Bitches!

CLICK ON THIS BAR TO SEE COMPLETE LIST OF WAIVERS ISSUED BY THE CITY OF MIAMI’S PLANNING DEPARTMENT IN 20142014_LIST_OF_WAIVERS.html