At the November 14 Commission Meeting Vice Mayor Anderson presented to the community proposed enhancements to the Mediterranean Bonus (Med Bonus) which were reviewed and approved unanimously by the BOA, in order to strengthen the intent and purpose of the Med bonus. The city of Coral Gables is privileged to have a qualified board of architects to review projects’ designs, and the Med Bonus allows them the opportunity to request higher quality of design, not only in Mediterranean style, but also in design in general. However, in order to be able to improve the quality of Mediterranean design the BOA is recommending a few enhancements .
Among some of the improvements proposed are: to require developers to present to the BOA for conceptual review prior to the developer submitting a DRC application (now the conceptual review is optional); and to expand the list of images of precedent buildings to include taller Mediterranean buildings (now the BOA only has the Biltmore hotel as a precedent for taller buildings). However, during the discussion after the presentation, the city manager and a couple of other people in the dais objected to the conceptual review requirement. The city manager was against the proposed required conceptual review step because he said that the role of the BOA does not include reviewing height of proposed projects since height is a zoning issue. However, the Coral Gables zoning code does require that the BOA evaluates the whole building, including height, context and compatibility when reviewing applications.
According to the city of Coral Gables website the BOA is responsible for determining whether development applications satisfy the Desing Review Standards in Article 5 and Division 6 of our Zoning Code. (see link here: https://www.coralgables.com/department/development-services/board-architects)
Section 5 of the zoning code contains the Design Review Standards that BOA members must follow to review projects. In section 5-103 of the Design and Review standards HEIGHT must be considered. From the code: “In considering the design of the building, the Board of Architects shall consider and render a decision as to the adequacy of the following: 1. Awnings and canopies 2. Colors. 3. Decorative lighting 4. doors 5. Height of the Building, etc.….” Therefore, according to this section of the code, one cannot review design without considering height.
In Section 5-103 Architectural Style letter B the code says “ the architectural context of an area includes height, scale, massing, separation between buildings, and style, in regard to how buildings and structures relate to each other within a specified area”
Moreover, In the city of Coral Gables’ zoning code the word context appears nine times and the word compatibility twelve times. It is a fact that in the the city’s code the concepts of design, height, and context are interconnected and interrelated and should be considered holistically when reviewing a project.
Below is the code’s definition of Compatibility verbatim from article 16.
Compatibility means the characteristics of different uses or activities or design which allow them to be located near or adjacent to each other in harmony. Some elements affecting compatibility include height, scale, mass and bulk of structures, pedestrian or vehicular traffic, circulation, access and parking impacts …. .“ Rather compatibility refers to the sensitivity of development proposals in maintaining the character of existing development”.
To divorce height and context from the design review process will be inconsistent with our zoning code. Separating and disconnecting height and context from a design discussion at the BOA is not only illogical but it is against the zoning code. If we want to protect our neighborhoods and preserve aesthetic value and our city’s character, the BOA must adhere to the zoning code and consider height, context, and compatibility. To require a conceptual review of the proposed project from developers is a fantastic idea that will save everyone time and money. Residents cannot go on fighting projects block-by-block and developers will know sooner than later that they need to reduce height and change the design before moving forward. Please ask the commissioners to pass the Med Bonus Enhancements that were already approved by the BOA.
Maria Cristina Longo
Coral Gables Resident
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