Planning & Zoning Board Unanimously Votes To Deny 17-story Tower

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
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In a meeting that carried on for over three hours, the Coral Gables Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously to deny all seven requests for W. Allen Morris’ Ponce Park Residences.

As previously reported on Gables Insider, Ponce Park Residences is a planned 179 foot 17-story tower with 161 residential units and over 18,000 square feet of commercial, at the corner of University Drive and Ponce de Leon Boulevard, requesting the City vacate University Drive to allow the developer to maximize on their ability to build.

Over 100 residents attended the meeting in person and via Zoom and many of them spoke out in opposition of the project. Developer Morris was a no-show, not making himself available to answer any of the Board’s or resident’s concerns.

De Yurre Attacks The Media

Morris’ attorney, Anthony De Yurre, spoke on Morris’ behalf and attempted to make the case for this project, which one resident referred to as an “indecent proposal.”

De Yurre began his presentation by attacking the media for its reporting of this project, using what has become the most commonly used words by those in Coral Gables who are seeking to skirt the facts, “misinformation.”

De Yurre went on to present their side of the arguments:

  1. De Yurre states that “this is not a free gift of land, the City is keeping the land. Right now it is held in trust as we have a reversionary interst over it as a reversionary owner should it be vacated and that’s what we are asking.” He added that they will be “giving the City a portion of our property.”
  2. “The proposed project was a brainchild of the City in its beautification of Ponce de Leon Blvd”
  3. He explained that they had reduced the project from 190.6 feet to 179 feet.
  4. “There are 200 pages of accidents, and I was told in hearings that these are lies.” He showed diagrams of seven accidents before stating he would spare the board’s time, as there are “hundreds of pages.”

Trias Responds

The City’s Director of Planning and Zoning, Ramon Trias, followed De Yurre’s presentation. “I have never seen such a complicated application in my many years now working in this business,” he said.

A point of contention from residents had been Morris’ comments at a neighborhood meeting earlier this year, where he stated that the idea of vacating University Drive had derived from City staff. Trias countered this assessment, “the vacation of University Drive has been portrayed by the applicant as the City’s idea, and I don’t think that’s accurate.” He later added, “the applicant attempted to reflect the plan with the designs. Their decision to do this as part of their parcel had very significant effects on the FAR and just overall impacts on the project.”

Trias explained that many concerns had been voiced on numerous occasions to the developer and his team and changes were not made. “The timeline of the review goes back a long time. About a year or so ago it went to the DRC, then it went to Board of Architects several times, there were neighborhood meetings in November of 2020. There were some other meetings to discuss the project and today we have the Planning and Zoning Board meeting or the second Planning and Zoning Board Meeting, because as you know the first time we saw this was some months ago. So what happens is that, during that time, in my perspective, the project has not changed significantly. The applicant may say we made some changes, and they are right, they made some changes, but in terms of a significant redesign that would address some of the concerns, I don’t think that has taken place. So that is why they are presenting a project that is basically the same project that they presented last time.”

Over the course of the year, residents have often asked what is allowed for the developer to build as-of-right, a term often used by the City Commission. Trias explained that it was a difficult question to answer, because our code does not provide a definition for as-of-right. “If one were to ask the question today, what is currently allowed without any changes, without any Med Bonus, without any alley vacation or anything like that, we would be looking at a 4-story, 45-feet, two buildings one on one side of the alley one on the other side of the alley. I think that what happens is that the request is a big change. The applicant is asking for 179, but the actual request of the land use plus the Med bonus that applies to that land use is 190. 150 is the compound height without the Med Bonus, 190 is with the Med Bonus level 2.”

Slide from Trias’ presentation showing what is allowed by code (left) and what the developer has requested (right).

“Change of land use is the biggest change…what has been requested is the highest land use that we have. The land use gives you the extra height,” Trias added.

Trias recommended the denial of six of seven requests from the applicant and later changed his lone holdout on the vacation of the alley to recommend denial of all seven requests.

Residents Speak

One-by-one, residents spoke out against the project. Their concerns were numerous. Not a single resident spoke in support of the project.

Jennifer Davis, a resident who explained she was steps away from the proposed project, voiced her concerns with the potential traffic impact in the area. She explained that their dead end street had a Police study conducted, which found that “we were receiving 400 cars a-day in traffic and that is a lot of cars on a dead end road where you have 14 children, one is a baby. People regularly play in the streets, because we don’t have much backyard space.” She added, “we play in the front, we play in the park and that’s where we congregate as a community and this excessive over-development really has an impact on our lives and our quality of life…we have severe concerns about the excessive development that’s occurring in the city it’s so close to our homes.”

Serralta and daughter

Yanira Serralta who held her young daughter as she spoke, explained that this was not the reason they moved into Coral Gables. She expressed the concerns over raising children in this neighborhood and explained that, “the way things are going, I don’t see a good future here.”

Dr. Eduardo Gonzalez Hernandez, a surgeon and 20-year resident explained that, “this is not a Mediterranean plan. This is not a decent project, this is an indecent proposal.” He turned to De Yurre and questioned him on his comments about creating something special, “You’re creating something very special you said. You are destroying something very special I would say.”

Oscar Sosa explained that, “we feel that it’s going to encroach on our lifestyle. The city already, we think, committed an error when they approved The Plaza. It’s huge and it’s creating so many problems for our living.”

Sosa spoke about De Yurre’s comments earlier in the meeting regarding the project not being the largest in the area, “what the developer always mentions is there are another 6 buildings out there that are bigger than this one. Just because you committed a few mistakes before, you don’t have to do the same thing.”

Sosa also added that neighbors had requested copies of the accident reports De Yurre referenced. He explained that of the 200 plus pages De Yurre presented, only 17 accidents had actually taken place in 20 years at the University Drive location the developer seeks the City vacate.

John Fisher took the issue of the growing development in the area further, “we need a moratorium in construction in this area. I know a lot of people say its not possible. Why not? Its time!

The Board

Every member of the Planning and Zoning Board spoke out with concerns about the project. Their concerns mirrored those of residents. They challenged the developer on not having made substantive changes to the project prior to coming before their board.

Trias recommended the board defer the items to provide the developer an opportunity to amend the application. However, Board Member and former City Commissioner Wayne “Chip” Withers interjected saying the developer should take the project up before the Commission with what would seem to be a denial vote from the board.

De Yurre stated they would be willing to go back and present a project that takes into account the suggestions heard at this meeting. But as residents, Trias and Withers had pointed out, the comments heard at this meeting had been heard for a year at every prior meeting and Morris had only made minor changes.

Board Member Venny Torre, a developer himself, spoke to the need for a revision of the City’s zoning maps. He explained that the map is confusing and calls for drastic contrasts between one property and an other. He also questioned the ability to build higher, if the developer is able to amass a larger plot of land.

In the end the Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously to deny all seven requests from the developer. The application would now go before the City Commission who could still approve the project, as the Planning and Zoning Board’s vote is only a recommendation for the Commission’s consideration. Morris could also withdraw his application, although doing so would subject his project to any changes to the Mediterranean Bonus that could derive from the Blue Ribbon Committee’s suggestions.


25 thoughts on “Planning & Zoning Board Unanimously Votes To Deny 17-story Tower

  1. US democracy is in disgrace under federal regime tyrannical class lineage of 9 justice vitalize confirmed out 2/3 senators with 13 Federal Courts Appeals Filters on 50 Supreme State & Spy FISACourt agencies clandestine breached due process in violation of the bill of rights of written constitution. US democracy isn’t a bipartisan regime of consensus by its own rules. US democracy being of us residents by ID voters cast your optional secret vote will only inside polls precinct for suffrage. The Vote isn’t a rights, is a civic will to his unrestricted acting of duty for choose for give legitimacy the candidate winner. Democracy isn’t a system, it’s the sovereign will of the majority of resident ID voters, who choose their leaders for terms period to be servants of all. USAGov was assaulted by bipartisan-virus bat done high treason by its coup in 1.6.21 to put Biden to hide body Osama 911 Bush by its statutory method in impersonate faux vote drop mail felony did not elected any official 2020 to USA republic. Time to defense US JCS Mil & Militias WR to calls update news general Election Day by ID voters cast your vote will only Inside polls for suffrage. Or USA is already to dissolved.

  2. Thank you Mr. Ortiz, we have reviewed the article and made corrections. We appreciate your willingness to help!

  3. The democracy is in disgrace with a federal regime tyrannical class lineage impostors of 9 justice vitalize confirmed out 2/3 senators with 13 Federal Courts Appeals Filters on 50 Supreme State Court and Spy FISACourt agencies clandestine breached due process in violation of the bill of rights of written constitution that replaces the monarchies.

    Democracy is not a bipartisan regime of consensus breached due process on the law, the democracy being of us the residents by ID voters that cash your optional secret vote will only inside polls precinct for suffrage. the vote is not rights, is a will civic to his inalienable acting of duty for choose for give legitimacy the candidate winner.

    #Democracy is not a system, it is the sovereign will of the majority of resident ID voters, they are who choose their leaders for terms period to be their servants of all.

    There cartel bipartisan are infiltrators in all US governances. An atrocity & high treason bipartisan done its coup in 1.6.21 to put Biden to hide body Osama 911 Bush by statutory method in impersonate faux vote drop mail felony did not elected any official 2020 to USA republic representative 50 State Union.

  4. Best Solution to Stop More Gables Overdevelopment is for grassroots groups to unite with Big Developers, who are finishing their projects now & trying to lease apartments or retail space. Maybe reach out to their lobbyists/ attorneys who are friendly with the politicians? It is in their best interest that their competitors are hindered so that they can lease all of those empty units & also get higher rents.

  5. So proud of my fellow Gablites!! We have to stop the over development of City Beautiful!

  6. As Say NO NO NO has pointed out, this is likely just posturing and we will end up with a “scaled down” monstrosity, but still a monstrosity. Like all the other concrete monstrosities the City has approved over the last 8 years. Just wait and see.

  7. People, this is just a cat and mouse game. It is done frequently. The developer submits a proposal that we all know will be rejected. Then they go back and scale it down, and 90% of the time it is accepted. Morris has 2 proposals and watch, he will submit one that is a little smaller and it will go through. This is a developers game and the Board knows it.
    Again, we do not want any more construction. Place a moratorium on building approvals for 1 year. This City does not look like Coral Gables anymore and I would never live west of US1 near downtown. It has lost its charm not like South Gables, that still looks like our City Beautiful. The leaders have turned it into a congested mess with decreased sunlight and open breathing room

  8. Glad to see P&Z voted down this proposed abuse of zoning laws however unbelievably the commission can still approve it. Commission powers must be curtailed immediately. Mr Trias excellent chart above shows “Curent by Right Development Potential” take it or leave it nobody cares how much money applicant has. Vacate alley & vital road (University Dr) for free? Is applicant going to rent these luxury apartments for free?

    The just West Crafts Section 300 Block of Malaga (North side) + Catalonia (south side) to rear were recently & reasonably rezoned commercial low rise (5-6 stories) with current application in place by large Georgia/Texas apartment developer for >300 units while directly in front South side of 300 Malaga Block was denied the same rezoning which it was promised by city originally-apparently due to issues with an existing & ancient apartment building on another block (Catalonia & Lejeune).

  9. Congrats! We approved the monstrosity across the park, but killed an elegant proposal on this neglected corner.

  10. Would you look at that?! Seems that all the crying that was done on this issue in previous articles was all for not. I have no doubt the commission will follow the P&Z recommendation. I suspect that this project will go back for further revisions.

    Let’s allow this commission to do its job without allowing ourselves to be worked up in a frenzy by a few bad apples who are looking for personal gain. Let’s not allow these bad apples to divide us. Calling for special elections, recalls, etc. is just an attempt to coerce elected officials who already share the same point of view as most residents. This is why they were elected.

    With that said, let’s not be 100% against change. Some projects will come about that do make sense for the City. This Morris project does not make sense and the process is taking care of that. Well done by all involved.

    Pete M.

  11. It was encouraging to see the board really listening to residents and siding with us. I live a few blocks away and am already dreading the impact the Plaza will have on our neighborhood.

    As it stands, going out and crossing a University or Ponce in our area right now is taking life into your hands. I live in the residential part of Salzedo and some cars pass at speeds that would kill on the spot any pedestrian. We need to be able to walk, bike, socialize in our neighborhoods without excessive or dangerous traffic. We need to be able to maintain clean air, which will be hard with the parking from the Plaza spewing smoke into surrounding neighborhoods and all the excess traffic from over development.

    We need to look at the Gables, our downtown and the area surrounding downtown and decide what kind of a city we want. Full of high rises and crowded with people, or a city that is beautiful and thoughtfully developed to allure visitors and maintain our lifestyle.

  12. The entrance to University Drive at Ponce de Leon Blvd would become part of the property. Cars would then have to make a 90 degree turn on Malaga then continue on University Drive. In essence, University Drive would no longer intersect with Ponce de Leon Blvd, it would now intersect at Malaga only. The area where the street is would partially become part of the building and the other part, a park. It would ensure the developer can increase on the FAR (Floor Area Ratio) they can build.

  13. Your report is very detailed! However, Would you please explain how a “vacation” of university drive would look to a lay person? Are we talking about the actual street being closed permanently to traffic? Or something else?

  14. Glad to hear the “project” was denied. Now is up to our Mayor & the Commissioners to do the same. Get to work, safeguard our neighborhoods from over development, don’t bow to the developers vs the residents who elected you. I have faith in our new Mayor and the Commissioners to do what is in the best interest of the residents. Thank you to the members of the board, are we finally seeing the light at the end of “Mediterranean” bonus, by right, etc. etc.?

  15. Thank you Ms. Perez. He mentioned 42 in the surrounding area, but only 17 were in the area to be vacated.

  16. I attended and spoke at the meeting and am very happy with not only the Board’s independent responses and assessments of the proposed project, but also their courtesy and patience in allowing the residents’ concerns to be heard and their consideration of those concerns.
    Just as a point of clarification, I believe Mr. Sosa stated that there were about 42/43 accidents at University Dr. and Ponce. He then made a more detailed reference to 17 of the accidents but I believe the total was 42 or 43. A number, by the way, which is much more consistent with my memory over the last 25+ years that I’ve lived in this neighborhood – not “200 pages” of accidents.

  17. Thanks for reporting on this. I’m a longtime Miami resident, recently moved back to the area. I’m horrified by the rampant development that has been allowed to overwhelm the area. The result is unbelievably increased traffic and a distortion of what was—for my whole life—a truly beautiful area.

  18. Finally, the citizens — instead of Supreme Court Citizens United Case empowered usurper developers destroying Coral Gables — are beginning to be heard.

    I cannot ethically justify what I consider to be the surrender of principles by our elected leaders during this developer corrupted era.

    Winning IS NOT everything.

    Being elected City Commissioner / Mayor is NOT worth destroying Coral Gables as a suburb!!!

    Imagine for a moment people running for office in Nicaragua, under corrupt Daniel Ortega’s reign. How much sacrifice of their morals and principles can be justified in the name of winning???

    The Supreme Court Citizens United decision has effectively ended democracy in Coral Gables.

    Nonetheless, I submit our elected leaders have compromised and hurt Coral Gables too much in serving developers in the name of “winning”.

    Winning isn’t everything in Nicaragua, and winning isn’t everything in Coral Gables.


    Jackson Rip Holmes

  19. Congratulations Coral Gables!!!!! Great outcome to the meeting. The community has spoken!

  20. Ariel, good article but you have several typos that take away from the subject matter. I suggest that use spell check and have someone other than yourself to proofread it. Just a suggestion.

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