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The Coral Gables Planning and Zoning Board was scheduled to consider five separate votes on Ponce Park Residences, the project proposed by RC Acquisitions, LLC and P&J Enterprise Holdings, LLC, at its May 11th meeting.
However, a glaring error in the notification sent to the legally required properties surrounding the project provided two separate times for the meeting. Following a letter sent by the attorney representing residents in the Crafts Section who are opposed to the project, David Winker; as well as inquiries made by resident Maria Cruz and those of Ariel Fernandez of Gables Insider; the City decided to postpone the matter to the June 8th Planning and Zoning Board meeting.
As previously reported on Gables Insider, Ponce Park Residences began as 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.
Changes From First Proposal
The plan has changed, but the requests are still above what the Code allows. The new proposal is for a 149-foot tower standing at 12-stories. The largest change is that there is no longer a request to vacate University Drive. However, the vacation of the City’s alley is still at play. They have increased the FAR from 4.03 to 4.375 and reduced the density from 161 residences to 81 residences with a reduction of commercial space to 15,671 square feet.
CORRECTION: There is a request for the City to vacate 407 square feet of University Drive to facilitate the angle they wish to give the building.
Second Try At The Planning And Zoning Board
This will be the second time the project goes before the Planning and Zoning Board. As previously reported, in August of 2021, over 100 residents attended the meeting in person and via Zoom and many of them spoke out in opposition of the project. Morris was a no-show, not making himself available to answer any of the Board’s or resident’s concerns. The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously voted against the project.
Gifts From The City
Part of the requirement to ensure maximum return on investment for the developer, is the gift of an alley and its FAR from the City of Coral Gables or, in reality, a gift from it’s residents to ensure the developer can build higher.
Neighbors have been voicing their concerns for this project for months. The vacation of the alley represents 3,002 square feet, which would ensure the developer is able to maximize the Floor Area Ratio (FAR).
In addition to these FARs, the City would seemingly be performing a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). The developer is requesting a TDR receipt of 37,581 square feet. Another gift, as the project is not within the allowed areas designated under the City code.
Mysterious Commission TDR Vote Explained
Interestingly, this answers the confusing vote taken by the Commission at the May 31st City Commission meeting. At that meeting, Item F-4 stated that, “As requested by the City Commission, a Zoning Code text amendment is proposed to allow the City Commission to designate a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) receiving site when located in a Planned Area Development (PAD) and zoned Mixed Use 2 (MX2) or Mixed-Use 3 (MX3). Currently there are 3 receiving sites in Coral Gables: Central Business District (CBD), North Ponce Mixed Use District Overlay, and the Design & Innovation District Overlay. The proposed text amendment would allow the City Commission to designate a TDR receiving site outside of these 3 boundaries when the site is a Planned Area Development (PAD) and zoned mixed-use (MX2 or MX3). The receiving site would be subject to the review criteria in Section 14-204.6.” In other words, the Commission would have the right to allow receiving of TDRs outside the three approved areas, much like this site which sits outside of the three. Again, 37,581 square feet is the request on the table.
There is no reason to believe the Commission was aware what the vote was entirely for.
City Manager Fully Supports Project
Not surprisingly, City Manager Peter Iglesias has signed off on his support of this project, as proposed, outside of the City’s code.
Of note, since the August Planning and Zoning Board meeting, Iglesias’ calendar shows he has had two meetings with Morris. He had an hour and 35 minute meeting with Morris at City Hall on August 31st, as well as an hour-long breakfast with Morris On April 5th. He also met for 30 minutes with Morris’ attorney Anthony de Yurre on March 10th. There is no record of a meeting between the Manager and Winker or residents from the Crafts section about their opposition to this project over the last 12 months.
The Planning and Zoning Board will meet on Wednesday, June 8th at 6:00PM at City Hall. You can watch the meeting on Zoom https://zoom.us/j/8378870951.