UPDATED: Second Time’s The Charm? Staff Asks Planning And Zoning Board To Approve All Developer Requests For Massive Project On Wednesday

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
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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.

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19 thoughts on “UPDATED: Second Time’s The Charm? Staff Asks Planning And Zoning Board To Approve All Developer Requests For Massive Project On Wednesday

  1. The developer wants a building almost twice as high as the code allows, and he presented this as a concession. It’s shameful. The proposed building is literally on our doorsteps, and it will irrevocably destroy our neighborhood’s quality of life. We all need to express our strong opposition to the commission before the project comes up for a vote.

  2. The P&Z meeting on Wednesday left me wondering why neighbors [abutting the area] were listened to but not heard. Plea after plea from residents asking for the board to hold the development to what code allows, went unanswered, and worse, ignored. With the exception of board member Claudia Miro, who empathized and acknowledged residents concerns, the others spent the time negotiating with the developer’s attorney for the right to vacate
    the alley [alleys are protected under Merrick’s master plan and the request to vacate the alley was denied by the Historic Preservation Board back in October] in order to enjoin the two parcels. This is a key concession. Without the alley, the developer cannot build higher. The code allows 77 feet/7 stories, the developer’s new proposal is a 149-foot tower standing at 12-stories.

    Ms. Miro was the lone dissenter.

    Developers should stay “in their lane” as the saying goes. Keep hands off public land and build within code. This should remedy the issue.

    In the end, it will come before the commission for final approval, let’s hope they will follow Ms. Miro, empathize and acknowledge residents concerns, and vote NO to the concessions.

  3. Wealthier folks, who’d spend money downtown & at Merrick Park, prefer smaller buildings. They are the ones shelling out $4M for Gables townhouses, so why not do less but more expensive units? Less is more. Exclusivity, not a beehive. Give the developer the alley in exchange for reducing FAR. Point out to developers, money is in luxury real estate. So many neighbors a lunacy in the COVID era. Rich people aren’t usually stupid.

  4. Ms Feijoo nailed it… young aggressive politicians surrounded by seasoned professional politicians being influenced by big pocket developers.
    Elect new blood folks or things will only get worse.

  5. DeSantis and Núñez spent quality time in the Gables just a couple of weeks ago. Hobnobing with the Commision and City Manager.
    Imagine the impression the local yokels must have made on him that he flies back to Tallahassee and vetoes their pet project!
    Thank you, Guv!

  6. Don’t go further than L’Ego. Iglesias doesn’t do anything without knowing he has Mayor’s approval first.

  7. Urban jungle in septic tank city. North Ponce de Leon between the mile and the trail is a pockmarked
    street full of bumps. Lots of corroded sidewalks , some patched with paving instead of concrete , so called staff errors and mistakes or outright dereliction and incompetence or worse.
    Are there still any politicians left that will say no to further development is the city and no to any variances, favors, allowances , special treatment and yes to repairs and maintenance first and foremost before spending any money on so called amenities , art projects , and other frivolities?
    If there are any , please run for office so we can clean up the swamp.

  8. This is unbelievable how the younger politicians just see money in their pockets. They don’t care about the city, density or the neighborhood. Shame on you. Corruption big time.

  9. Vince Lago: WHERE ARE YOU? . Ms Anderson: WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? I voted for you guys.

  10. Make no mistake. This is all Lagos’s doing. Just watch Lagos’s puppet Behar at PZB hearing. CM Iglesias does not lift a finger without Lagos’s approval. I’m guessing Trias had had enough and left.

  11. Hey Lago and Commissioners, BUYERS REMORSE. Where are you in protecting our City or are you all in the developers pocket like the City Manager, WHO NEEDS TO GO? We have been pushed around enough and you have crossed the line way too many times. We will take our City back next election, and show all of you the door. NO MORE DEVELOPMENT. We are tired of the City staff telling us what we need. Grateful DeSantis nixed the money for the HUB, so now maybe it will not be completed. And your total lack of vision shows when you build that much retail space in an area that has a huge amount of empty space available. With a crumbling economy, there will be a lot more space open and your building will sit empty with huge rental costs. You have destroyed our City and its ambience.

  12. This is becoming very alarming. The City cannot keep doing this! Everyone needs to spread the word on social media and make all their neighbors aware. Please attend the Planning and Zoning Board on Wednesday, June 8th at 6:00PM at City Hall or via Zoom, but be there! This needs to STOP!

  13. The developer can build a quality project WITHIN code without concessions upon concessions from the City and its residents.

  14. Thank your home town boy Commissioner Menendez.
    The poor little orphan boy who ran around the same neighborhood with his I grew up in Coral Gables – son of a single mom and on your side when he was actually in the developer’s pockets with his lucrative land sales in the same area after his election. Vote him out on the next go around. A real phony.

  15. This project was met with overwhelming opposition by the residences. They can build a project the meets the code, but this requires complete modification outside the code to pass. If this passes, it will show that this city is no longer a place where resident input matters.

  16. Once again the City Beautiful residents find themselves at the mercy of the City staff! Could there be a connection between the City Manager’s desire to see his legacy project, also known as the Mobility Hub, become a reality and Ponce Park Residences? Isn’t Mr Morris the developer who was left holding the bag when the City decided to build the Garage 7 replacement? Wasn’t Mr de Yurre the attorney who expressed his discontent when the City decided to take more time to commence the Mobility Hub than what he thought was agreed to? Could this be the reason for Ramon Trias’ unexpected resignation? Does anyone smell something rotten?
    Who will stand up and stop this?

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