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The City Commission held an evening sunshine meeting on June 14th to discuss the City’s Mediterranean Bonuses. The meeting had been requested by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson at her first Commission meeting on May 11th.
The City offered a 30-minute presentation on Mediterranean bonuses, made by Ramon Trias the City’s Director of Planning and Zoning.
According to the City’s website, “The Coral Gables Mediterranean Style Design Standards are provided in the Zoning Code as an incentive to property owners to encourage and expand the creative use of the various architectural styles in association with promoting public realm improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists in exchange for development bonuses that provide amenities and features typically provided in Mediterranean style buildings. The intent of the ‘Coral Gables Mediterranean Architecture’ design bonuses is to continue the support of George Merrick’s vision consistent with the established historic building fabric of the City and enhance the image of the City by providing a visual linkage between contemporary development and the City’s unique historic thematic appearance. Bonuses provided via the Coral Gables Mediterranean Style Design Standards are granted in a two level bonus program. The 1st level of bonuses is intended for all types of architectural design while the 2nd level of bonuses requires development in adherence to Coral Gables Mediterranean Architectural Design.”
Over 300 residents attended the meeting, nearly 100 in person and over 200 via Zoom.
Dr. Enique Bernal, a resident on Valencia Avenue, spoke about the changes his neighborhood has endured due to zoning changes and the effects of the Mediterranean Bonuses. “The Commission took rights away from us for rights given to the developers.” As reported on Gables Insider, a Court decision in March ruled the City Commission had violated the zoning code in approving a settlement granting concessions to a developer on Bernal’s block. “It feels like bad faith,” he added, “it seems like collusion between the City and developers.” “You can give extra rights to developers and we can’t do anything about it.”
Bernal was voicing his concerns over the increased FAR (Floor Area Ratio) the City’s Mediterranean Bonuses grant developers. Irrately, City Manager Peter Iglesias replied to Bernal by saying “as a physicist you can get a calculator and run the numbers.”
Every resident who spoke expressed their interest in seeing the Mediterranean bonus changed, some proposed a different approach: changing the code to require Mediterranean architecture and placing penalties that reduce the FAR for those who do not comply with the Mediterranean requirement, rather than giving bonuses for adding the features.
Alberto Manrara, member of the City’s Property Advisory Board, was the last resident to speak and urged the commission to ask themselves, “Is it good for the residents? If you cannot answer yes, vote it down.”
What To Expect Next
The Commissioners expressed their gratitude to residents for voicing their opinions on the issue, and committed to continuing to engage with residents concerns on this issue. However, they were clear that no changes should be expected by residents any time soon.
No additional meetings have currently been scheduled, but they did say any one of them could place the item on the agenda for a future Commission meeting.