At its last meeting at the end of May, the commissioners:
VOTED 5-0 TO EXTEND THE PERMISSION for restaurants to put tables outside on city streets and in city parking places. Large signage about being open, etc., will no longer be allowed.
LISTENED TO A PROPOSAL FOR A temporary dog park at Ponce de Leon and Mendoza Avenue, proposed by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson, in a lot made available by developers Location Acquisitions for a year.
APPROVED ON A SECOND VOTE ON A 10-story apartment building to rise along Madeira Ave. between Le Jeune and Salzedo. In exchange for size concessions, the developers agreed to provide a 5,000 square foot park, mature trees, all EV capable parking spots, and $235,000 toward streetscaping and traffic calming. The design of the project, a sheer 600-foot wall of apartments, prompted commissioners to initiate a change to the zoning code to limit future apartments to 300-feet in length.
REJECTED A REQUEST BY SUE KAWALERSKY, chair of the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB), for the TAB to become part of the design review process when a developer submits a plan that goes beyond the building code. An openly hostile Commissioner Michael Mena accused Kawalerski of using the TAB to insert her personal agenda into the process (Kawalerski is also president of the Coral Gables Neighbors Association, which opposes over-development of the city). The commission did agree to provide earlier and more complete information about new projects to the TAB so they can better assess, and comment upon, the impact for local traffic.
VOTED 5-0 TO CODIFY SANITARY RULES for construction sites, with penalties. The new rules include requirements that sites remain free from trash and debris, that dumpsters are not allowed to overflow, and that portable toilets must not block rights of way, must face inward, and must be kept odor free.
VOTED 5-0 TO CLARIFY THE NEW RULES ON sidewalk maintenance for commercial buildings “to make sure there are no loopholes,” said Mayor Vince Lago, who sponsored the item. As of June 30, all building owners are required to pressure clean their sidewalks twice a year.
LISTENED TO A PRESENTATION ABOUT the open house for membership registration at the new Coral Gables Country Club, held the previous weekend in front of the former Liberty Café. Some 200 residents applied for membership. City commissioners also listened to an update on the restoration of the club, which experienced significant damage during its years operated by private Canadian company Liberty Entertainment. The city will run the new Country Club; its gym reopened in June with new equipment, and the Liberty Café will now become Le Parc Café under a new concessionaire agreement.
TALKED FOR MORE THAN AN HOUR ABOUT whether to increase garbage collection fees $24 annually, from $902 to $926 (for early payers, from $770 to $794). Currently the city covers 27 percent of the cost, which includes four pickups weekly to 11,000 homes. One of those pickups is for trash pits, which costs the city $1.32 million each year – a sore spot for Mayor Lago, who pointed out that such pits are used by area landscapers to dump their green waste. The mayor led the 4-1 rejection of the fee increase, declaring he would not raise taxes for any reason, and called for a sunshine meeting to discuss other ways to mitigate the cost for residents – including the possible elimination of trash pits. Vice Mayor Mena called for a referendum on trash pits.
DISCUSSED WAYS TO ENFORCE THE curb on electric scooters on Miracle Mile and adjacent blocks of Ponce de Leon, following a recent accident between a pedestrian and scooter rider on the Mile. The scooters are supposed to have a GPS program that shuts motors if operated in restricted areas. Commissioner Anderson, who sponsored the discussion, also complained that scooters were being parked in inappropriate places. Police Chief Ed Hudak noted that only 13 incidents had been reported since 2018, when the scooter program began, and only eight incidents were documented by police, most involving cars hitting scooters. Since the program began, more than 200,000 rides have taken place.
APPROVED AN UPDATE ON NEW TYPES of plants allowed in the swales in front of private homes, sponsored by Commissioner Anderson.
LISTENED TO AN INITIAL REPORT ON THE placement of bicycle lanes on Valencia and Andalusia, between Segovia and Ponce, to connect bikers to the future Mobility Hub. The issue remains highly complex, due to potential loss of trees and difficulties crossing traffic circles.
VOTED 5-0 TO REVIEW AND UPDATE THE ongoing safety measures for schools, a request “obviously prompted by the recent school shooting in Texas,” said Commissioner Jorge Fors, who sponsored the item. Police Chief Hudak told commissioners that school personnel would be equipped with personal “panic buttons,” and expressed concern about parents who were starting to take matters into their own hands by “trying to breach their schools” during classroom hours.