Latest News from City Hall

At Its First Meeting in January, the Coral Gables City Commission 

Voted 5-0 to set up sunshine meetings in late March to discuss the future of Biltmore Way. Vice Mayor Mena requested that the boards of each building on Biltmore Way present a consensus of their priorities, “To make sure that we are getting an accurate read on what the average people in the neighborhood want,” said Mena. 

Listened to an update on the traffic calming program that reduced residential speed limits from 30 to 25 mph in 2018. Over the next five years, the city will spend $1.5 million annually installing 123 traffic calming devices, including speed bumps, raised traffic crosswalks, raised pedestrian crossings and roundabouts. The first of five zones to be “calmed” will be the Alhambra area north of Coral Way; the entire project will finish by 2027. “We are never going to stop people driving through the city,” said Mayor Vince Lago. “But we can at least have people respect our streets.” 

Congratulated economic development Director Julian Perez, shown above, for receiving the Oliver Kerr Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Planning Association. New Urbanist (and Gables resident) Andres Duany was the previous recipient of this prestigious award. 

Listened to a presentation on funding the Community Recreation Master Plan. This decade-long project to upgrade the park system, including rebuilding the War Memorial Youth Center, will cost $160 million. To pay for it, bonds could be issued, funded by a slight increase in property taxes. Example: A homeowner who currently pays $5,559 a year will pay an additional $185 a year in 2023, $419 more in 2026, $481 more in 2029, and $561 more in 2033. 

Voted 5-0 to grant tax relief to the owners of a home at 800 Coral Way to help defray seven years of expenses to restore the property (recommended 8-0 by the Historic Preservation Board). 

Voted 5-0 to allow residential buildings in the Central Business District to rise from 190.5 feet to 205 feet if they limit units to 100 per acre. Currently, buildings in the CBD have unlimited density if they are capped at 190.5 feet. The height bonus also requires additional open space at the ground level. “We are sending a strong message that we want to see a green downtown,” said Mayor Lago. 

Listened to a presentation on the Coral Gables Garden Club/ Keep Coral Gables Beautiful Red Mangrove Propagation Project, which planted 1,300 mangroves in 20 “pools” of dirt behind Boy Scout Troop 7’s clubhouse on the Granada Golf Course. Shoutouts to Solange Lopez from the city and Grace Carricarte from the Garden Club. Sponsored by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson, who helped shovel the dirt. 

From City Hall in February

Voted 5-0 to extend outdoor street-side dining for all restaurants in Coral Gables until May 2022 – noting that if this becomes permanent, the city will have to address disability access. (Sponsored by Mayor Lago and Commissioner Anderson). 

Voted 5-0 to move forward with public hearings to address a zoning error that would allow buildings as high as 190 feet rise on the south side of Biltmore Way. Currently they are limited to 150 feet. City commissioners agreed that the change in zoning was accidental. (Sponsored by Commissioner Anderson). 

Listened to a proposal from FPL to partially “underground” power lines for city residences, by burying minor lines that feed power to homes. This would underground 40 percent of the city’s power grid within 10 years, funded entirely by FPL. The other option would be to bury all the main feeder lines, which would cost the city $350 to $400 million. A full report on the proposal is expected by March. 

Resolved to work with um to set up a high school “coding competition” in February 2023 for young programmers. (Sponsored by Commissioner Kirk Menendez). 

Resolved to proceed with creating designated Youth Zones around the city where there is a lot of outdoor activity by children and teens. (Sponsored by Commissioner Jorge Fors). 

Voted 5-0 to continue funding the downtown FreeBee for $483,000 annually.