At its First March Meeting, The City Commission:
Voted 4-0 to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to support the Ukrainian people, and to urge cruise lines and airlines to immediately cease all travel to Russia, due to the unprovoked attack. (Sponsored by Mayor Vince Lago and Commissioner Kirk Menendez).
Voted 4-0 to return the south side of Biltmore Way to its original MF2 designation that prevents the use of the Mediterranean Bonus to increase height and density. The area had been “accidentally” upgraded to MF4, which would have allowed height to go from 150 to 190 feet, and units from 60 to 75 per building. The commission declined to change its decades-old MF4 zoning on the north side, which could have sparked lawsuits.
Listened to County Commissioner Raquel Regalado explain that peacocks in The Gables are a protected species and cannot be trapped and killed but must be sent to a “sanctuary” with permission from the county. She also advised the city to send an MOU regarding limiting county developments along the city’s transportation corridor and commended Mayor Lago for requesting a TPO (Transportation Planning Organization) study on how traffic on US1 could be mitigated.
Delayed until this month a decision to allow the Biltmore to charge fees for its West Parking Lot. The hotel wants to charge fees to discourage residents from using the lot for long-term airport parking, or parking service vehicles, which prevents hotel guests from using it. Mayor Lago wanted staff to explore using the city parking department to run the lot; either way, some of the income would go to the city, some to be used to maintain the lot and the historic hotel .
Listened to a presentation by Polco, a national research center, on their results from surveying the opinions of residents on issues ranging from traffic, urban design, and utilities to safety, parks, and culture.
Voted 5-0 to grant relief to the Biltmore Hotel on the amount of insurance its operators, the Seaway Group needs to carry. The current requirement of $200 million was reduced to $100 million, based on engineering studies that showed there was 2 percent chance that any single event (such as a Hurricane) would cause more than $30 million in damages.
Voted 3-0 on first reading to permit a Mediterranean style, seven-story, 2-acre residential/retail complex in the block bordered by Catalonia Avenue, Salzedo Street, Malaga Avenue and Le Jeune Road (shown above). Commissioner Menendez, a property owner in the block, recused himself from the vote (Commissioner Michael Mena was also absent). Commissioners were pleased by the amount of green space set aside, including a 7,000-sqaure foot park, where three “specimen” oaks on the property will be relocated. “This is a significant public benefit to move these specimen oaks,” said Commissioner Rhonda Anderson. “It sends a message that we are committed to saving the canopy” said Mayor Lago, who wrote the legislation requiring green space to be on the ground floor.
Voted 4-0 to authorize the use of $600,000 from development impact fees for art in public places to pay for two seven-foot sculptures by Cuban-born artist Zilia Sánchez. Called “Concepto 1” the two painted bronze pieces will be “facing each other as if in conversation” in the courtyard of the newly renovated 427 Biltmore Way city building, said city arts and culture director Catherine Cathers.
Voted 5-0 to use city funds to renovate Burger Bob’s iconic eatery on the Granada Golf Course, to maintain it as a local, inexpensive community diner.
Admonished representatives from the Riviera Country Club for failing to put in improvements – such as landscaping, lighting, sidewalks, etc. – on the portion of Blue Road that runs in front of the club’s entrance. The plans were approved in 2019 by the county, but did not include pavers for crosswalks, part of the original agreement with the city. The country club wants to asphalt the street, a less expensive alternative, and has not started on any other improvements. “Three years is unacceptable,” said Mayor Lago. Agreed Commissioner Anderson, “We need to get this done as originally agreed on. On the pavers I’m not going to budge.” Commissioners voted 5-0 that work should start immediately while the plans are altered to include the pavers.
Delayed until this month whether to pursue a master plan to upgrade the city’s entire parks and recreation system. The plan would have to be approved by residents in a referendum this November election. While Commissioner Menendez advocates the program as “leaving a legacy that families can enjoy for years and years,” the mayor questioned the wisdom of encumbering residents with increases in property taxes to pay for the program, which could cost between $90 million and $160 million, depending on the scope of the work.