Latest News From City Hall

At Its November Meeting, the Coral Gables City Commission: 

Voted 5-0 to ban smoking in all parks owned and operated by the city. Sponsored by Mayor Vince Lago.

Requested That City Staff Explore options for installing solar panels in the Granada Clubhouse on the edge of the first hole of the Granada Golf Course. The installation is based on a forthcoming grant from the Villagers organization via a donation from member and historic advocate Sallye Jude. “It’s a long time coming, and we need to set this example,” said Commissioner Rhonda Anderson, who sponsored the item along with Mayor Lago.

Voted 5-0 to amend the master lease with the Shops at Merrick Park to allow 400 spaces in their parking garages to be used as parking for neighborhood residential developments. Commissioner Michael Mena suggested that any such use be limited to upper floors so as not to interfere with primary parking for shoppers.

Voted 5-0 to accept changes to the “peafowl ordinance” previously passed by the Commission to control the spread of peacocks. The ordinance required approval by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, which tentatively approved it on the condition of making the language about humane removal and relocation a little clearer and entertaining a neutering plan. “I’ve had a lot of residents call me,” said Mayor Lago, especially from households along the Le Jeune Road border with Coconut Grove, where peacocks have proliferated. “Please do not make the situation worse,” he said.

“Do not feed the peafowl, please!” Lago said he had complaints that a resident in the Chinese Village was feeding the wild birds. Now that the ordinance has passed, the city will find the companies that can remove them, said City Manager Peter Iglesias.

Listened to a brief update on the Dover Kohl Study about bicycle lanes in the downtown, particularly on Biltmore Way, Andalusia Avenue, and possibly Valencia Avenue, connecting to the planned Mobility Hub. Public meetings are scheduled for early December to see if there is any opposition from residents. Sponsored by Commissioner Anderson.

Listened to a discussion by Mayor Lago about the use of trash pits. Residents can currently use trash pits for green matter and trash bags, which can be left out for an entire week before pickup. Mayor Lago – prefaced his remarks by saying, “We are not discussing removing your trash pits” – suggested that trash bags be allowed in pits only the night before pickup. “I want to try to limit the horrific look of these garbage bags,” he said. More importantly, if green matter can be kept separate from garbage bags, it can be collected and reprocessed as ash for use in concrete. If this were done, it would save 80 to 85 percent of the current cost of $44 to $47 per ton for green matter disposal. In addition to beautifying city streets and saving money, “It’s the sustainable thing to do,” said the Mayor. Part of the urgency is on the money side, as huge increases in disposal fees by the county are expected this year. So far, the city has not in- creased trash collection fees to residents in response to county hikes.

Voted 5-0 to spend $1.2 Million for new city software, recommended by the IT Department and previously authorized by the annual budget.

Voted 5-0 to spend $2.5 Million for new low voltage and fiber optic gear, recommended by the IT Department and previously authorized by the annual budget.

Voted unanimously to immediately “wind down” the Business Improvement District (BID) if the organization, which collected fees from property owners to market the area, did not use its remaining funds to fully fund projects they started. In September, the City Commission voted to terminate the BID by the end of the year, after the organization failed to garner more than 50 percent of the votes from property owners required to renew. Attorneys for the BID argued that the City Commission had unfairly shut down the voting period early and then threw out a key number of votes based on technicalities.

Since then, both the BID and the City have wrangled over the fate of an estimated $600,000 in the BID’s bank account. The city wants the BID to use those funds to fulfill their contracts – to cover, for example, the remaining 50 percent ($79,300) due for special lighting on Miracle Mile. The BID says it will use the remaining funds only for advocacy purposes, something Commissioner Anderson called “very vague, very troubling.”

Mayor Lago said the city should pay the balance for all planned events, rather than let them disappear, assuming they met city quality standards. But commissioners were visibly annoyed by the BID’s reluctance. “It’s obvious they are not cooperating,” said Commissioner Mena. “If they don’t do the events, then wind them down…” Even after the city dissolves what is known as a city-sanctioned Section 170 entity, however, the BID will still exist as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The city must then decide whether to sue to acquire its remaining funds.