At Its Meeting in August and Its First Meeting in September, the City Commission:
Ready for the Storm
Voted 5-0 to encourage residents to install high impact windows through a “Signature Hurricane Protection Program” that offers a 25 percent discount and no permit fees for homeowners with limited income. Sponsored by Mayor Vince Lago.
Little Gables Back on the Table
Voted 4-1 to re-initiate the annexation process for Little Gables. Residents of Little Gables, a county pocket surrounded by Coral Gables and Miami, told commissioners they supported the process because it would bring much faster police, fire, and emergency medical services to the area. Coral Gables Police Chief Ed Hudak said annexation would shorten the city’s borders and make police enforcement more efficient. Only Commissioner Jorge Fors voted against “because of the price tag” – though rising property values in Little Gables makes that issue less relevant than in the past, when Fors opposed the move. Staff is now enjoined to gather information on cost to the city, potential tax revenue, public safety benefits, and opinions of residents. Sponsored by Mayor Lago.
The BID Loses its Mandate
In August, voted 4-1 to certify the election to grant the downtown Business Improvement District another five years to market the area for merchants, then voted 5-0 in September to shut the BID down after a critical number of votes were disqualified by the city clerk for irregularities. At least 51 percent of properties in the downtown must endorse the BID to collect fees for marketing; the disqualifi- cation of several votes put them below that threshold. The BID will now have to unwind.
Fight the Plastic
Listened to a discussion about reducing the use of plastic water bottles in city offices by installing water coolers. Such water coolers would supply alkaline, mineralized water. “We should be setting the example,” said Commissioner Rhonda Anderson, who sponsored the discussion along with Mayor Lago.
Country Club Input
Voted 5-0 to establish a Coral Gables Golf and Country Club Advisory Board to make sure that residents have input on the city’s operating of the historic country club, recently taken back by the city from private management. Sponsored by Commissioner Kirk Menendez.
Time to Go Underground
Voted 5-0 to accept a plan by FPL to move underground the power- lines that connect homes to the grid to prevent future power outages from hurricanes. The city had been looking at a $240 million price tag to take all power lines underground. The FPL plan, negotiated by Mayor Lago, will take 10 years to underground 40 percent of the city’s lines, but at no expense to the city. The remaining 60 percent will go underground over the following 20 years. “This is one of our legacy projects for this commission, really pushing a significant portion of the city underground,” said Mayor Lago. “This is a huge win for the city.”
Not Just Barrel Tile
Voted 4-0, on first reading, to allow homeowners to install metal roofs except in historic designated areas. Metal roofs last twice as long as tile roofs (50 vs. 25 years) and are easier to replace than tile after hurricanes. They are also safer and have the highest insurance rating. Sponsored by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson and Mayor Lago.
More Dog Parks
Listened to an update regarding new dog parks at Villa Valencia, Salvadore Park, and 1505 Ponce de Leon, following citizen complaints about dog users unleashing their pets at Catalonia Park. Sponsored by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson.
A Limit on Food Trucks
Voted 5-0 to restrict food trucks in the city. The ordinance, which requires a second vote, would prohibit food trucks from setting up within 500 feet of any restaurant, and limit them to 15 minutes at any construction site or residential area. Schools and churches would be exempt from the restrictions. Sponsored by Mayor Lago.
A Voice on Bike Lanes
Resolved 5-0 to direct city staff to begin a balloting process for residents along South Alhambra Circle from US-1 to Triofo Street, to see if they want bike lanes along the streets. Proposed by City Manager Peter Iglesias.
Merrick to Go 3-D
Listened to a discussion regarding the updating of the permanent exhibit on the city’s founding by George Merrick in the Coral Gables Museum. Historic activists argued that the display should not be changed. Museum board member Chip Withers argued that the display needed to be modernized, and that residents and museum goers “just don’t want to see an artifact. They want to be wowed [and now] we have the money to take this to the next level… we are not canceling George Merrick or his legend.” Sponsored by Commissioner Anderson.