More May Updates from City Hall

During its second meeting in May, the City Commission: 

Listened to an update from State Senator Alexis Calatayud on the legislative session that recently took place in Tallahassee. Coral Gables received several million dollars from the state this year, enough to fund seven of eight proposed projects, including the citywide bridge repair program, the construction of Fire Station 4, and the Venetian Pool facility repairs. 

Listened to presentations from two homeowners and their attorneys regarding the decision of the Historic Preservation Board to designate their homes as historic landmarks. “Now that we’re trying to exercise what should be our right to build a better, safer, and more sustainable home, we’re facing… this prejudicial historic designation. The hardship created by this designation will affect me and my family forever,” said Peter Saliamonas, who owns a home commissioned by George Merrick at 1221 Milan Avenue.

The Commission voted 4-1, with only Mayor Lago dissenting, to remand the Saliamonas’ home for further proceedings to the Historic Preservation Board, which will likely affirm its decision. The second home’s designation was affirmed after a 5-0 vote by the Commission. Located at 517 Aragon Avenue, the home is owned by Shaan and Pooja Patel. Both families had originally bought the homes before they were designated historic, although in the case of the Patels, they had been informed that the home was “historically significant” and subject to potential designation prior to purchase. 

RELATED: Read our recap of the first Commission meeting in May.

Voted 2-3, with only Commissioners Castro and Fernandez in favor, to override the mayor’s decision to operate the Commission meeting’s agenda as usual regarding public comment. The two commissioners expressed concern over the current procedure, which allows public comment only on items where the Commission takes official action (usually a vote) or during the Public Comments section of the meeting.

The current procedure is used by all 34 municipalities in the county and there is no legal necessity to allow public comment on any “discussion” items where the Commission does not take official action. Commissioner Menendez explained to his two colleagues that allowing public comment on all items would lengthen the meetings even further, which are already so long that many residents complain. As chair of the Commission, Mayor Lago said definitively, “We are going to run the agenda the way that I want to run the agenda.” 

Voted 5-0 to accept the donation of a large clock by F.P. Journe to be added to the downtown area. The city manager will propose locations for the clock in a future meeting. (Sponsored by Mayor Lago)

Discussed the parking of delivery scooters in the downtown in an effort to curtail them from taking up valuable spots on Miracle Mile while they await new deliveries. The main idea floated was to force them into designated areas, but how that would occur remains to be seen. Mayor Lago asked for Police Chief Ed Hudak to come up with ideas based on what other U.S. cities or municipalities are doing and the city will reach out to delivery companies to help with cooperation. (Sponsored by Mayor Lago)

Mobility Hub - More May Updates from From City Hall

Discussed alternative design ideas to the Mobility Hub presented by Vice Mayor Anderson, including Art Deco and “green” architectural designs, the latter of which involves draping the Hub in vegetation. No further decisions were made. “It could be one of those iconic buildings Coral Gables has,” Commissioner Menendez said optimistically. The city is still in the process of getting a redesign from the original idea (seen above), which residents strongly objected to at previous town hall and commission meetings.  Vice Mayor Anderson is in favor of putting pickleball courts in the park on the roof, while Commissioner Fernandez supports removing the park to cut down on the building’s cost. (Sponsored by Vice Mayor Anderson and Commissioner Fernandez)

RELATED: Read more on the Mobility Hub’s fate.

Discussed the installation of cameras and defibrillators at parks not permanently staffed by city personnel for public safety. Fire Chief Marcos De La Rosa recommended using Code Blue Smart emergency stations, which have 360-degree night vision cameras, activated when the emergency button is pressed. Other options were presented at various costs, and the Commission agreed to wait until final budget proposals were presented to make a decision. Rotary Park and Salvadore Park were both proposed as potential locations for a pilot program. (Sponsored by Mayor Lago)

Discussed the new online portal for all current city projects (proposed at the first meeting in May). IT Director Raimundo Rudolfo presented the new webpage, which is located on the city’s website under the Public Works Department. (Sponsored by Commissioner Fernandez)

Discussed a resident concierge service for the Development Services Department, which would provide information on permitting and ensure residents will be able to speak with someone either via phone or online live chat.

Department Director Suramy Cabrera said the city already performs most of the functions outlined in Commissioner Castro’s presentation, but will look into expanding those services with a dedicated staff member who can offer residents advice and support. Commissioner Menendez and Mayor Lago both expressed their support for the department, which Menendez said was “doing a fantastic job” already. (Sponsored by Commissioner Castro)

Discussed the extension of the Freebee service to the Coral Gables Country Club beginning on June 8, the day summer break begins for students. (Sponsored by Commissioners Castro, Fernandez, and Menendez)