October City Hall: Le Parc Update, Commission Civility, and More

At its two meetings in October, the City Commission:

Listened to a presentation about potentially creating an incentive program within downtown Coral Gables — excepting Miracle Mile and Giralda Plaza — for developers to create additional open public spaces by allowing a maximum building height of 137.5-feet. The program would be limited only to MX2 properties and prohibited within 100-feet of a single-family home. A good example is the Villa Valencia building, which was pulled back from the property line in order to add in a pocket park. (Sponsored by Commissioner Menendez)

Voted 5-0 to amend the city’s zoning code to provide a four-foot minimum space for pedestrian traffic within any covered outdoor space that has seating.

“These arcades and loggias were designed for pedestrian traffic, and all too often they’re filled with tables, chairs, and people dining and servers in the way. They’re meant to encourage pedestrian traffic and now they’re actually stopping [it],” said Vice Mayor Anderson, who sponsored the bill.

Voted 5-0 to authorize the city manager and city attorney to negotiate a 90-day license agreement with a 90-day extension option to engage a licensee for operation of the café space formerly occupied by Le Parc at the Coral Gables Golf and Country Club. On October 4, the city’s Community Recreation department took over the space to provide baked goods and beverages using temporary city staff.

October City Hal: Le Parc Update
The café space formerly occupied by Le Parc at the Coral Gables Golf and Country Club.

Voted 3-2 to end the process of annexation for High Pines/Ponce Davis. The city had a self-imposed deadline of Oct. 9 for residents in the area to “return” completed petitions, but Mayor Lago and Vice Mayor Anderson, the two dissenters, said they were still getting requests for more information from residents. They argued that some residents had only just mailed their petitions on Oct. 9, meaning those petitions had not yet been “returned.”

A lengthy discussion followed, but Commissioners Menendez, Fernandez, and Castro decided the 12.89 percent of petitions gathered as of Oct. 10 was insufficient for annexation, which requires at least 20 percent to move forward.

Voted 5-0 to develop a cost-based pilot program to divert green yard waste to more sustainable uses, thereby saving valuable billable land at the landfill and bringing down residents’ costs. (Sponsored by Vice Mayor Anderson)

Voted 5-0 to condemn the war launched by Hamas terrorists against Israel.

Voted 5-0 to accept the cultural development board’s recommendation to complete the Ponce Circle Park renovations in time for the city’s centennial in 2025, including infrastructure to support the installation of future artwork in the park.

Museum of the Moon installation in the center of Ponce Circle Park
U.K. artist Luke Jerram’s spectacular traveling exhibition, “Museum of The Moon” was the centerpiece of the Moon Over the Gables events at Ponce Circle Park earlier this year.

Voted 5-0 to approve the concept and commissioning of a work of public art by gt2P Studios as part of the Alta development project at 4101 Salzedo St. Two concepts were submitted: an elevated mural on the building’s façade and a tree-like sculpture on the ground. The Commission agreed the mural wouldn’t be very visible; the developer agreed to remove it from the plans and take those funds to make the tree sculpture bigger.

RELATED: “Art For Everyone,” a look into our city’s Art in Public Places program.

Voted 3-2 to create an incentive program within the Design & Innovation District to allow a maximum building height of 137.5-feet if developers of a given building also create a public park. Commissioners Castro and Fernandez voted against the measure, citing general concerns about allowing increased heights. Commissioner Fernandez said many residents he spoke to opposed, while Vice Mayor Anderson said the residents who live in or near the District told her that getting parks superseded concerns about additional height.

Commissioner Menendez, who supplied the swing vote, said: “I’m very torn on this issue but I don’t see another way to create green space where green space is needed.”

Voted 3-2 to readopt the civility code for members of the City Commission and city staff, including at all public meetings and all interactions and communications. Both Vice Mayor Anderson and Commissioner Castro presented separate versions of this item, but only Castro’s received a majority vote with Commissioners Fernandez and Menendez in accord.

Anderson’s version included a prohibition on profanity and “untruthful, disparaging remarks,” with consequences of a warning at first offense and a public reprimand at second. She also included a provision for giving notice to violators, wherein violations would be published seven days prior to the next Commission meeting, allowing for evidence-gathering. The violator would also be allowed to speak in their defense.

Castro’s version included consequences of a written reprimand for a first offense and issuance of a formal public apology for a second. The Commission would have to vote on whether the code has been violated with a majority ruling. There was nothing included regarding giving notice to offenders or gathering evidence.

During the discussion, Mayor Lago asked for procedures to include those who use “proxies” like blogs or social media posts to make personal attacks, some of which have included pictures of his children and father.

October City Hall: Commissioner Civility Code
Mayor Vince Lago went on Spanish-language station America TeVe to expound upon his colleagues’ deficiencies after three commissioners gave themselves “exorbitant compensation agreements,” according to his Instagram account.

The mayor recently came under fire for his disparaging comments about Commissioners Castro, Fernandez, and Menendez on Spanish media, but took the opportunity to fire back, accusing Fernandez of making defamatory comments against him earlier this year “very similar to the comments [he] used to make in Gables Insider,” Fernandez’s former blog. “I’m more than willing to move forward and work with this Commission, but there has to be mutual respect,” the mayor said.