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The Grove Isle Condo Association has recently updated residents with details regarding the Developer’s new plan for the island. The new proposal foresees a tower of 168 feet and 12 stories high. As such, it represents a 20% height reduction from his original proposal. It is important to note that this height information is meaningless, as no other data (for example, building volume and footprint) has been provided, despite requests for more information made months ago in the mediation process.
It appears that the Developer’s application to rezone his section of the island has not yet been confirmed for hearing by the City’s Planning and Zoning Appeals Board. Rezoning part of Grove Isle is an attempt to force the City’s hand and throw out Miami21’s relevance in the North Grove. It’s a slippery slope — a decision to allow rezoning 4 Grove Isle may facilitate the eventual rezoning of the whole North Coconut Grove coastline.
A copy of the latest Board memo is available below (click image to open).
In July, Grove Isle Associates LLP submitted the document (see below) requesting rezoning of approximately half of 4 Grove Isle—specifically the 3 acres currently occupied by the hotel/restaurant/spa. In contrast to a variance, where an owner requests a waiver from the current zoning law (i.e. Miami21), this is a request to rezone this portion of the property from T5 to T6-8, thus allowing the building of a condominium tower along the plans originally proposed. Such a tower would then be in compliance with Miami 21. There is no request to rezone the other 4 acres, now zoned as T5.
Rationale: The primary argument for rezoning half of 4 Grove Isle is that the adjacent buildings (i.e. 1,2,3 Grove Isle) are high density buildings, and changing the zoning of 4 Grove Isle will not significantly change the character of the island. The application argues that existing buildings at Grove Isle are in effect T6-8 buildings, the proposed T 6-8 development on 4 Grove Isle property would fit with the neighborhood. Therefore, they argue that the zone change is harmonious and consistent with the surrounding Grove Isle buildings. However, 1,2 and 3 Grove Isle are non-compliant with Miami 21, having been built before proper zoning controls were in place. One might argue now that allowing high density buildings on Grove Isle in 1977 was an error caused by the absence of strict zoning laws and the pro-development attitude at the time. Urban planners would now properly propose that high density/high rises do not belong on the waterfront but should be set back from the waterfront so that there is a gradual continuum from the waterfront of low rise, then medium rise then high rise development. Indeed, this is one of the fundamental principles of Miami 21—with a goal of avoiding the Miami Beach and north situation of beach front high rises.
The Rezoning Process: For this rezoning application, the Planning Department of the City of Miami is only charged with reviewing the rezoning application and not in the larger sense of how the rezoning and new development is linked to the 1977 SSA or the 5 year litigation history from 1973-77 that lead to the 1977 Settlement Agreement. Any rezoning must be in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan of the City of Miami. City Council has the ultimate decision-making responsibility on rezoning.
Implications for rezoning: Rezoning will lead to construction of a large luxury condominium tower. All of the issues of access to the island, damage to the causeway, storage of materials, etc will greatly impact not only Grove Isle but residents of North Grove and Coconut Grove. See earlier post of 25 June.
Rezoning Benefits Whom? Will rezoning of 4 Grove Isle benefit you? The public will see no benefits. Indeed, the public will no longer have access to a public restaurant and boutique hotel. There will be no aesthetic contribution to the region and a negative contribution to the environment, including Biscayne Bay. There will be no benefits to the residents of Grove Isle. Property values are already sagging in a market in which the rest of Miami continues an upward trend. The developers will be the sole beneficiaries, as measured financially. In sum, this is all about money. The developers recently bought this property with the idea of quick, fast track financial gain.
Implications: Rezoning represents a legal approach to circumventing zoning laws. The process is significantly different than that employed for application of a variance. Miami has a long history of being pro-development, and changes to the zoning of Grove Isle could portend efforts to rezone much of the waterfront on the nearby mainland in the North Grove, thus allowing contiguous high rise development from downtown Coconut Grove to Brickell. This would logically complete high density development all along western Biscayne Bay.
But is it good for Miami in the long run? Grove Isle is the canary in the coal mine—Could this be the beginning of a domino effect of high density development in areas zoned otherwise?
The 4 Grove Isle Developer has now submitted an alternative plan for the island to the City of Miami. The new application mentions a 12 story tower on a development area which excludes the tennis club. As such, this is a more sophisticated attempt to split the island and test the resolve of the community against further high density development.
Rezoning is required as the project will still not be in keeping with the Miami21 planning regime — a structure which should provide a foundation for real estate decisions. Furthermore, it is not yet clear what effect this will have on club amenities or how the developer intends to overcome the serious logistic and environmental constraints of the island.
Needless to say local residents, both on and off the island, and the real estate market have been ‘spooked’ by this project. Perhaps it is also partly responsible for the recent high profile departure from our neighbourhood…
For further detail on this update please click on the Board memo image below. Please also share your insights on this topic in the comment section below.
The Grove Isle Condominium Board recently issued two updates (please click on memo images at end) regarding the status of the mediation process with the developer. The Board entered into these discussions at the suggestion of City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. The process has been paused so that far greater information regarding the developer’s proposals and methods are made clear. The Board has yet to receive this information.
The Board has also discovered that the developer has put forward an application to allow the installation of construction fencing associated with the demolition of the Grove Isle Hotel and Club. This move is surprising as it is not yet clear what or where exactly the developer is going to build or demolish. Some fear that these parallel moves could be construed as a demonstration of bad faith in the mediation process or that this process is not being taken seriously.
Perhaps it would be useful to know what the Officials at Miami City Hall and City of Miami District Commissioner Marc Sarnoff think about of all of this…
Although there remain many legal, environmental and political issues to be resolved before any development can proceed on Grove Isle, we believe the logistical issues of developing a large new project on the far side of a small island, already with over 500+ residential condominiums, quite daunting. To obtain detailed analysis and expert consideration from a third party removed from this discussion, we queried an experienced construction engineer in order to obtain a professional opinion. The comments made regard either the developer’s Plan A (the tower) or Plan B (five story horizontal development), both of roughly equivalent size. We specifically wished to learn the options that any contractor would have for the demolition phase, the construction phase, and the completion phase.
The challenge is that this is a large project proposed on a very tight, thin and long slice of Grove Isle. This island, connected to the mainland by a two lane causeway that is rated for 15 tons, is fully occupied and the primary residence for many families. Plan A is positioned on the exact opposite side of the island from the causeway entrance. The island is surrounded by Biscayne Bay, and the bay is about 2-4 feet deep within a half mile of the island perimeter except where dredging was performed to approximately eight feet many decades ago in the marina area.
Preparation phase: During the preparation phase space for the trucks, supplies, workers’ parking will be reserved and secured. Presumably, chain linked fencing and lighting will be installed to minimize theft and vandalism of construction materials. There will be signage for resident traffic detours, placement of construction trailers, and the need to reserve a large area for outgoing debris and incoming building materials. Given that 4 Grove Isle covers about 40% of the circumference of the island, all of these activities will necessarily be in close proximity of 1, 2 and 3 Grove Isle.
Demolition phase: During the demolition phase, the existing hotel, club building, spa, roadways, parking structures and other related structures will be demolished, and the debris, asphalt, concrete, glass and metal removed. As a crude estimate, our consultant suggests that this will involve the removal off-island of about 15,000 tons of debris. Given the 15 ton limit of the causeway, approximately 1000 dump truck runs will be required if removal is by land. If removal is by sea, standard dump barges would be used. These barges, which hold about 2400 tons of debris, draw 14 feet of water. Six or seven barges would be required. However, nowhere in Biscayne Bay is the water depth 14 feet. Either a channel would need to be dredged from the ocean to approximately 16 feet deep or many more but much smaller barges that draw considerably less water could be used. Nonetheless, there is currently no channel to the island to support even medium size barges. See the image of the government chart of Biscayne Bay below. Grove Isle is shown within the large red circle. A number of the depth readings, also circled in red, are indicated in feet.
Construction phase: In this phase, the 18 story tower (Plan A) or multiple lower sized buildings (Plan B) will be constructed on the development site. This involves the building of the foundation, preparation of elevator shafts, and assembly of the steel framework. Next, concrete is poured for floors, and exterior windows and facades installed. When tight to weather, the interior walls are built, and the plumbing, electrical and HVAC installed. Finally, interior walls are tiled or painted, appliances and cabinetry installed, and floors laid with wood, carpet or stone. Modern construction techniques usually perform many of these activities in parallel, from the lower floors to the top floors, in sequence. This entails the delivery to the island and to the construction site specifically of about 30,000 tons of materials, including cement, steel, glass, mechanicals, HVAC, etc. Again, from the analysis above, this will require over 2000 trailer trucks and cement trucks or many specialty barges to accomplish importation of these materials. Furthermore, new roads and parking areas will need to be built.
Completion phase: There will be a “clean up and furnishings phase” where all the construction infrastructure will be removed and the luxury property prepared for sale. Many of these apartments will be custom designed by new owners working with their own group of decorators, contractors and subcontractors. The windows, glass walls, mechanicals, railings, paint and all the interior common furnishings are loaded at this phase. Depending on how well these new units sell, this period could be relatively short (six months) to multiple years. All new residents will need to move in and load their personal furniture and furnishings.
Duration: The duration of this development can be approximated using a construction “time line.” The estimate for a project of this scope, with its attendant logistical issues, is at best 2.5 to 3 years for preparation and building construction. This assumes NO legal or unexpected events, unforeseen environmental issues, and the absence of labor strikes. Custom design and modifications of each unit by their owner could take at least an additional year. If the developer were to obtain all permits necessary to begin construction in early 2016—one and a half years from now—the project would be completed by 2020. In the interim, much of the island would be a construction site. The effect on sales of existing condos is uncertain but there is no reason to believe that construction on this scale would enhance valuations. More likely, turnover of condos during this period would be decreased and price per square foot would diminish. After 2020, valuations become more difficult to predict.
Preserve Grove Isle
Note: All values and statements cited above are based on our opinions and estimates
Mediation proceedings finally began today regarding the proposed high density development at 4 Grove Isle. Representatives of the involved parties including the City of Miami met this morning to begin the process. It is not yet clear what exactly this non-binding mediation is supposed to deliver.
Separately another potential challenge to Grove Isle’s environment has appeared in the light of the battle to build the Beckham Soccer stadium in downtown Miami. The City Commissioners have recently approved Resolution 14-00422 which gives the city “the ability to sell or lease submerged lands to buyers who own or have a lease on the contiguous shoreline WITHOUT a referendum.” The Tropical Audubon Society has been fighting this idea for some time as it “puts Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve Resources at risk”.
The resolution’s passing may also impact Grove Isle — as it could help the developer with the dredging task in order to move tens of thousands of tons of material on and off the island.
The Preserve Grove Isle campaign (PGI) is responding to local queries regarding the developer’s proposal for the 4 Grove Isle site. Families living on the island have insisted that PGI share with the neighborhood some of the main concerns regarding the project.
A copy of the document being distributed follows below:
Urgent Neighborhood Notice
A fourth highrise on Grove Isle has been proposed
Does this affect you? Should you and your community be involved?
Although the sale of this property and its proposed development has been kept secret from our community, our goal has been to make the plan, its legal basis and its details transparent so that the communities impacted may participate in relevant discussions.
The detail: a developer wants to demolish Grove Isle’s club, boutique hotel, restaurant, lounge, spa and pool, in favor of an ultra-modern glass and concrete 18 story building on the northeast side of the island.
We thought you would like to be aware that the proposal will likely:
We have made legal progress with the city to the point that this development plan is on hold for further review. This gives us and the wider community time to reflect on the full impact of this development proposal on the residents of the island, of North Coconut Grove and Coconut Grove in general and to make our voices heard.
Many existing residents and neighbors are fighting the developer’s plan and have given us, the “Preserve Grove Isle” movement, their support to carry our message to the Coconut Grove neighborhoods and civic associations. Our opinion poll shows that the majority of residents of the island are against all high density development.
Please contact us to help stop or at least shape what is being proposed for our neighborhood via our e-mail address:
Tell us how your neighborhood could participate in this issue and control its impact on the north grove. Please take a moment to object to the proposal by writing letters to Miami and environmental officials immediately.
CITY OF MIAMI
Mayor Tomas Regalado: email@example.com 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami, Florida 33133
District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff: firstname.lastname@example.org 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami, Florida 33133 305-250-5333
Assistant City Manager: Alice Bravo (email@example.com) Planning Director Francisco Garcia: firstname.lastname@example.org 444 SW 2nd Avenue, 3rd Floor Miami, Florida 33130 305-416-1470 General Number for Planning Department: 305-416-1400
Assistant Director: Luciana Gonzalez (LGonzalez@miamigov.com )
Zoning Chief: Paula De Carolis (email@example.com )
Zoning Administrator Irene Hegedus: firstname.lastname@example.org 444 SW 2nd Avenue, 4th Floor Miami, Florida 33130 305-416-1491
Land Development, Chief Antonio E. Perez (AEPerez@miamigov.com) 444 SW 2nd Ave 3rd Floor Miami, FL 33130
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Biscayne Bay Environmental Center – Pamela Sweeney 305-795-3486
Sean McCrackine 305-372-6789
TROPICAL AUDUBON SOCIETY
Laura Reynolds & Susan Shapiro 305-667-7337
Grove isle was planned in the 1970’s, built in the early 1980’s, and has remained unchanged for the past 30+ years. This developer believes that a settlement for development with the city of Miami in 1977 that allowed construction of what is currently on the island now allows the demolition of the hotel and building of a new highrise tower under zoning laws operative at the time of the settlement. Others now contest that any development, if any at all is allowed, must conform to current zoning laws—Miami 21. It is crucial that a robust public planning review process under Miami 21 is undertaken whereby the developer is required to provide all the requisite information so that the planning department and the public have an opportunity to review and comment on that information. This is a legal matter that is currently in dispute.
Attorneys representing our Association and working with the Board, presented their thoughts on the proposed development on Grove Isle and the status of on-going litigation to the Association members that were able to attend on Monday evening. This meeting was well attended and the presentation enlightening. In initial comments, Gilberto Pastoriza of Weiss Serota confirmed that he was hired by the Association to investigate the legal basis for the rapid development of the tower proposal (now known as Plan A) by the current owners of 4 Grove Isle, with Mr. Avila as the spokesperson for this consortium.
Mr Pastoriza emphasized that this development, unbeknownst to the members of the Association, was on a fast track for approval by the city. “The train was going full speed. Our job was to stop the train.” Indeed, with their preparation of the Memorandum questioning the legality of vested rights from the Settlement of 1977 and its distribution to city officials, the developer’s plan is now on hold by the City. This presentation, which was in depth, was successful and informational. They mentioned that there are various points of view from Association members, including those most concerned about amenities, those most concerned about protracted construction, and those most concerned about any construction on Grove Isle in general.
It also became clear that the Association members are dependent on a second party, the owners of 4 Grove Isle, to provide them most of the amenities that the Association enjoys (e.g. tennis courts, fitness center/spa, restaurant) and yet the owners, who operate these facilities at a profit, may (or may not—that is a legal issue) have the right to discontinue such amenities. Mr. Avila’s Plan B includes discontinuation of many of the amenities that the Association members have enjoyed over the past 30+ years but is said to be within the current zoning ordinances of Miami 21. In addition, John Lukacs of Hinshaw & Culbertson, who also represents the Association, discussed the reversal by the appellate court of the pending suit by the Association against the Club (i.e. 4 Grove Isle), and this suit will be litigated once again, hopefully to the advantage of the Association and its members.
The lawyers claimed that the Association members on Grove Isle do NOT have to choose between two bad choices, Plan A (the tower) versus Plan B (5 five story buildings occupying much of the land that is owned by the developer). They emphasized that we have other options….and we, the residents of Grove Isle, are empowered to decide what we want for our future here.
It is now clear from the predictions of the recent poll that a majority of the residents on the island want no development based on what they have seen and heard. “The Grove Isle opinion poll continues to assess the views of Association members and is surpassing our expectations.” It seems as the entire island is waking up to the fact that they really enjoy this island “the way it is”. Like the old adage, “you take your health for granted until you lose it,” we don’t always appreciate something important in our lives—including the ambience of Grove Isle–until we are about to lose it.
We will be headed for a requested mediation (non binding) with the city, the developer and Grove Isle representatives on 21 April. It is very possible that this start date may be delayed. We feel that this mediation will expose the “no further development position” to all, based upon the opinion poll in progress.
Please keep your letters and e-mails going out to the Miami administrators and elected officials….they are very valuable. You will find this info on this site at this location (click here).
Thank you for the many, many comments and opinions on this PGI website. It shows the interest and unity of the Grove Isle residents. It is times such as this that bring a community together.
The Grove Isle Condominium Board today issued an update on the status of the litigation that was initiated in July 2009. This litigation addresses
Recently a three-judge panel of the Third District Court of Appeal said the Grove Isle Association lawsuit was wrongfully dismissed with prejudice by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge John Schlesinger. Please see the attached document from the Board to read further about the current status of this case (please click on image to open document).
Dear Fellow Neighbors
We are all getting bombarded with lots of information about the potential changes of our wonderful island home. We are delighted that residents are very interested in our future. For this reason we would like to get a sense of how YOU feel.
To accomplish this goal one of your neighbors will come around to ask your opinion YES or NO in terms of whether you wish to have any high density construction on the island or not. We all realize that this topic is of paramount importance to the future life style and setting of Grove Isle.
Please note that the Condominium Association lawyers will present an information meeting for all Grove Isle owners on Monday 7 April. Further information regarding this is included in the document attached below.
Thank you for your support to protect our Grove Isle. Please check the communication section for all the latest thoughts, information and developments regarding our collective home.
The Grove Isle Condominium Association Board has forwarded residents a copy of the latest memorandum from their lawyers Weiss Serota Helfman. It is based on conclusions regarding the developer’s presentation at the Club last week. They added that Commissioner Sarnoff has asked for non-binding mediation between the Grove Isle Association and the developer. The City Attorney is to wait for completion of this mediation process before rendering a new Opinion Letter. A meeting with Grove Isle owners and our Association attorneys is now being organised. Residents will be advised of details of a possible meeting early next week.
The Board also confirmed that the Florida Appellate Court on Wednesday revived the Association lawsuit against the previous developer and Club operator. The attorneys are preparing a review of the case that will also be distributed to residents next week. Please check the communication section for additional information on this topic.
Chuck Kaplanek from The Preserve Grove Isle Organization delivered a slide show presentation to the monthly meeting of the Coconut Grove Village Council. Interested parties and officials from throughout Coconut Grove heard, firsthand, about the proposed development plan and the large opposition to it. Many supportive ideas were discussed and these will be added to the planning and progress of the “Preserve Grove Isle” project. The residents’ legal rights and opinions will help shape the future of Grove Isle.
The Grove Isle Condominium Association Board has also issued a communication that their lawyers have been studying the developer’s presentation. A copy of the Board’s letter is attached below (please click to open) and a report is expected by the end of the week.
Please also check the latest comments from our readers.
A copy of the latest memorandum from the Grove Isle Condominium Association re the developer’s presentation is attached for your information. To read the memo please click the image below.
Preserve Grove Isle is expanding its information base regarding this unpopular Grove Isle development to our friends and neighbors in “The Grove”. Background regarding the proposal will be discussed at the next Coconut Grove Village Council meeting. This is scheduled to take place on Tuesday March 25th at Frankie Rolle building [3750 South Dixie Highway] at 7pm.
The owner/developer of Grove Isle 4 and his architect, RTKL, will make a presentation showing the proposed 18 story, high rise tower and an alternative plan showing new condominiums in several 5 storey buildings replacing the hotel, restaurant, lounge, deck, club pool, spa, and many of the tennis courts.
In connection with this presentation, please be aware of the following:
1. The developer has no approvals to construct any new buildings on the Grove Isle 4 property at this time. It has not been determined, based on various legal agreements executed in 1977-1979 by the developer and others, when Grove Isle was initially developed and based on a recent memorandum of law prepared by our attorneys, that the developer has the right to expand the development on the Grove Isle 4 property.
2. The alternative plan layout you will see on Thursday is based on a series of 5 story buildings, which will cover MOST of the 4 Grove Isle property. We believe that plan will be purposely drawn to be extremely unattractive and therefore unacceptable to the Grove Isle Residents so that the proposed 18 storey high rise tower becomes the “preferred” plan.
Therefore, it is important to understand that both plans may be unacceptable to Grove Isle residents and various legal documents and agreements may prevent either development concept from being constructed.
3. These two opposite and radical plans do NOT conform to Grove Isle or its surrounding neighborhood.
It’s time for the developer and the Board of Directors to put our current resident’s “well being” and “character” of our island ahead of corporate monetary interests.
Using current land use laws, compromise, and transparency are always more productive than this type of forceful, and deceptive tactics.
We hope that a satisfactory negotiated compromise can be openly reached.