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?