Tag Archives: Rezoning

CLOSE THE CLUB, ALIENATE THE RESIDENTS, DIVIDE AND CONQUER: A NOVEL STRATEGY

grove isle

Grove Isle Club’s magical views on to Biscayne Bay

 Grove Isle Update — Key Points:

  • The Residents of Grove Isle have initiated legal action to prevent closure of the Grove Isle Club. This legal initiative is to protect the rights of ALL residents against the shuttering of the Club.
  • We envision that upon the Club’s closure, and in the absence of a demolition permit, the club will be allowed to decay causing many health and safety issues on the island
  • The grandfathering rights that currently allow the Club to operate on the island will be lost if the Club is closed for longer than 180 days.  The developer has failed to address how a replacement club would then obtain the City’s permission to operate.
  • Residents of Grove Isle are protected by the legal documents that established Grove Isle in its current form.
  • We have also learned from a number of residents that they have been approached by agents of the developer. He is again working to Divide and Conquer the island reportedly in the hope to resurrect the 18 story tower plan.

Grove Isle Update — The Detail:

With the Developer’s decision to first close parking access and now to permanently close the Grove Isle Club, including its hotel, restaurant, pool, spa and related amenities, residents of the Grove Isle Condominium Association have initiated legal action to prevent closure of the Club. This legal initiative is to protect the rights of ALL residents against the shuttering of the Club.  We envision that upon closure, in the absence of a demolition permit that has not been issued by the City, the structure of the Club—surrounded by a chain link fence– will be allowed to decay. The grounds will not be tended. Not only will this property become an eyesore, health and safety issues are likely to arise if the Club building is abandoned for a prolonged period of time.

GROVE ISLE EMERGENCY COMPLAINT

Grove Isle legal action

Grove Isle legal action was filed on 22 April 2015 (click to open document)

As residents of Grove Isle, we are protected by the legal documents that established Grove Isle in its current form. These documents committed the Club to provide amenities to all of the condominium owners and residents. This commitment now belongs to the Developer per these legal documents, as recorded by the City and signed by the City of Miami.

Miami Herald Grove Isle Story Headline

The Miami Herald updated the story on Grove Isle last night (click image to open)

The Club is a for-profit commercial operation currently serving both Grove Isle Condominium Association members as well as members from off-island. The Grove Isle Condominium Association, a non-profit organization, is a corporation independent of the Club. Under Miami 21—the current zoning law—the Club could not be built on Grove Isle today because Grove Isle is zoned T5-R, and is limited to residential use. However, because the Club has been in existence for decades before Miami 21 became law, it can exist in its current form in its current location. It is grandfathered to continue its operation. But if it is closed for more than 180 days or if there is attempt to move it to another location on the island, it will lose its grandfather status. This is the urgency for prevention of closure of the Club. Furthermore, there is no approval for a new club, and zoning restrictions will prevent such construction.

We have also learned from a number of residents that they have been approached by agents of the developer.  The strategy is to Divide and Conquer.  The claim is that residents of Bldg 1 and 2 stand to gain from this development but a vocal group in Bldg 3 are interfering with building plans, and that this new development, particularly the 18 story tower, will be great for Grove Isle.  In the meantime, the developer is going to keep punishing the island residents for blocking his development until they submit.  Of course, no mention has been made of the three year construction time line, the movement of demolition debris and construction materials necessary to build the equivalent of one of the existing Grove Isle buildings, the environmental damage, the decreased property valuations and the anti-development sentiment expressed at the recent candidate forum by all residents.  And the legal barriers have been reinterpreted as supporting the rights of development (if this were the case, development would have started two years ago!)

The continued action of the Board of Directors of the Grove Isle Condominium Association in preventing this development is greatly appreciated by all residents.

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Yet another flaw in the Grove Isle planning process?

The Grove Isle Board maintains its view that flaws seen in the developer’s latest plans should not be ignored by the City.  The Board’s lawyers had previously appealed the City’s Planning Administrator’s decision and argued that developer’s plan was non-compliant with Miami21 planning regulations (click  for earlier post).  To which the City has replied that its approval was part of a private process between itself and the developer.  As a result, the Grove Isle Board has stated that it intends to challenge this determination in order to protect the rights of the island’s residents.

Grove Isle Association Memo Jan 23 2015

Grove Isle Association Memo Jan 23 2015

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Yet another plan for condominiums on Grove Isle

Grove Isle

Meanwhile…  one more peaceful afternoon on Grove Isle

First the Tower (18 stories); Second, the resized Tower (12 stories).  And now, a Third (perhaps not last…), the wrap-around five story residential condominiums and club.

The developer of 4 Grove Isle has submitted new architectural plans to the City of Miami. The developer is now seeking approval to build two adjacent 80 ft. high residential buildings.  The proposed structure wraps along the coast of the island from approximately the position of the current Spa, past the hotel and current pool, to the southeast corner off Building 3.  In addition, the new proposed “Jetsons Spaceship” club occupies the position of four current tennis courts and possibly the yacht club.   The Board and legal counsel are following these new events with vigilance.  The submitted plans are also available in the manager’s office of Building 1 and 3.

It must be emphasized that the Developer has NOT received permission to move forward on any development. This is an exercise to gain support for the developer from Grove Isle residents.

Grove Isle Wrap Around

Grove Isle latest plan have massive structures wrapping around the island – note the position of club house which take the space of four tennis courts and possibly the yacht club (Image source: developer’s architects)

Your attention is drawn to the fact that a number of issues still remain unanswered:

  1. In their Memorandum of Law, Weiss and Serota (Grove Isle Board’s lawyers)  relied on  the Settlement of 1977 to argue that Grove Isle is already fully developed. How does this argument interface with the new proposals before the City of Miami Planning Board?
  2. The Developer previously proposed an 18 story tower to the City of Miami.  Where does that proposal stand?  Has it been withdrawn, disapproved or is it still pending?
  3. The Developer modified the proposed 18 story tower to a 12 story tower.  Where does that proposal stand?  Has it been withdrawn, disapproved or is it still pending?
  4. Where does the effort of the Developer to rezone part of his property to Miami 21 T6-8 now stand?  (This would allow for the Tower).  Has that been withdrawn, disapproved or is it still pending?
  5. In the event of the  Developer possibly gaining permission to build 80 ft high multi-story residential condos, can he later build upward on top of  them if granted a rezoning or a variance?  Given the high density of the proposed buildings, is this a ruse to encourage residents of Grove Isle to support an 80 ft high multi-story project with a view to turning it into a fully-fledged high tower at a later stage?
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Rezoning Tactic: Developer Applies to City of Miami to Rezone 4 Grove Isle

As Grove Isle goes, so goes the North Grove: Potential for waterfront high rises linking downtown Coconut Grove to Brickell

As Grove Isle goes, so goes the North Grove: Potential for waterfront high rises linking downtown Coconut Grove to Brickell

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.

4 Grove Isle Drive Rezoning Application Folio 01-4114-002-0010

4 Grove Isle Drive Rezoning Application Folio 01-4114-002-0010 (click image to open)

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.

Miami21 zoning of Grove Isle and North Coconut Grove

Miami21 zoning of Grove Isle and North Coconut Grove

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.

North Grove Rezoning Threat

North Grove Rezoning Threat Appears

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.

Grove Isle North Grove

Rezoning of Grove Isle could leading to rezoning of much of the surrounding waterfront.

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?

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