The City of Miami Springs City Council held a lengthy public workshop on Tuesday, July 18, 2022, to discuss the priorities for the year.  It was a great session where the members of the City Council could discuss items that were important and share their thoughts on some of the solutions.

Miami Springs City Council
Miami Springs City Council

Gateway Overlay District Revisions

Miami Springs Gateway Overlay District
Miami Springs Gateway Overlay District

The first and most discussed item was the the Gateway Overlay District.  Mayor Mitchell discussed several concerns including:

  • Strengthening the requirements a developer would need to comply with in order to increase the FAR (Floor Area Ratio).
  • Changing the legal language that currently gives the City Planner sole discretion over parking
  • Discussed establishing a fee as required by ordinance

Councilwoman Jacky Bravo had many of the same concerns expressed by Mayor Mitchell and was concerned that another project could go up right now and exacerbate our parking problem.  Bravo wanted to take it a step further and issue a temporary moratorium within the Gateway Overlay District until such time the City could correct and make changes to the Gateway Overlay District.

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Jacky Bravo
Councilwoman Jacky Bravo

Councilman Bob Best, who is the only holdover that voted in favor of the Downtown Development, of course, defended the Gateway Overlay District.  He doubled down and reiterated that during the River Cities Festival we don’t have a parking problem.  People find a place to park.  (May we remind Bob Best that during the River Cities Festival, people park up and down the entire green space of the Curtiss Parkway median…all the way to the Golf Course.  We hope this is not Bob Best’s solution to the downtown parking problem.)

Miami Springs City Councilman, Walter Fajet (Photo Credit: City of Miami Springs)
Miami Springs City Councilman, Walter Fajet (Photo Credit: City of Miami Springs)

Councilman Walter Fajet said that we can’t just retract the Gateway Overlay District as that can lead to legal problems.  Fajet didn’t want to get into the issues that created the Gateway Overlay District, as Fajet said, “That horse has left the barn.”  Fajet reiterated that he feels that parking is an issue now and he expressed that he’s concerned it’s only going to get worse.  Fajet stated, “Parking is an issue…it’s going to get a lot worse.”  Fajet supported Mayor Mitchell’s concerns, but he wanted to be “proactive in mitigation strategies.”   That included pausing future developments until the Council can address changes to the Gateway Overlay District.  Fajet was in favor of reviewing and making appropriate revisions to the Gateway Overlay District.

Bob Best then chimed in and said, “Wouldn’t it be radical to fix the parking problem like that…By making downtown pedestrian and cycle only.”  (I swear we didn’t make this up….just reporting what was said.)

Mayor Mitchell asked the City Attorney to chime in.  The City Attorney said “As far as doing a Moratorium…I don’t think that that’s the best approach right now.”  She then added, “That approach would be more useful and more effective once we’ve identified the actual issues and the goals you’re trying to reach.”

The goal is to buy time.

I thought it was pretty clear from Mayor Mitchell that she wanted to address the parking situation.  Why can’t the Gateway Overlay District follow the same parking rules as a business outside the Gateway Overlay District?  Furthermore, I thought Mayor Mitchell was pretty clear that she wanted to strengthen the requirements a developer would need to provide for the City, whether it be a true “Pueblo Revival” style or other requirements, in order to qualify for the higher Floor Area Ratio or FAR.  Furthermore, the goal of the moratorium seems simple to me.  To allow the City to have time to change the Gateway Overlay District.  The Council wants to buy time to flush out many of the concerns the City Council came up with.  I was confused why the City Attorney was questioning why the Council wanted a temporary moratorium.  It seemed clear to me the City Council wanted to buy time to revise the Gateway Overlay District before another project gets started further exacerbating what everyone knows is a growing parking problem.

Miami Springs City Attorney Haydee Sera
Miami Springs City Attorney Haydee Sera

As the discussion continued, it became clear the City Council was interested in having a follow up special workshop just to fine tune changes to the Gateway Overlay District.  We applaud Mayor Mitchell and the entire City Council for agreeing to look into all the details that make up the Gateway Overlay District and to flush out changes they want to make to it going forward.

Bob Best Bet

However, before the conversation moved onto other matters, Bob Best made a friendly bet with his peers.  He stated, “I’ll bet you a cup of coffee in Hialeah right now, that after this building is up and going, same number of parking places that are available on Canal Street will be available when that project is finished…Mark my words.”  I shook my head while listening to it, but Councilman Fajet responded by saying, “I’ll take that coffee.”  Maria Mitchell challenged Best for some special Starbucks.

Miami Springs Councilman Bob Best at September 11 Ceremony
Miami Springs Councilman Bob Best at September 11 Ceremony

Downtown Business Area Parking

Despite Bob Best’s wager to the contrary, the next item discussed at the meeting was the need for more parking within the Central Business District.  Maria Mitchell brought up how the Business and Economic Development Task Force is doing its part with recommendations for more parking including reconfiguring Westward in a way that adds more trees and angle parking.  Mayor Mitchell brought up that a map of available public parking should be published on the city’s website.  She also brought up that the City of Miami Springs has applied for a parking study grant from the TPO that would not use City funds.

Miami Springs Councilman Victor Vazquez (Photo Credit: City of Miami Springs)
Miami Springs Councilman Victor Vazquez (Photo Credit: City of Miami Springs)

Victor Vazquez brought up some of the ideas that were brought up by the Business and Economic Development task force including the idea of adding angle parking on Westward Drive and keeping all the trees in the median and expanding the sidewalks and canopy trees on the outside of Westward.

Single Lane Westward Drive

Business Areas

The City also wanted to prioritize code enforcement consistency, aesthetics, facilitating curbside pickup and outdoor dining, and pedestrian access.

Communications

Mayor Mitchell and Councilman Best brought the desire to enhance what is shared online and via social media and increasing the City’s online reach.  (The City of Miami Springs can immediately improve this area by working with MiamiSprings.com.  You know…Miami Springs’ #1 source for news.  Sorry.  Shameless plug.)

Gaps in achieving “Beautiful Miami Springs”

The City also wanted to prioritize code enforcement consistency, aesthetics, facilitating curbside pickup and outdoor dining, and pedestrian access.

Working with County re: Bed Tax Compensation

Victor Vazquez wanted an update on Bed Tax Compensation from the hotels in Miami Springs.  The hotels are paying millions of dollars in bed taxes that ends up in the hands of the “Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau,” and none of it comes to Miami Springs.  Meanwhile the City of Miami Springs has seen increased expenses related to hotel crime and sex trafficking associated with the hotels.

Mayor Mitchell brought up the valiant effort from Senator Manny Diaz Jr. and Representative Bryan Avila on attempting to get this item passed in Tallahassee back before the pandemic.  She explained that we fell short thanks to a volume of lobbyists that represented the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau that fought to squash the efforts from the City of Miami Springs.

Again, we applaud the City’s efforts to assess and collect a bed tax.  It’s only fair that the people who stay at Miami Springs hotels pay their fair share of taxes as they are using our police services at an increasing rate.

Exercise Zones

Victor Vazquez is pushing to add Exercise Zones along Curtiss Parkway and Ludlam Avenue.  Maria Mitchell discussed working with a sponsor like a health care provider to help pay for the project.  City Manager William Alonso brought up that it has to be ADA compliant.  We appreciate the City Manager’s attention to ADA compliance, but this is definitely an area the City Attorney should be advising to ensure compliance.  (As you may know the City of Miami Springs is currently facing an ADA lawsuit by Theo Karantsalis.)

We love the idea of adding Exercise Zones to Miami Springs.  However, Exercise Zones are not pretty or aesthetically pleasing.  As such, we question adding an Exercise Zone to our beautiful Curtiss Parkway bike path.  I think the City could add an Exercise Zone on Ludlam (maybe by the commercial area to keep noise and loitering away from residential homes).  We think the City of Miami Springs could add an Exercise Zone at Peavy Dove Field.  Exercise equipment looks very normal at a park that has a playground and baseball fields and a dog park.  Adding an Exercise Zone at Peavy Dove Field would be a natural improvement to this park.

Again, we love the idea of an Exercise Zone, but I’m concerned that an Exercise Zone on Curtiss Parkway will not be aesthetically pleasing.  We need to work to make Miami Springs more beautiful and preserve areas that are already green and beautiful.

Below is an example of an Exercise Zone recently added in Hialeah.  Again, we love this, but feel like it belongs at one of our parks like Peavy Dove or Stafford.  I don’t think this would be aesthetically pleasing along Curtiss Parkway.

 

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There was an Exercise Zone between the Curtiss Mansion and the Hotel that was tucked away and appropriate in that area.  However, that property is owned by the hotel and that Exercise Zone was removed by the hotel.

Where would you recommend putting an Exercise Zone that would be useful and would not degrade the look of the area?

War Memorial Initiative

Now the project below is beautiful and will definitely improve the aesthetics of Curtiss Parkway.  We applaud Victor Vazquez and the entire City Council for supporting the upgrade and beautification of the War Memorial on Curtiss Parkway.  This is a great initiative.  Milam’s Markets in Miami Springs is helping to raise funds to make this project a reality.

Milam’s Markets Raising Funds for War Memorial

Compensation for Elected Officials

Our elected officials get paid squat.  To be clear, they’re getting paid below minimum wage for the amount of time and dedication required to be good at the job.  It’s basically a volunteer job.  We applaud Bob Best’s efforts to bring up this politically unpopular issue of raising the pay of elected officials.  By raising the pay for Council and Mayor, we may attract some future elected officials who otherwise could not afford to take time away from their careers to serve our City.

Bundling City Debt

The City is considering bundling City Debt to mitigate projected interest rate hikes in the future.

Police Speeding Enforcement

Councilman Fajet discussed sharing and posting speed enforcement statistics on the City’s website consistently to help share the information.  This will help to provide more transparency from the Police Department and show that despite the complaints, the Police Department is providing speed enforcement across the City. It may also serve as a deterrent from speeding within the City.

Review Pay Plan for City Employees

As inflation continues to go up, we applaud Bob Best on his consideration for the City Employees and specifically the Public Works Department and wanted to work to review compensation and possibly provide raises to employees going forward.

Thank you Mayor Mitchell

Miami Springs Mayor Maria Mitchell
Photo courtesy the City of Miami Springs.

Overall, Tuesday’s workshop was very productive.  It allowed the entire Council to share their thoughts and opinions on many of the most pressing issues for the City of Miami Springs.  We applaud Mayor Mitchell’s leadership in setting up this meeting at the beginning of the year as a very helpful and very public indicator to the residents of Miami Springs as to what the City will strive to accomplish over the upcoming year.  Mayor Mitchell deservers our thanks.

And while we may disagree with some of the Council Members on a few issues (ahem, Bob Best and parking) every single Council Member did a great job in looking at each issue and sharing their thoughts on how the City could address each initiative.  We’d like to thank each council member for their best effort during this very productive workshop.

Of course, the work has only begun and there’s a lot of work ahead of us.

 

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CIMA Medical Center Miami Springs
CIMA MED SPA
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Firenze Group, Corp. Financing Made Easy
The Leonard Real Estate Group
BDC Construction
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Woodys Backyard Grill
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