The Gateway Overlay District was passed in a 4-1 vote back on January 14, 2019. At the time, then Councilwoman Maria Mitchell was the sole dissenting vote. When the Gateway Overlay District was created more than three years ago, it stated that “The City Planner shall have the authority to establish parking requirements for alterations and new construction by counting a combination on-site and on-street parking and other elements identified below. For any on-street parking space(s) counted towards the satisfaction of a property’s requirement, or any spaces otherwise waived as a result of one of the factors listed below, a fee shall be paid to the City for each such parking space, in an amount set from time to time by approved resolution of the City Council. The funds shall be used to fund parking and way finding improvements in the Gateway District and the CBD.”
Three Years Later, Still No Fee
Three years later and the City Council has yet to establish this fee, but the issue did finally come up at the late April 2022 City Council Meeting. The City Administration had suggested a parking fee of $20,000 per parking spot. So, if a project needs 50 public parking spaces, it would be 50 times $20,000 or $1,000,000. Per the Gateway Overlay District code, those funds would be used to fund new parking or improving existing parking. [NOTE: The fee was finally established on Monday, June 17, 2022 or just over a month after this article was originally published.]
The first question is why was this fee not established before the City of Miami Springs approved the One Curtiss Parkway project’s permits? Why didn’t the City Planner and City Administration say, “Hey. We can’t approve this development until the City Council establishes a fee.” But of course, we know that the building permits were approved and the developer has not been assessed a fee for 53 public parking spots that were calculated that this project would need because they clearly don’t have enough on premise parking. (Some believe this project will eat up a lot more than just 53 public parking spots.)
Will Miami Springs Town Center be Assessed a Parking Fee?
Councilman Water Fajet asked, “With One Curtiss Parkway…we have to set a fee for them for the on-street parking. Right? We haven’t established that fee, yet.”
City Manager, William Alonso quickly jumped in and said, “That’s done. That’s done. It’s not like we set this fee now, they’re going to have to pay that fee. This is for future developments.”
Councilman Fajet asked the City Planner, Chris Heid, “Chris, what was the fee we charged the Theater Property Developer?”
The City Planner responded, “Well, we didn’t. And one of the reasons that we didn’t, unfortunately, is because we never had established a fee. We talked about a parking impact fee. But since there was no fee established, it was not applicable to them. And William is right. That one is done. The permits are issued. We can’t go back to them now and say, ‘Well, you owe us a million dollars.’ In hindsight we wish we would have established a fee and charged them something. But we didn’t. This is to close the barn doors.”
Mayor Maria Mitchel then interjected, “..I don’t understand why we can’t pass that on and bill them now when the property is finished and we’ve established a parking fee.”
Councilwoman Bravo added, “I think it was left open ended. …I think there’s still room for negotiation.”
Councilman Vazquez then made a motion to approve a parking fee of $20,000 per parking spot. Councilman Bob Best seconded the motion, but modified it to $25,000. Vazquez accepted the Best amendment.
Mayor Mitchell expressed concern that a fee of $25,000 was too low considering today’s property and construction costs.
When the vote was called for, Bob Best and Victor Vazquez voted yes, but Jacky Bravo, Walter Fajet, and Maria Mitchell voted no as they appeared to want a bigger fee.
The discussion continued as the Council attempted to give the City Attorney more direction.
A frustrated Councilman Fajet added, “We needed to have set [the fee] for this developer and we didn’t…Kind of a big oversight.”
With the clear frustration in the room regarding the development of One Curtiss Parkway, the City Attorney contradicted the City Manager and the City Planner when she said: “I don’t want to shut the door on the possibility of the fee being applied to the One Curtiss Parkway project. That is something that I’m continuing to look at. I don’t want that to be shut down. It’s not a sure thing, but I do want to make sure that’s clear.”
With some relief, Mayor Mitchell added, “Thank you Heidi.
Walter Fajet added “I was still under the impression that we were going to set a fee that was going to be applied to One Curtiss Parkway…That’s a humungous deal to me…I find that shocking…I want more information about that and what are options are…Even at $20,000 that would have been $1.06 Million.”
What should the parking fee be?
I think the fee is pretty easy to figure out. How much will it cost the city to buy a lot and build a parking garage? Then divide that cost by the number of new spots created. That per parking spot cost is the fee that should be charged. In other words, if a developer doesn’t have room for parking on premise and they use public parking, they need to pay the City of Miami Springs for the price to build public parking elsewhere. This is how other cities do it. In fact, according to the City Manager, these are the parking fees charged by other municipalities:
- City of Miami Beach: $40,000
- City of Miami: $45,000
- Coral Gables: $42,000
- Bay Harbor Islands: $20,000
We think it’s an absolute embarrassment of gross ineptitude if the City Administration didn’t stop the development pending the setting of a parking fee. Where’s the fiduciary responsibility? As Walter Fajet stated, we’re talking about 53 parking spots which at minimum are worth $20,000. Multiply that by 53 parking spaces and this developer should have been assessed a parking fee of $1,060,000. If we take the higher fee that Bob Best wanted, it’s $1,325,000.
Now, we’re hoping that the City Attorney, who has not shut down the possibility of charging a fee, finds away to asses the million dollars that the City Administration failed to collect on this project. Heidi, we’re hoping you come through on this as you did with Factory Town.
For a cash strapped tiny town, it’s absurd to think that Chris Heid and William Alonso just let the developer at One Curtiss Parkway slide without having to pay a parking fee. If it’s an oversight, it’s a big friggin oversight…A million dollar oversight.
Again, we’re thankful and hopeful that the City Attorney is attempting to solve this, but if not, someone needs to pay for this fiduciary blunder.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or via social media.
Follow Up Stories:
Letter to the Editor: Resident calls for Resignations