At the recent City Council Meeting, we saw various local business owners speak up as they were denied the ability to move into the new downtown development at One Curtiss Parkway (Springs Town Center). The reason is that the Springs Town Center falls within the Gateway Overlay District, a three block area that is zoned for first floor retail and restaurants.
“First floor uses along road rights-of-way shall be limited to restaurant and/or retail.”
While many people believe the Gateway Overlay District was created for the sole purpose of getting the project at One Curtiss Parkway approved, the zoning for the Gateway Overlay District extends beyond the Springs Town Center. The Gateway Overlay District extends three blocks and includes the shops at Hook Square, the renovated shopping center that includes Burritoville and Ray’s Taekwondo Center, and the entire block that includes Starbucks, Apple Dental, the Westar Gas Station, the UPS Store, all the way to the Farm Stores.
Obviously, businesses like Ray’s Taekwondo and Apple Dental Group wouldn’t be classified as retail and restaurant, but are grandfathered in because they were at their respective locations before the passing of the Gateway Overlay District. The same is true for many of the hair salons that are within the district.
One of the local business owners that spoke up during the Council Meeting’s Open Forum session was Maribel Martin. She’s the owner of the M Salon and Spa located on Curtiss Parkway. Her business is located within the Gateway Overlay District at 44 Curtiss Parkway or just a few doors down from the Starbucks. Maribel Martin wanted to move her business to the new Springs Town Center. However, Martin was told that she could not move to the new building because it’s zoned for retail and restaurants and her business does not qualify as such.
Okay. I can buy that. The city is trying to attract true retail stores and restaurants to the area, but wait…
Why do I see two new businesses opening up within the Gateway Overlay District that are within the same category as Maribel’s salon?
There’s the new Spot Barber Shop opening up next to Ray’s Taekwondo Center. And there’s the Beauty by Design Med-Spa. These two new businesses can’t be grandfathered in. They weren’t there before. And the location that used to be there was a church book store.
To be clear, these new businesses are within the Gateway Overlay District. They are on the ground floor. And the use within the Gateway Overlay District is also pretty clear: Retail and/or Restaurant.
Of course, this begs the following questions:
- Why is Beauty by Design Med Spa allowed to open up in a location within the Gateway Overlay District that is zoned for retail and restaurant?
- Why is the Spot Barbershop allowed to open up in a district that is zoned for retail and restaurant?
- Why can’t Maribel Martin, who’s been operating the M-Salon and Spa for 14 years, move her business within the Gateway Overlay District, too?
Now, some will say, “Well, that’s because they were trying to move into the ‘new building’ at the Springs Town Center.” To which I’ll say “Who cares?” The Gateway Overlay District is a three block district that changed the zoning for all three blocks, not just the Springs Town Center. Any new business that moves into the Gateway Overlay District has to be retail or restaurant (at least for the ground floor) or can be grandfathered in if they continue to operate the business that was there beforehand.
There’s no language within the Gateway Overlay District that says the use only applies to new buildings. In fact, in section C of the Gateway Overlay District, it states “The City desires for new and existing buildings within the Gateway District to become more aesthetically pleasing, have architectural elements that highlight the City’s history, facilitate pedestrian activity and walkability, and assist in traffic calming.” So clearly the use section (C3) is intended for BOTH new and existing buildings. And I know this may sound repetitive, but here’s the exact language from the Gateway Overlay District:
C-3: Uses. The uses in the CBD shall remain in effect for the Gateway District, except that hotels shall be prohibited in the Gateway District. Additionally, first floor uses along road rights-of-way shall be limited to restaurant and/or retail. The ground floor shall contain occupiable, air-conditioned space for permitted commercial uses with a minimum depth of 40 feet from the building façade for those portions of the building along road rights-of-way, except such features as, without limitation, driveways, utility infrastructure, colonnades and outside dining areas. Direct access to such uses and full storefront windows are encouraged. Upper floors may be commercial, office, residential, or a mix of residential, office, and commercial. The mixed-use ratio found in § 150.070 of the Code shall not apply to the Gateway District.
Open Legal Question
Another item to consider is whether an existing business within the Gateway Overlay District can retain their grandfathered status if they move within the District? Take Maribel Martin’s M Salon and Spa. She’s already grandfathered in at her location. She’s already within the Gateway Overlay District. Can she retain her grandfathered status if she moves within the district?
It’s the same question for any business within the Gateway Overlay District. Are they allowed to move within the district or are they stuck at their existing location? And does that give their landlord too much leverage?
Recently, the Coverall Medical Center moved from the Miami Springs Professional Building on Hook Square (which is grandfathered as a professional building) to a “retail” spot next to Prime Fitness. Doesn’t this violate the Gateway Overlay District’s zoning use of Retail and Restaurants?
Or is it allowed to do so since it already existed within the Gateway Overlay District?
Of course, if Coverall Medical Center is allowed to move out of an office and into a retail spot within the Gateway Overlay District, then why can’t Doctor Zayas move his dental office to the Gateway Overlay District? Why can’t Joanna Hernandez open a pediatric office in the Gateway Overlay District?
Prefer Retail and Restaurants
Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I like the idea of being a little bit strict on new businesses to attract more retail and restaurants. It’s also no secret that I’ve never liked the idea of more residential downtown. I’ve always been a proponent for office spaces on the second and third floors because it creates more jobs, more business activity during business hours, and provides a greater number of customers for the downstairs retailers in the form of employees, clients, and vendors who visit the offices of doctors, dentists, hair stylists, lawyers, architects, accountants, etcetera. In fact, Miami Springs is desperately void of a modern office building within the Central Business District. Which is why you have so many retail spots (especially along Westward) occupied by businesses you’d normally see in an office environment. Insurance providers, realtors, architects, accountants, doctors, and dentists can all be found along Westward using a retail space when traditionally you’d find these businesses within an office building.
The City Needs to Be Fair
Equal protection under the law means that the City of Miami Springs can’t play favorites. If the City of Miami Springs allows a new business like the Spot Barber Shop and the Beauty by Design Med Spa to open up without a variance, then they need to be fair and allow a business like the M Salon and Spa to move within the Gateway Overlay District.
If the City of Miami Springs allows Coverall Medical Center to move within the district, then it should allow a business like the M Salon and Spa to move as well.
Fair is fair.
Now, if they don’t want the M Salon and Spa to open up within the Gateway Overlay District then they need to be fair and reject the Spot Barber Shop and reject the Beauty by Design Med Spa. Now, naturally, this option becomes the expensive choice for the City of Miami Springs and the taxpayers. Both businesses have spent thousands of dollars in preparation of opening their business. If the city of Miami Springs says no, they’ll have to pay them a substantial amount for reneging on their approval.
And that leads me to my final point. The vet.
You see there was a veterinarian that has been attempting to move into the Springs Town Center. And allegedly, the vet had received paperwork and emails from the City of Miami Springs confirming their approval to move into the Springs Town Center. So with approvals on hand, the vet begins to make financial investments and commitments in order to open up the location.
Then the City of Miami Springs allegedly reneged because the veterinary office did not qualify as retail. And this action appears to be the final straw that led to the firing of the former City Planner, Chris Heid.
Furthermore, if the City of Miami Springs renegs on approvals, then how can any business trust the City of Miami Springs going forward?
Bottom line, the City of Miami Springs has a zoning mess in the three block Gateway Overlay District.
You’ve got existing businesses that can’t open while at the same time allowing new businesses that technically don’t qualify as retail or restaurant open up.
Why the inconsistencies?
We can easily blame it all on the former City Planner, but he already got fired and he’s not here anymore.
Who the heck is going to fix this inconsistent zoning mess?
Will Tammy Romero, our interim City Manager fix this?
Or will it come down to the permanent City Manager to be selected by the City Council?
Only time will tell.
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