The City of Miami Springs City Council will hold a Board of Appeals Meeting tonight at 7pm to review an appeal by the United Teacher’s of Dade (UTD) regarding the mural they put on their building without permission.

Mural at UTD Headquarters on 36th Street violates Miami Springs Code
Mural at UTD Headquarters on 36th Street violates Miami Springs Code

To be clear, this isn’t a small mural either.  This is a huge, wall to wall, Wynwood-sized mural.  Is the mural nice?  No.  It’s not nice.  It’s beautiful.  But that’s not the point.  The point is, we’re not Wynwood.  You can’t just paint wall to wall murals in the City of Miami Springs without a permit.

Here are the facts:

The UTD painted the mural without proper permission.  They never went to the City of Miami Springs to get permission.  The UTD claims they asked former Councilwoman and UTD endorsed school board candidate, Mara Zapata, if they could put up a mural and she told them yes.  This is the point where the UTD failed.  Since when does the word of a politician mean anything legally binding?  Did the UTD apply for an official permit BEFORE they painted the wall to wall mural?  No.

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Mural at UTD Headquarters on 36th Street violates Miami Springs Code
Mural at UTD Headquarters on 36th Street violates Miami Springs Code

So, the UTD paints the mural from wall to wall without a permit.  Code enforcement eventually sees it and gives them a warning notice.

Mural at UTD Headquarters on 36th Street violates Miami Springs Code
Mural at UTD Headquarters on 36th Street violates Miami Springs Code

Then, after the fact, the UTD submits a permit.  That permit is denied by the City of Miami Springs.  The UTD then went in front of the Miami Springs Code Compliance Board on November 2, 2021.  The City’s Code Compliance Board found that the UTD was in violation of the City Code, but gave the UTD 90 days to come to compliance.

Then the UTD went in front of the City of Miami Springs Board of Adjustments on March 7, 2022.  Board Member Madan moved to recommend the City Council uphold the City Planners determination for UTD’s appeal to be denied.  Vice Chair Tallman seconded the motion.  The motion passed by a 3-2 vote.  (See minutes from the Board of Adjustments meeting below:)

City Attorney Alejandro Uribe summarized the staff report which involved a painted wall that did not follow the approved color pallet. Attorney Uribe outlined how as per the City’s Code of Ordinance section 93-51(C)(4) there should be no more than three approved
colors used to paint a building.

Chair Aloma asked City Planner Heid if any correspondence was received. City Planner Heid informed that no public correspondence was received besides UTD staff requesting an appeal. Chair Aloma clarified with City Planner Heid that the applicant has requested
for the Board to make a judgment call on whether the mural is allowed or not to which City Planner Heid agreed.

The UTD Building Corp. Attorney Javier Fernandez from SMGQ Law located at 1200 Brickell Avenue addressed the Board and noted how UTD is seeking an appeal from the previous administrative decision. He presented the items showing UTD’s stance, which is that the mural should be considered a non-commercial sign due to it being art under section 150-030 Sign Regulations. Attorney Fernandez showed signage for other commercial properties in the City and noted how the approved signage contradicted the color pallet requirement.

Chair Aloma offered public commentary from the UTD Staff that were present although they declined. Chair Aloma continued by specifying that section 150-030 is for a separate district and that the current UTD mural denial was due to the painting of the wall and not
in regards to signage. He outlined that the signage which Attorney Fernandez presented did not apply to the current issue as there are separate requirements for signage. Chair Aloma again sets that the denial was due to the wall being painted and the regulation that
was not followed was the 3-color allowance.

Further discussion is made between the Board and Attorney Fernandez. Board Member Valencia asked Attorney Fernandez whether a permit was applied for and Attorney Fernandez explained UTD interpreted via the Code section 150-030 that a permit was not needed. Board Member Valencia showed concern for the timeline between UTD being informed the mural was not allowed to the mural being painted.

UTD staff member Jeffrey Garcia approached the Board and Secretary Garcia swore him in. Mr. Garcia clarified that he believed the current timeline on record was not accurate as they were advised by a previous Council Member that the mural would be allowed as
per the Code. Further discussion in regards to the timeline, permit requirements and section 150-030 continued.

Attorney Uribe reiterates that section 93-51 is specifically intended to be applied to the NW 36th street district which is for the allowed colors and that signage requirements are under a different section of the Code. Attorney Fernandez specified that he believed Code 150-030 does allow the mural as signage and that he believed the Code should be changed if his interpretation is incorrect.

Vice Chair Tallman repeated that the Code does not consider a mural a sign as it is art in a public space. Board Member Madan requested clarification on whether the Gateway District has exceptions for the color pallet for murals. City Planner Heid explained that if
a mural were painted with three colors for the 36th Street district it would be acceptable but he wanted to correctly state that there are two approved color pallets. The first section of the color pallet includes the NW 36th Street district and second section of the color pallet includes all other commercially zoned districts.

Vice Chair Tallman questioned if a mural was proposed in the overlay district would it be expected to be limited to three shades of the color pallet in order to be permissible. City Planner Heid explained that a review process would be done whether to allow the design
and if the mural fell into the requirements of the Code and FAR bonus. Attorney Fernandez asked City Planner Heid if a mural were to be allowed in the Gateway District with more than three colors if no bonus was pursued. City Planner Heid clarified that murals were allowed in the Overlay District as per performance excellence standard in seeking the bonus through demolition or new construction.

Board Member Madan moved to recommend the City Council upholds the City Planners determination for the UTD’s appeal to be denied. No Board Member seconded the motion. The motion failed.

Chair Aloma questioned the City Attorney’s on the procedure of a failed motion. Attorney Arango noted that an action must be taken and the decision made will go before the Council for consideration. After further clarification the City Attorney’s stated that the failed
motion could be reconsidered by the Board.

Board Member Madan moved to recommend the City Council uphold the City Planners determination for UTD’s appeal to be denied. Vice Chair Tallman seconded the motion which carried 3-2 on rollcall vote. The vote was as follows:

    • Vice Chair Tallman, Board Member Kropp, Board Member Madan voted YES.
    • Board Member Valencia and Chair Aloma voted NO.

After further discussion Board Member Madan expresses the Board should recommend
to Council that they look into creating a process for authorizing artistic murals as it will benefit the district. Chair Aloma confirmed it should be done via a second motion.
Board Member Madan moved to recommend to City Council to create a process to
allow murals and for murals to be specifically permitted on NW 36th street district.
Board Member Tallman seconded the motion which carried unanimously 5-0 on
voice vote.

What’s Next?

The City Council is hosting a Board of Appeals Meeting tonight at 7pm at City Hall:

CASE # 01-V-22
PETITIONER: UTD (UNITED TEACHERS OF DADE) BUILDING CORPORATION
ADDRESS: 5553 NW 36 STREET
ZONING: NW 36 STREET
LOT SIZE: 13,500 SQ. FT

The petitioner is appealing an administrative determination that the building at 5553 NW 36th Street is in violation of Section 93-51(C)(4) of the City of Miami Springs Code of Ordinances.

What’s Wrong with the Mural?

As we said before, the mural is beautiful.  However, in addition to violating section 93-51(C)(4) of the City of Miami Springs Code of Ordinances, it would set a bad precedent.  If allowed, it would allow any business to paint murals whether they are as tasteful as the UTD’s or not.  They could paint murals of any size.  They could paint murals of any theme they want.  Any color they want.  In other words, Miami Springs’ business district could be converted into a Wynwood style area.

Now, there are stories crying to save the mural.  The UTD put themselves in this sorry position.  It’s common sense that you get a permit BEFORE a project and not afterwards.  The UTD should have simply followed the correct process and requested a permit BEFORE they painted the mural.  Virtually every Miami Springs property owner knows that if they do something to their property without a permit, they might lose it.  Why is this so difficult for the UTD to understand?

What should happen next?

Board of Adjustments member Rogelio Madan has the right common sense solution:

1) Deny the UTD the appeal.  They should have never painted it without a permit.

2) The City of Miami Springs should draft rules to allow murals through a permitting process.  Those rules may include the colors, themes, and size of the murals.  We’ll leave that for a future discussion.

Fact Checking

There was a recent article indicating that Vice Mayor Jacky Bravo should recuse herself from tonight’s meeting because she works for a Charter School.  That is factually incorrect.  Anyone who knows Vice Mayor Bravo knows she has a thriving career as a real estate broker.  Yes.  She used to be a teacher long ago.  She has been a real estate broker for many years.  That has nothing to do with the UTD.  In fact, all I’ve seen is Ms. Bravo attempting to secure and improve the property values for Miami Springs property owners.

Jacky Bravo

If anything, Victor Vazquez, a Council Member who was endorsed and backed by the UTD, might have a conflict due to the UTD’s support of his political campaign.  However, so far, we see no reason for Councilman Vazquez to recuse himself as he’s shown in the past to be very fair and reasonable.  That’s all we can ask of our representatives.

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

Past Articles on the UTD Mural:

It’s Beautiful, But It’s Illegal

Illegal Mural Vandalized at UTD Headquarters

UTD Vandal Caught on Camera

UTD May Appeal Board’s Violation Ruling in Court

 

Local Media Coverage:

Miami Times Online:
https://www.miamitimesonline.com/news/activists-unveil-mural-in-opposition-to-legislation/article_cbea6236-8bf6-11eb-a5fc-e336f043198e.html

Miami Herald:
https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/article254995132.html

Community Newspapers:

Grant Miller visits the UTD Building to witness the unveiling of a new Murals for Humanity piece.

Common Sense Needed In Miami Springs

 

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