River compromise needed for rezoning plan

Aug.August 28, 2009 01:23 PM

Miami may yet get a radical rezoning measure approved, but holdout commissioner Angel Gonzalez wants a plan for the Miami River to be part of any future deal.

Frank Castaneda, chief of staff to Gonzalez, who was absent during the vote that quashed the controversial Miami 21 plan, said his boss could support the plan with certain conditions. First among them would be a corresponding rezoning to allow mixed used development on 25 acres of riverfront along the 5.5 mile river, located between 18th and 24th avenues.

Gonzalez, now the crucial swing vote would “for sure” vote against Miami 21 without the riverfront rezoning, his top staffer said. 

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz recently announced he would be resubmitting Miami 21 to the Miami City Commission on Sept. 4. A previous attempt to approve Miami 21 on first reading on August 7 was deadlocked by a vote of two to two due to Gonzalez’s absence. Gonzalez, who represents the Allapattah area’s District 1, was ill due to “high blood pressure and stomach problems,” Castaneda said.

“Gonzalez is in favor of river development and river activity,” Castaneda said. “He is against keeping the land idle. That is the biggest issue.” 

But Miami’s policy to encourage riverfront residential growth has been repeatedly rejected by the Department of Community Development, an agency that acts as the state’s future planning overseer. The agency rejected development plans in 2007 and 2008, stating those plans didn’t protect waterfront industrial businesses. 

Andrew Dickman, an attorney for the Miami River Marine Group, which opposes more residential development along the river, said the city “can’t go forward with Miami 21 as it pertains to the river while comp-plan is not approved.”

Castaneda, though, argued that only one business, Hurricane Cove Marina, now operates within the disputed 25 acres, with the rest being “derelict.”

“We are not against shipping. If you are going to have shipping, have it,” Castaneda said. “But don’t have land derelict for 20 years while [waiting for more marine businesses to start].”

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