A proposal to transform four single houses and two vacant lots into 18 townhouses on U.S. 1 near Miami Science Museum is now dead. At its May 28 Planning and Zoning Board hearing, the Miami City Commission unanimously denied the rezoning of the properties to allow for the larger project designed by Borges + Associates.
Even though the 18 townhouses had won a recommendation from Miami’s Planning and Zoning Appeals Board, city commissioners cited neighborhood opposition in rejecting the owner’s rezoning request from single-family to multi-family, according to video of the May 28 hearing.
“It’s pretty clear they simply don’t want it,” said Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose district includes the proposed development. His colleagues concurred. “This commission has a reputation of listening to the neighbors,” said Commissioner Frank Carollo. “I don’t think we should be departing from that. Clearly there is opposition from the residents.”
Representatives for Southeastern Investment Group Corp., the owner of the six contigious lots beginning on the corner of South Miami Avenue and U.S. 1, tried to persuade the five-member city commission that the 18 townhouses would improve the area by reducing a dangerous traffic situation created by cars backing out of the existing four residences onto U.S. 1. In addition to the townhomes, Southeastern also proposed building an underground garage with a side street entrance.
Southeastern, which lists Key Biscayne resident Alex Zakharia as its president in state corporate records, purchased the lots for a combined $976,000 between 1997 and 2004. The company teamed up with South Miami-based CEN Construction to build the project, according to Southeastern attorney Lucia Dougherty, a shareholder with Greenberg Traurig.
“This particular area is inappropriate for single family housing,” Dougherty said during the May 28 hearing. “We don’t believe this is a reasonable use of these properties.”
Bob Liu, a CEN principal, told commissioners the project would act as a buffer between the single family houses and the busy U.S.1 corridor. “This is not spot zoning, but correctional zoning,” he said.
However, several homeowners spoke out against Southeastern’s plans and commissioners received an opposition petition signed by 40 neighboring residents.
Pedro Puerto, whose three-bedroom house at 40 Southwest 30th Road fronts the proposed development, was one of the objectors. “The protest is based on improper land use that debases the quiet area we reside in and is not in keeping with the single family character of the neighborhood,” Puerto said. “This is being hailed as an improvement to the area only by developers, lawyers, architects and people who do not live there.”
Reinaldo Borges, principal and CEO of Borges + Associates recently told The Real Deal he does not know what his client now plans to do with the six properties. Liu and Zakharia did not return phone calls seeking comment.