Miami mayor vetoes rezoning of Babylon apartment building

Commission voted last week to upzone the Brickell site to 24 stories

Francis Suarez and the Babylon site (Credit: Google Maps)
Francis Suarez and the Babylon site (Credit: Google Maps)

A week after the Miami City Commission approved plans to build a 24-story tower on the site of the former Babylon Apartments, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has vetoed the decision.

Meanwhile, land use attorney Jeffrey Bercow, who is representing the developer, former Spaghetti Western star Francisco Martinez-Celeiro, filed an ethics complaint accusing the mayor’s legal counsel of illegally lobbying on the zoning issue, according to the Miami Herald.

Last Thursday, the commission voted 4-1 to grant the request of Martinez-Celeiro’s Babylon International to upzone the site at 240 Southeast 14th Street from 12 stories to 24 stories.

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Commissioners Joe Carrollo, Willy Gort, Keon Hardemon and Manolo Reyes put aside objections from dozens of neighboring condo owners and residents, as well as an impassioned plea from Commissioner Ken Russell, whose district includes the Babylon site, that granting the owner double the allowable height would set a dangerous precedent for future development along a stretch of Brickell Avenue that is lined with older, mid-rise buildings.

Lawyers representing the opposing property owners say that the mayor’s veto is tainted by Eddy Leal’s actions. In April, he hired Leal as his legal counsel, according to Crespogram News.

Leal spoke out against the Babylon’s rezoning before and after he was hired by the mayor, and represented or spoke on behalf of other residents, but never registered as a lobbyist, Berkow said.

Suarez told the Miami Herald he has excluded Leal from discussions tied to the Babylon and didn’t discuss the rezoning and veto with Leal. He called the complaint a “ridiculous” attempt to intimidate him the day before his deadline to veto the commission’s vote. Commissioners have the right to overrule a veto. [Miami Herald] Katherine Kallergis