Accusing members of the Miami Planning, Zoning & Appeals Board of intentionally delaying a vote on its Eastside Ridge mixed-use development, SPV Realty is suing the city to force the board to make a decision on the controversial Little Haiti project.
The New York City-based developer alleges the planning board refuses to carry out its duties to approve or deny Eastside Ridge’s application to change the zoning on nearly 22 acres at 5045 Northeast Second Avenue, according to the lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court earlier this month. The request is to change the zoning from medium density, multifamily residential to restricted commercial.
Stephen Hunter Johnson, a partner with the law firm Lydercker Diaz representing SPV Realty, did not respond to messages seeking comment. A city spokesperson declined comment.
In May, the planning board deadlocked on a separate Eastside Ridge application to approve or deny its request for a special area plan, a mechanism that allows developers to obtain density and height increases if a project entails 9 or more acres.
The project, which encompasses 5.4 million square feet of residential, hotel, office and retail spaces, has faced intense opposition from Little Haiti residents worried the project will accelerate gentrification of the historically immigrant neighborhood. Eastside Ridge would replace the current Design Place 500-unit apartment complex with 14 new buildings, some as tall as 28 stories.
While the special area plan application can move forward to the Miami City Commission for final approval or denial, the request to change the zoning to restricted commercial remains in the hands of planning board members, the complaint states.
On Oct. 16, the planning board deferred the zoning change application for a fifth time following another contentious meeting. The lawsuit alleges planning board members ignored the advice from Assistant City Attorney Amber Ketterer that a “vote cannot be unreasonably or unnecessarily withheld.”
According to video of the meeting, planning board member Anthony Parrish accused SPV Realty of not making any effort to do community outreach. “The last vote was contentious and I think deferral is entirely appropriate,” Parrish said. “If they want to sue us, that is their right. And it is our right to do what’s best for the city of Miami.”
As part of its deferral, the planning board instructed SPV Realty to come back with an updated traffic study, a better strategy on how to minimize the project’s impact on Little Haiti and the nearby affluent neighborhood of Buena Vista, and proof the developer held more community meetings with sign-in sheets.
SPV Realty is requesting a judge force the planning board to follow its rules and take up its zoning change application as soon as possible.