Saturday, July 19, 2014

Destruction Thanks to University of Miami's Sale of Pine Rocklands ---It doesn't end there it Continues July 21 unless you stop it. Guest Blog by Ann Hinga

Destruction of Pine Rocklands and Tropical Hardwood Hammocks in Miami-Dade County:

People are up in arms over the recent news that the University of Miami, a private developer and Wal-Mart have decided to destroy globally-imperiled pine rockland within the Richmond Pineland complex (which includes Zoo Miami, Larry and Penny Thompson Park, some federal property and some University of Miami property).  While the outrage and the sentiments are appropriate, it is incredibly unfortunate that these people were not engaged and enraged in 2005 when the land use amendment for development was approved by the Board of County Commissioners.   Only three activists tried to convince the Board to save the Wal-Mart site: the Native Plant Society, the Tropical Audubon Society, and a courageous UM PhD biology candiate.  These activists were not able to overcome the University's well coordinated campaign (which included endorsements by Donna Shalala, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden), and UM easily won approvals which paved the way for development.  Recent actions by the US Fish and Wildlife Service may alter the future at the Wal-Mart site and save some more of this precious forest, but this is just one case of proposed natural area destruction and people should be getting engaged in the others as well, especially since the others have not yet been approved and pine rocklands and hardwood hammocks may still be saved.

Case 1 - the 'Burger King Hammock' on Old Cutler Road.  On Monday night (July 21st), the Palmetto Bay Village Council will consider a zoning change on 22 acres of forest located at the property now called the Palmetto Bay Village Center (17901 Old Cutler Road).  This forest consists of pineland and hammock and provides important habitat for South Florida endemic plants, birds, butterflies and other wildlife.  This land use and zoning change would eliminate the legally binding zoning promise made to the area residents in the 1980s that this forest would be preserved.  Concerned citizens should attend the zoning hearing on Monday night to keep this area designated as park land.  See the attached flyer for more information.

Case 2 - the County, primarily through the Parks Department, is in negotiation with 20th Century Fox to develop a theme park at Zoo Miami.  The development of this theme park would require a $130 million public subsidy and will potentially destroy approximately a dozen acres and reduce the ability to effectively manage much more of the globally-imperiled pine rockland in the Richmond Pineland Complex.  In an ironic twist, the County has asked the University of Miami to convey land containing pineland to further this development proposal.  Concerned citizens should be contacting the Mayor to let him know that these pinelands need to be protected from development and secondary impacts from nearby development.  The Tropical Audubon Society is one of the leaders in the fight to save these pinelands.  Check out for more information.

Case 3 - the University of Miami owns more pineland in the Richmond Pineland complex.  While there are no known development proposals now, who knows the fate of those lands.  Concerned citizens should be asking the University to place these pinelands in permanent protection with appropriate management.

Palmetto Bay is proposing to change the land use and zoning for the entire 22-acre forest at the Palmetto Bay Village Center, 17901 Old Cutler Road, to remove the ONLY legal protection that this forest has against being bulldozed. This forest consists of both pineland and hammock and provides important habitat for South Florida native plants, including threatened or endangered species, birds, including protected migratory species, butterflies, and other wildlife. This land use and zoning change would eliminate the legally binding zoning promise made to the area residents that this forest would be preserved.

Web link to information:

Show up!! Be Heard!!

The forest in question is a 22-acre pineland that grades into hammock at the north end. It is located between the new Palmetto Bay Library and SW 184 Street on the east side of Old Cutler Road. This forest is not protected in any way under county, state, or federal law. The only legal protections for native plants in this site are based on Village of Palmetto Bay zoning law and past zoning approvals, including a requirement to maintain native vegetation in this forest. The proposed zoning and land use changes would remove that requirement and allow complete development of the forest, which is on average 200-400-feet wide, except for a narrow strip of land along Old Cutler Road. If these zoning and land use changes are approved, no agency, including the county DERM or the federal government, will be able to prevent destruction of this forest. All rare plant species and wildlife habitat can be destroyed. This land use and zoning change would eliminate the legally binding zoning promise made to the area residents back in the 1980’s, when the original Burger King headquarters building was built on this site, that this forest would be preserved.

What you can do:
Show up at the zoning hearing. Do not wait for any other opportunity; the Council may not take public comment later. If you are unhappy about the idea of removing what little protection this 22-acre forest has from being destroyed for development, please speak up. You may wish to research this issue further or include one or more of the following points:

1. Go to the Village website and look up what can be constructed within the Village Mixed Use zoning that is being created by this Ordinance. You will not believe all the things that can be constructed and you will be amazed by how tall all the buildings can be.
2. Ask Desmond Chin the zoning director to explain the real reasons why he wants to
remove the Parks and Recreation land use designation from one of the largest remaining natural habits, thereby eliminating its protection by the Village.
3. Pine rockland and hammock forests provide habitat to a variety of plants and animals including endangered species. Ask the Council to challenge Village zoning staff to see if staff really has done an analysis of the endangered species habitat destruction that will result in comparison with the species and habitat protection provisions of the Village Comp plan and Village laws. Ask if a study for rare species has been done for the area proposed for the land use and zoning changes (none is included in the staff report for the hearing) and if not, the Mayor should explain why a land use and zoning change is moving forward for such a rare forest without an analysis or survey. Ask how staff could decide in their report that this change is “protective of the natural environment” and consistent with Palmetto Bay’s Comprehensive Plan without evaluating the value of the 22-acre forest for rare species or for all the habitat destruction that this will allow.
4. Tell the Council that allowing development of this large area of native pineland and hammock forests is not acceptable.
5. Ask the Council how facilitating development of the vast majority of the 22-acre
naturally forested site through this zoning and land use change would be consistent with Policy 1.5.4 of the Village’s Comprehensive Plan, which states, “Protect and enhance the lush flora and fauna of the Village through strong community landscaping guidelines, land development regulations, and strong code enforcement.”
6. Tell the Mayor that you want the entirety of this forest to be preserved, consistent with the promise made to residents back in the 1980’s when construction of the Burger King headquarters (now the Palmetto Bay Village Center) was approved.
7. Tell the Coun
cil that undoing the protection of park and recreation designation for a naturally occurring forest is inconsistent with the image of a community that puts a link to its Green Site prominently on the Village Web site, and whose interactive city guide map identifies this forest as the “Palmetto Bay Village Center Protected Natural Areas”.
8. Ask your neighbors if they think that the “Village of Parks” should eliminate the “Park”  designation on this forest.
9. Ask the Council if it wants Palmetto Bay to be compared to the University of Miami in the newspaper. Recent articles in the Miami Herald pointed out that UM has obtained approvals to destroy pinelands containing habitat for endangered species and to cash out by selling to a developer who proposes building a WalMart. Some of these same plant species have been found in this forest and it has recently been restored by a US Fish and Wildlife Service Grant. Unlike the Walmart proposal where most of the forest is set aside in a preserve, the Village proposal would allow development throughout the forest by carving the forest into half acre lots for houses across the entire 22 acres, or worse, building strip malls, a hospital or some of the other myriad of uses allowed under the proposed Village Mixed Use zoning.


Anonymous said...

The zoning covenant that protects the forest was put in place in the 1980s when the property was developed by Burger King. The current owner of that property acquired it with the zoning covenant in place and should have been aware of the restrictions. The Village should not be duped into thinking that they need to approve this.

Anonymous said...

So much for a green Palmetto Bay government. The first council protected the hardwood hammocks at the Burger King site by requiring the nature paths and open access. There were limits and this current group obviously could not care less about the neighbors. The current mayor and council are falling all over each other to see who can claim to be all about job creation and development. 4 story building codes are being replaced with 150 foot allowances. Bay front parks have been shut down for wedding rental palaces. There is no maintenance along the Old Cutler Bike Path. This is a travesty.

Char said...

I live in Cape Cutler which is directly west of the subject property. I have attended every hearing on the property since the late 70's and I know when Mr. Silver rezoned the property certain promises were made to the residents.

Following Andrew, and following burger kings exit, Mr. Silver bought a wonderfully large parcel of land at a wonderful price. He has struggled with tenants over the years and he has worked with the Palmetto Bay community with kindness.

HOWEVER, that being said, promises were made and promises look to be broken.

We were NOT supposed to see or hear the presence of the buildings or events. That is NOT vacant land along Old Cutler that is a buffer for the community.

The permanent preservation of the buffer was committed to when they gained permission to build town houses and their rich senior living facility. He had to maintain the property as native and they went to some expense to clear out the exotic under brush. He stopped the maintenance over the years.

Anyone remember the "charrette" that Mr. Silver paid for? He paid what...$25k or more.... for a series of meetings and drawings with the community. Our elected officials, the ones that make decisions on zoning attended. Where are those drawings? Didn't the Village Council approve the drawings at a zoning meeting? I am almost positive the charette were voted on.

I live almost at palmer trinity and I can see the tops of the buildings and I can hear EmC's when they have outdoor events inside my house on the east side. I can hear the boom boom of bass 1/4 mile from the property. That must violate noise ordinances.

Scott Silver said...

I know that some of you will think that I am being biased here, as I am One of the principals of the owner of The Palmetto Bay Village Center site, but I do have to respond in some manner.

I will tell you that the facts that are attempted to be stated in this blog are so inaccurate that the poster should be embarrassed. No one even bother to call me, even though I have always been extremely public about this and willing to meet and talk with anyone. I have discussed this with multiple parties , including village staff, residents, homeowners and interest groups, including Environmental groups, for years. There are so many environmental protections in place, and the property remains subject to local, state and federal limitations, that this is actually an environmentally sensitive Ordinance that we should all be proud of.

We spent two years, at DERMs request, reviewing this for any potential inclusion in their environmentally endangered lands program, and they expressly rejected it. We offered to donate 25% of the land, but they chose not to do so, after conducting a biological review that only found minor issues. In truth and in fact, those minor issues are being explicitly addressed in the ordinance and in the site plan review, which will be subject to further public hearing.

We specifically agreed to "cluster" any homes in such a manner as to preserve the native plants and habitat. This is an extraordinary remedy, that does not even exist in typical housing ordinances. We worked with the village to craft something unique to make sure that the site was environmentally protected. DERM has reviewed this and agreed to have a fire station located in this area, so the concerns that are raised are simply based upon wrong information.

As far as any condition placed upon the original development of the Burger King property, there is no covenant that set aside that land. The only condition is that some landscape buffer be maintained, on old Cutler Road, so that the "existing" buildings are not visible from old Cutler Road. That's it.

(More to follow, too big for one post)

Scott silver. said...

I challenge anyone, in particular the original poster, to show me one shred of evidence to the contrary. Don't post things without checking out the information first. You can call me at 305-788-6164 at any time and I'm happy to give you all the information and review this with anybody. I have been doing this for years and always been open to the community, since I value this area as much as anyone, if not more.

As far as the zoning and property rights, there was, when we purchased this, a GU designation which allowed us to have whatever the "trend" of development was in the area. We were not limited. Anyone who says that we bought this knowing that we could not do anything there is wrong.

Under the trend of development, we have a VMU Designation which allows midrise buildings and other commercial development. This directly adjoins the property. Rather than avail ourselves of that, we have voluntarily said that we will not go with that "trend" of development, but would rather be more compatible with the other sides of the property and the rest of the community by limiting ourselves to single-family homes and the fire station.

(More to follow)

Scott silver said...

This bears repeating. We could have insisted on far more, but voluntarily agreed to the least intensive use. The ridiculous rumors of hospitals, shopping centers or some other type of development on our front land are just that, ridiculous. I'm not saying this to belittle anyone, but just to set the facts straight. Please contact me and review the ordinance, since this is not some threat to the land, but is actually a very strong protective device.

If you wait until some other landowner in the future gets a rezoning on this, you could wind up with something far more intrusive. In fact, the current land-use, if this is not changed, could allow up to a .2 FAR, which would allow construction of up to a 160,000 square-foot YMCA or other type of recreational facility. I don't think that this is what was intended, nor is this what is desirable.

Because the current state of the land-use code , which the village, staff, and all parties reviewing this, recognize is incompatible with the actual trend of development, does not allow a fire station, that is another reason to proceed with this. We have been working for several years to secure a fire station in this area, and this is a necessary fix to accomplish this. The fire department is attempting to get all approvals in place by the end of this fiscal year, so hearing this now is required; so that it may proceed to the State review, and then come back in September for final reading.

Please know that rumor and innuendo is not the way to professionally review land-use decisions. This is something that we've been working on for years. The land will still be subject to any and all environmental review. We're not seeking any exceptions from that. I do hope that anyone concerned will contact me to check out the facts. We have always tried to be responsive and will continue to do so make sure that this is Something the community will be proud of, not afraid of.

Scott Silver

Anonymous said...

Lies lies and more lies. Not one person connected to either this project or Palmetto Bay will tell the truth. Everyone needs to read one of the sections of the code that governs this property:

(k) Public access to the general public of the VMU District's walking paths, trails, path around the existing lagoon, and bike paths shall be provided during daylight hours, with all parties utilizing said designated areas holding harmless the owners within the VMU District and entering at their own risk. This public access shall provide a network of spaces available to the general public and interconnect the green spaces of the VMU District to the remainder of village. Public access to this network of walkways and trails is consistent with the village's comprehensive plan and more specifically, pages 3 and 9 of the underlying charrette report approving the creation of the VMU District. In no manner may residents trespass on other areas of the VMU District which are not within the above-designated areas and the owners of property within the VMU District may develop reasonable regulations relating to the manner, and extent of use of the public access walkways, paths, and trails, provided that the above-referenced hours shall not be modified except in the case of emergency involving public safety or the establishment of special events that require limited access during the duration of the event. The VMU District property owners shall be entitled to reconfigure the walkways and trails subject to public access. so long as interconnection to the remainder of the village is preserved.

I this council to keep the buffer we all were promised. I want quiet enjoyment along Old Cutler. Do not be fooled. Do not be fools like the county commission by voting against the neighbors to protect our Palmetto Bay. DO NOT REMOVE ANY COVENANTS.

Anonymous said...

Residents should speak out to make sure that all environmental protections are being followed.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry. I meant to type that I want this council to keep the buffer we all were promised. I want quiet enjoyment along Old Cutler. Do not be fooled. Do not be fooled and vote like those fools on the county commission who continually vote for developers against neighbors. We want our mayor and council to protect our Palmetto Bay. DO NOT REMOVE ANY COVENANTS.

Scott Silver said...

We will maintain public access consistent with the code language that WE proposed and retain all covenants. They are not being removed. We are the only piece of private property that has agreed to be treated like a park during daylight hours. I hope people understand this is unique and does NOT change under this new ordinance.

This is this first time I have joined in on the blog world and I feel that strongly that we need to correct misconceptions. Maybe I am foolish to have listed my phone number but I am not afraid to speak with facts rather than rumor.

If Anonymous (I can see why) is accusing me of lying please be specific. Otherwise the polite thing to do would be to apologize and stand corrected. There is nothing in the proposed ordinances that changes the public access component.

Anonymous said...

Politics in Palmetto Bay is something else. Either the mayor isn't doing anything to bring development and it's her fault property values aren't rising or she's in bed with a developer paving over paradise. Flynn and England are going out of their way to find a campaign agenda.

Anonymous said...

Make light of this Anon above, there is a reason why Stanczyk has drawn so many challengers: she is addle brained and has failed to push forward any kind of serious improvements. She is a huge flip flopper. She recently sponsored a change in the citizen initiated charter amendment LOWERING the vote requirement from 75% to a simple majority for school expansion. Many residents worked hard to "walk it" and get the signatures to put that item on the ballot. It passed overwhelmingly. Not one person has ever came to the microphone asking for the voting requirement to be reduced, yet there she is, promoting a change to the rules just to kiss Palmer's rear.

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with whether Flynn and England are going out of their way to find a campaign agenda. This is about how the current mayor is going out of her way to change park land to village mixed use and opening it up for development in the future. There is no reason to change it.

Save our Palmetto Bay. This is not what the neighbors were promised in 1985.

Anonymous said...

Why no comment or e-mail blast from CCOCI? Have they been promised something in return for their silence on this issue? Hmmm inquiring minds want to know.

Anonymous said...

There are so many violations in these comments, seems the Mayor should not have read this blog once she determined what it was about. The developer is lobbying.

Anonymous said...

The Palmetto Bay council is just as corrupt as the City of South Miami Commission. Each commissioner is trying to out do the other to super-size the city. Get rid of them all!!!

Anonymous said...

We had a charette Mr silver? Remember?

Anonymous said...

Come to Palmetto Bay, the Village of Developers, by Developers and for the Developers. No environmentally sensitive lands shall impede the Village of progress!

EEL wont buy the land? Then under the bulldozer it shall go!

Resident of the Village of used to be sane government said...

I am disappointed in the whole kit and caboodle.I am voting a straight slate out of office. We have gone from a well respected little village to one that is pissed on.

You don't change land use without the community, no matter what.

Miamichick said...

Do I have to dig up all the covenants on that property? Where is Stanley Price? He loves that parcel.

Anonymous said...

Two Palmetto Bay zoning resolutions regarding the PBVC fire stations are provided here via link. Not the fact that all 1985 covenant and restrictions were provided for (pages 2 and 3 of zoning resolution 09-40)

April 12, 2007

Resolution 07-45 -

April 13, 2009

Zoning resolution 09-40 Zoning Application 08-003 -

Anonymous said...

Scott Silver, listen up. Have you ever heard the bible phrase, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven." Shame on you and all others who whittle away at our forests, which have taken thousands of years to evolve to be what they are today, all so you can get a little richer and fatter in your lifetime. You are not thinking of future generations, and the loss they will suffer at your hands. You have the power to do what's right here, but you choose selfishly and do not see that the devastation you propose is irreversible. Once the forest is gone, it is gone forever. You do not bring honor to your community, you bring repugnance, stupidity and sorrow. Bulldozing forests as a means to build is an antiquated idea that persists only among stale, out-dated generations of past. We, the young generation, do not support this old way of thinking, so don't be surprised at widespread public disapproval for your proposal. Get with the times, put your big boy pants on and do what's right for your community. If you want to build, build on something that's already been leveled, like on your excessive amounts of parking lot space or somewhere that's already been bulldozed and has little wildlife value. Miami needs it's forests left alone, the few we have remaining.