Friday, October 8, 2010

Planning and Zoning Meeting October 7

There was one item on the agenda for the special meeting last night - P and Z approval of the site plans for a commercial building at 1415 JFK Causeway. This is the Channel 7 site on the east side. Scott Greenwald, developer of the Lexi, applied for permission to construct a commercial building with a swimming pool on the site. The building itself was recommended by the city staff for approval since it met in most part the city plans for the bay walk, and those few areas of difference are small and the developer agreed to change them to conform.

Nevertheless, the P and Z was unable to come to a recommendation. The vote was 2 to 2.

Scott Greenwald, who developed the Lexi, and finally had to resort to political influence to fund an unnecessary City Hall move to fill up his unrented space on the ground floor, said he wants to develop the lot to be ahead of the curve when the economy recovers.

Additionally, the item was not part of the regular agenda because for some reason, it was overlooked in planning the last P and Z agenda.

The bottom line is that this is the only lot in North Bay Village that can support a strip club. Although the developer's team carefully avoided the question of who the target market is for tenancy, it remained clear to me by their repeated statements "legal use" that this is the place.

As for the need for a special meeting, when a multimillion dollar development created by a professional developer is at stake, I find it hard to believe that there was not a simple phone call the week before the regular meeting to ensure that everything was in order. In fact, I don't believe that was overlooked.

Now, the argument last night, a valid one, was that P and Z only votes on the physical site. Usage questions are for the commission. Penelope Friedland, clearly no fan of "upscale gentleman's clubs" (strip joints), as always tried to make that point crystal clear. Friedland even went so far at to try to put a clause in the approval that usage for this site would have to come back to Planning and Zoning.

Arguing for approval, Al Coletta, North Bay Village developer, spoke very clearly saying that this is about "dead" property, property that is not producing revenue or taxes, and that the question of usage has to be dealt with separately. Again a valid point.

But North Bay Village has been here before. We have an imperfect compromise on the zoning for a strip club and this exception, this lot, is the only thing that makes this lot valuable right now. Two of the P and Z members could not see their way clear to approve this and now the commission must decide in their "special" meeting on October 19.

As a point of interest, there was an attempt to reconvene the meeting following adjournment, but it was brought to the committee's attention by Ann Bakst that this would constitute a separate meeting and Sunshine Laws require notice.

I was disappointed that very few people showed at this meeting. If we follow the usual North Bay Village pattern, the October 19 meeting will be sparsely attended and then, when we have the strip club in place, people will be shocked that this passed.

It's time to turn out.

Kevin Vericker
October 8, 2010

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