Miami Dade County Community Forum

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Virginia Key Master Plan: Planning Advisory Board Unanimous Against

At the Planning Advisory Board Meeting last night the City of Attorney advised the board that the Virginia Key Master Plan was an informational item and told them they should not vote on it. It appears it was advertised as such: An informational meeting. Why?

Perhaps the City officials pushing the plan didn’t want to get a vote to make it look bad?

The Board voted anyway, unanimously to reject the plan.


  1. And I would add that the PAB really showed some gumption and backbone. It was a pleasure to watch them intelligently question and comment on the inadequacies of the plan. Even the ususal pro administration reps could not go along with business as usual. Especially great were Janice Talbert (?)-- the Chair -- Betty Gutierrez, Ernie Martin and Paul Mann. The packed house was good, too. It will be interesting to see what the Commission will do.

  2. AnonymousJune 18, 2009

    The Park Director was a disaster. A Kiss Ass performance if I ever saw one.

  3. Oh, yeah. I forget about him . . . it seemed like he was trying to make some sort of environmental justice issue out of denying all of the over-the-top playing fields on inaccessible and environmentally sensitive Virginia Key. Totally off base.

  4. Posted on Thu, Jun. 18, 2009
    2nd Miami board rejects Virginia Key plan, calls it `utter nonsense'
    The city of Miami's big plans for Virginia Key got trashed. Again.

    For the second week in a row, a city board on Wednesday night gave a unanimous thumbs-down to the city's proposal for remaking the ecologically rich but much abused island into a natural and recreational playground.

    This time it was the Planning Advisory Board, whose 8-0 vote came after members lambasted the plan for favoring large swaths of commercial development and athletic fields over nature, favoring automobiles and parking garages over environmental sustainability, hemming in the historic Miami Marine Stadium with overscaled buildings and failing to heed overwhelming sentiment at public meetings for an emphasis on conservation.

    ''This is utter nonsense,'' board member Paul Mann told city planners and their consultants from the Fort Lauderdale landscape design firm EDSA, citing cost guesstimates of about $400 million. ``I don't think Virginia Key needs another building. It's another example of the public being invited to give its views and then having them completely ignored.''

    Of 30 members of the public who spoke at the hearing, only two favored the plan.

    One week earlier, the city's waterfront board, citing nearly identical concerns, voted 9-0 against recommending approval of the plan to the City Commission, also after listening to about two hours of public testimony in near uniform opposition to the plan.

    Such overwhelming consensus among advisory board members and the public is almost unheard of in the typically contentious arena of city planning and development review.

    The planning board vote now squarely places the issue on the City Commission, which is scheduled to vote on the proposal, a linchpin of Mayor Manny Diaz's administration, on June 25. The commission has generally supported Diaz's ambitious planning initiatives, though none has previously come to the panel with unanimous opposition from advisory boards.

    Planning board member Charles Pruett, alluding to more than three years of design work and public meetings on the plan, said the persistent public opposition -- and the lack of responsiveness from city planners and their consultants -- demonstrates ``something has gone wrong with that process.''

    City urban design chief Enrique Nunez defended the plan, saying the public had been heard and suggestions incorporated into the design. He said the areas that would have commercial development or athletic fields are concentrated along the Rickenbacker Causeway or an old landfill and represent less than 25 percent of the 1,000-acre publicly owned key.

    Opposition is coming largely from angry and disappointed parks activists, environmentalists, rowers and boaters who had backed the city's planning effort, hoping it would lead to the conservation of most of the environmentally degraded island, a habitat for migratory birds, threatened flora and fauna and a nesting ground for sea turtles.

    City administrators have put the plan on a fast track to City Commission review following months of apparent dormancy.

    The master plan, which has cost $1 million to produce, is intended to guide the island's restoration and redevelopment for years to come. Passage would not guarantee that anything would be built, especially at a time when the city faces a severe budget crunch, and future administrations could alter the plan.

    Among the plan's chief faults, in critics' eyes: It accommodates too many parking garages -- as many as 11 -- yet not a single public boat ramp, and contains no ideas for alternative transportation around the island, such as trolleys or water taxis.

    Many also took aim at an expanded wet-slip marina that would jut into the Marine Stadium water basin, impeding rowing training and regatta courses.

    © 2009 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

  5. AnonymousJune 18, 2009

    Correction: The brownfield/former landfill is not environmentally sensitive - where the ballfields were to go - but it is open space. However, the fields they are proposing were excessive and clearly not for neighborhood nor Regional use as the Park Manager was suggesting.