Should residences be assessed for Streetscape?

Okay, here’s my question: When it comes to a street improvement project the City of Coral Gables is undertaking, is it fair to make a number of residents in the affected area help foot the bill for the work the same way as businesses?

The Ten Aragon Condominium at 10 Aragon Ave. is within the boundaries of the City of Coral Gables’ Streetscape project, which is supposed to enhance the economic vitality of the downtown district. The problem: it is the only residential complex that has been assessed fees to help pay for the street enhancement work. The others being hit with the fees are all businesses.

And we’re not talking pocket change, mind you. The people who own residences within the Ten Aragon Building are being hit with assessment fees of $2,700 or more, each, on top of their usual taxes, and a pent- house owner will have to shell out $25,000. Some already have reluctantly paid the fee but many are balking at it and think it’s unfair.

Technically the fees were due in January, so by fighting this fee those homeowners may face additional charges, too. Their point is that businesses produce income, but residences don’t. And why are they being singled out when other nearby condominium buildings aren’t being assessed this fee?

A group of Ten Aragon homeowners already went before the city commission and talked to the city manager, and a few of the Gables commissioners seem to be on their side, with one, Vince Lago, more vocal than the rest.

But so far, nothing is happening. The city argues that everyone, homeowners included, will benefit from the Streetscape project, but the affected residents at Ten Aragon don’t think it’s right for them to be put on the same basis as businesses, and also are concerned that it will set a precedent. They also worry, understandably, that it may even make it hard for them to sell their condos if prospective buyers are looking at the possibility of ongoing assessment fee payments being “built in” to the property.

With 184 homeowners in the complex that comes to at least a half a million dollars going into the Streetscape funding, so that may be why the city’s financial staff finds it so appealing. But is it fair? Maybe all Coral Gables residents should be assessed, or none.

After so much time passing with no answer for these embattled residents, we urge the city commission to take an active role in this issue, consider the homeowners’ arguments and do something to help.

Further enhancing the City Beautiful is a worthwhile cause, but paying for the work should be done in a fair way. What do you think?

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2 Comments on "Should residences be assessed for Streetscape?"

  1. Gonzalo Sanabria | June 1, 2015 at 11:21 am | Reply

    Dear Mr. Grant

    Being a bit knowledgeable about this issue I have to agree with the condo residents that they should be 100% excluded from any fees related to the streetscape plan.

    There is zero tangible benefit in either quality-of-life or incremental value increase to these units to justify their financial involvement since this is entirely focused on revitalizing a commercial corridor fo which they are not a part

    Further, The City is already shouldering a large percentage and financial liability in being a co-payer on behalf of all the residents which may backfire is the timing or projected costs spiral which always almost happens and that is as far as it should go

    Gonzalo Sanabria

  2. Mary Ann Ruiz, Esq. | July 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm | Reply

    Perhaps the unit owners could defend arguing that this assessment should be imposed only on the commercial unit owners, as businesses operate on the commercial units on the ground floor, and not on the residential unit owners. However, that would of course depend on the language of the condominium declaration and amendments.

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