More than 50 people of all ages gathered at the intersection of Old Cutler Road and SW 184th Street on Saturday, Apr. 25, to protest a proposed project, called Old Cutler Village, to be located at 18551 Old Cutler Rd.
The project, according to its designer Victor Dover, would feature about 79 dwellings, a bed-and-breakfast inn, a café, townhouses and condominiums, and a small office building. The owner/builder is Fortune International, founded by Edgardo deFortuna. The company is seeking variances from existing zoning restrictions to permit the project.
The residents and others who gathered with protest signs along the roadway said they believe that the project, while nice, is not right for the area.
Former Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall was one of those attending the protest.
“This is the nicest I’ve seen Old Cutler Road look in years, and I can’t even imagine adding four-story buildings along here,” MacDougall said. “The thought breaks my heart.”
Art Nanny, a long-time resident and activist, who ran for mayor in the last election, was pleased with the turnout for the event.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response here, with horns honking as cars drive by and people giving us the ‘thumbs-up’ sign,” Nanny said.
“And we have people participating from neighborhood homeowner associations like Cutler Cay, Saga Bay, Old Cutler Glen and Lakes by the Bay.”
Cutler Bay resident Eduardo Varona said he doesn’t feel that the developer has the best interest of the area at heart.
“Proof of their lack of love and respect for this land is the condition that through a decade plus of neglect they have allowed that land to deteriorate to an invasive plant thicket,” Varona said. “But now they plan to grow concrete and asphalt in place of invasive plants.
“On balance we’ll take the plants. At least they provide oxygen and green. Not the alternative, to suck the oxygen and life out of our community and our wellbeing with unwise and unsustainable development,” he added. “What they are proposing to build and cram into there is ridiculous on such a spatially limited site. This development is like the wicked stepsister trying desperately hard to get her large ugly foot in Cinderella’s small delicate slipper.”
Palmetto Bay Vice Mayor John DuBois and Councilmember Karyn Cunningham attended the protest to show their support.
DuBois explained some of the history.
“Back in 2004-05, the property was 140 acres originally, including about 132 acres of wetlands and about eight acres of upland area,” DuBois said. “Back then there was an offer made to purchase the property for about six or eight million. The developer turned it down — they wanted 12 million at the time.”
DuBois said that then they proceeded to take the property to the Environmental Quality Control Board, which is the oversight board for DERM, and they asked for a variance — they wanted to get a variance to turn an additional 25 acres or so of the lowgrade wetlands on the property into developable land, and there was so much opposition to it that they actually pulled the application just a few minutes before it was heard.
“Then somehow, a few years later, South Florida Water Management ended up negotiating a deal to buy the property from them for something like $24 million, which was a goldmine for these people. Mysteriously, as part of that property acquisition, they did not include the eight acres or so of upland area. They left it with the developer.”
Resident Beatriz Baldan is concerned that the project would open the door for more like it.
“Once they approve something like this it sets a precedent and then it will become a free-for-all for other developers,” Baldan said.
Before the development could be build it would have to go before zoning hearings and face a vote by the Cutler Bay Town Council.