It is now my turn to face what nearly every public figure has faced — Mudslinging.
I choose to take the high road and not respond in kind. Palmetto Bay is too important, and historically, Palmetto Bay residents have not responded well to mudslinging. Rather, they have been willing to do their homework and find out the truth.
So what is the truth about the zoning plan three council members approved on May 2? Did we really say developers could construct 485 units on the Palmetto Bay Village Center (PBVC) property where they previously had no right to do so?
This is being framed, falsely, as a permit to start construction on 485 new units. In fact, it is a good news story of a downzoning, not an upzoning, of the property — this from a county-granted 1,465 units and an unlimited hotel. We also stepped in and took over environmentally sensitive property, saving it for a passive park. It sounds like a good deal to the people who have taken the time to speak to me — that is for everyone but our vice mayor, who historically has opposed this project anywhere near his bayfront mansion.
Would I prefer no development on the property? Of course. No one likes traffic and development. However, this is not an option because the owner of the property has the vested right to build upon it, and until the recent agreement, he had the right to build much, much, more.
What are vested property rights? They are rights that travel with the property. They can’t be taken away simply because they aren’t used or because someone won’t like it.
An example: Say you own a vacant lot next door to your house, which neighborhood kids use for a playground. You eventually decide to build a house on the lot and sell it. Your neighbors might prefer the vacant lot. But, as long as you are only building what the property is zoned for, you are within your rights to do so.
Similarly, the owners of PBVC had the right to build 1,465 units, including a hotel, acquired when they purchased the property from Burger King. Fortunately, we were able to get them to agree to a much smaller number, no hotel, and to donate the property up front for a park.
This is far better than the original zoning.
So why didn’t I take the easy way out — vote no — and let the court sort it out (ruling in favor of the developer), then blame the courts? After all, wouldn’t it be great to be a populist and show through a “no” vote that we all are anti-development?
No. The courts would rule on the law, with no compromise and leave us with no say in what or how much, gets built on Old Cutler. We’d be back to the 1,465 potential units. And didn’t we learn anything from the Palmer litigation?
If all this is true, why is the vice mayor so angry? Well you’d be too if your multi-million-dollar view was soon to see more development from your gated bayfront mansion. Better to move it to the front where everyone else can see it.
It is important to note that the votes against the transfer of the 85 units were not a vote against development. To the contrary, the no votes were, in fact, votes to allow the development on Old Cutler and against taking (for free) possession of new park land worth up to $8 million.
And that lawsuit that’s been filed against the village? Filed by the vice mayor’s neighbor, using the vice mayor’s personal attorney.
Neighbors, you know me. I have been involved in Palmetto Bay since before incorporation. I have been pro-environment and anti-traffic. I have met with neighbors about their traffic problems and fought for light rail to be brought down to Palmetto Bay, to reduce traffic as much as possible. Does it seem likely that I am suddenly pro-development and uncaring about traffic? Where have you ever heard the vice mayor speak of traffic? You didn’t, not until it was threatening his waterfront view.
The fact is that I worked for this agreement because this was the best we could do to respect the PBVC’s vested property rights yet have as little development as possible. The mudslinging will continue so long as we allow bullying by electing mudslingers. But I hope this column has cleaned up some of the misinformation being spread. I will continue to allow my many years of action to speak on my behalf, just as the vice mayor’s record should speak on his.
You always can read my statements on my blog at www.eugeneflinn.com or call me at 305-302-3713. I remain here for you.