Citizens’ court action would overthrow vote

A writ of mandamus seeking to prevent potential private development of a new South Miami City Hall was filed Sept. 25 in Miami’s 11th  District Circuit Court.

The action was taken on behalf of plaintiffs Beth Schwartz, Dr. Claudia Hauri, Lori Yanoskik and Carlos Soto who ask reconsideration and retaking of a City Commission 3-2 vote amending provisions of the city’s Land Development Code

to permit the projected dual uses for a new City Hall.

Schwartz had appeared at the Commission’s Sept. 1 meeting protesting an Aug. 18 vote to amend the code, based on a legal opinion of Atty. Nancy E. Stroud, a prominent land use attorney with Lewis Stroud & Deutsch law firm, Boca Raton.

Essentially, the writ names the South Miami City Commission as defendants, contending any code amendments require a unanimous five out of five votes, rather than the three-vote majority approved by Mayor Phillip Stoddard, Commissioners Robert Welsh and Josh Lieberman.  Vice Mayor Walter Harris and Commissioner Edmond Gabriel opposed the action.

The court filing will be heard by a Circuit Court Judge to determine merits of the case before determining if an “alternate writ of mandamus” will be issued requiring a city  response.  There is no set time for such action to take place.

“I certainly hope the court will see merit in the case,” said Atty. Stroud in an email message confirming the filing action and copied to Mayor Stoddard for Commission review and to City Atty. Thomas Pepe who has ruled the 3-2 vote in conformance with Code provisions.

At stake in determining the legality of the vote is an interpretation of the Transit-Oriented Development Public/Institutional zoning district requirements for amendment to permit building a new City Hall by a public-private partnership with multiple uses that would include city administrative offices.

The initial Ordinance permitting redevelopment of the City Hall under TODD (PI) district zoning was approved by a 3-2 vote Aug. 18.

The 39-page writ filing contends that permitted land uses in the applicable TODD (PI) sub-category are limited to “Schools, governmental facilities, utilities, churches and similar uses” and that any action by the Commission to make them “less restrictive” requires a unanimous five-vote decision.

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