‘Hit the road, parkers!’ was the message from South Miami City Commission Chambers April 19 when Vice Mayor Valerie Newman and Commissioner Brian Beasley successfully voted to shut down temporary parking lot at 7150-7160 SW 62nd Avenue.
Mayor Phillip Stoddard and Commissioner Walter Harris lost their requests to defer the issue until the next meeting with a full quorum of Commission members attending.
A six-month grace period for 62nd Avenue. LLC to bring the operation up to code (or vacate the premises) as recommended by the Planning Board also failed. The lot has been in operation since the early 1980’s.
Atty. Javier E. Fernandez of Akerman Senterfit representing the Richard Mattaway property since assuming ownership in 2006 requested the delay as a “reasonable vehicle to come into compliance.”
Developers inherited the long legacy of the project during a time when downturned economics slowed on-site construction, said Fernandez, noting that Mattaway could not be present at the meeting during observance of Passover.
Because an ultimate vision for the space is the location of a medical office building, the developers hoped the city would allow for a “bridge use” until a ground-breaking for that project, Atty. Fernandez stated. The development group sought concessions of approximately $4,000 in landscaping expenditures for code compliance.
“Paving, marking, lighting and landscaping” Stoddard surmised was all that was needed not to disrupt the estimated 60 to 130 working commuters who rely on the lot for daily parking.
Newman led the charge for elimination arguing that these “delays” were strategic and claiming there is now an illegal gymnasium in operation on the site that also utilizes the spaces. Safety issues and oil seepage into the grass lot were other concerns raised by citizens and the commissioners.
Chief of Police Orlando Martinez De Castro who now oversees the Code Enforcement department said the operating entity is essentially running a business illegally.
“If you want to change the law, change the law and I’ll oblige, but let’s do it right. If you have a timetable you need to get it done, an extension doesn’t cure the cancer,” he commented. Chief Martinez is also dealing with parking issues at Larkin Community Hospital.
During a public hearing, photographs from an overhead projector displayed a congested parking lot with cars parked vertically and horizontally. A parking lot operator who has managed the lot for 20 years claimed oil drips and safety were not a problem, adding parking is getting harder to find in South Miami and shutting down the parking lot could push people out of jobs. Ross University students and other area workers have apparently relied on the lot for years.
Nevertheless, Commissioner Newman said the answer is to park at Metrorail and walk four blocks, likening the challenge to what commuters face when traveling downtown. She said a six-month timetable was a ‘stall tactic’ and had the language of the resolution changed to ensure the parking lot’s immediate shutdown.
City Manager Hector Mirabile noted lot users were originally scheduled to get two days notice to relocate, if the resolution to keep the lot in temporary operation did not pass. Even a suggestion by Commissioner Harris for a three-month compromise to allow parkers an opportunity to find new spaces failed. Commuters using the lot now have until the end of April to find a new home for their vehicles.