February 9, 2021 Commission Meeting on Zoning Changes

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Gentlepeople:

I represent the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, a non-profit organization founded in 1991 to promote understanding of the importance of historic resources and their preservation in Coral Gables.

I am writing to formally request that the Miracle Mile remote parking and Crafts Section zoning changes to be heard at the Commission Meeting scheduled for February 9, 2021 be temporarily postponed until such time that public attendance is possible at the Commission Meeting in accordance with the City Code.

Critical to have in-person meeting with public attendance

As you are aware, Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-69, which allowed governmental meetings to take place virtually through “communications media technology, such as telephonic and video conferencing,” expired on November 1, 2020

As such, public meetings are to be carried out in accordance with  each  municipality’s city code.1

Sec. 2-30 of the Coral Gables City Code requires that All meetings of the commission shall be open to the public except as otherwise authorized by law.”

It has become clear that very few Coral Gables residents were aware of the “community meetings” that took place with City staff. Whether that is an issue of inadequate public notice or an aversion to virtual meetings among a city population where the median age of voters is over 60, there can be no argument that there was almost no resident participation in the meetings.

The February 9, 2021 will not be “open to the public” and the decision regarding whether to make these zoning changes is a once-in-a-lifetime decision. Allowing remote parking would result in a transformation of historic Miracle Mile that is unprecedented in its 100-year history.

There is no need to rush this through critical issue as the pandemic is soon coming to an end. The roll-out of vaccines has begun and it appears that in-person meetings will be possible as soon as early summer.

This important decision deserves more transparency, education and public participation. It has become clear that Coral Gables residents are overwhelmingly opposed to the zoning change to Miracle Mile.

1 Article I, Section 24(b) of the Florida Constitution provides that “[a]ll meetings…of any collegial public body of a county, municipality, school district, or special district, at which official acts are to be taken or at which public business of such body is to be transacted or discussed, shall be open and noticed to the public[.]” Florida’s Sunshine Law, found in chapter 286, Florida Statutes, provides that “[a]ll meetings of any…agency or authority of any county, municipal corporation, or political subdivision, except as otherwise provided in the Constitution,…at which official acts are to be taken are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times, and no resolution, rule, or formal action shall be considered binding except as taken at such meeting.” § 286.011(1), Fla. Stat. (2019). Section 286.0114, Florida Statutes, also provides, with respect to certain “propositions” before a board or commission, that an opportunity for public comment must be afforded.

The Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables is asking that this important decision be made in a regular, in-person meeting when public attendance and participation is possible.

Sincerely,

David J. Winker, Esq.


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