It’s about time, it’s about space…

Grant Miller, Publisher

Some of you may remember the theme song from a 60s sitcom, “It’s About Time,” probably better than the show itself. It goes like this:

It’s about time, it’s about space…

It’s about people in the strangest place…

In a strange way, it makes me think about Palmetto Bay and the light years it’s taking to launch a downtown. I mean really, isn’t it about time for the Palmetto Bay Council to start delivering on their promises for a downtown?

Well, that time may have arrived, with new Mayor Cunningham and councilmembers who have made it a priority. But if you ask some residents, there’s still a lot left to do to make the DUV compatible to the Village of Palmetto Bay. DUV is local-code lingo for Downtown Urban Village Code.

Promises Made, Promises Made

Palmetto Bay leadership has promised to create a downtown with restaurants and retail services since 2004, under then Mayor Flinn. The FT&I Zoning code (Franjo Triangle and Island) failed for a number of reasons including a bad economy.

Fast forward to 2012, when village government began a process to kick-start development with something called the “Downtown Redevelopment Task Force” (DRTF), under then-Mayor Stanczyk. However, no zoning code was written or voted on by the council during the DRTF era.

Jump forward once again to December 2015. The new DUV Downtown Urban Village was enacted by then Mayor Flinn and council. The restaurants and retail services they promised along with hundreds of rental apartments seemed to be on the horizon.

The first multi-story building approved in 2016 by the Flinn council aroused a good dose of resident opposition towards the planned downtown. Residents objected to the size and height of the buildings, number of units, lack of promised services, and the code’s developer orientation. By 2017 changes in the council brought moratoriums on development with assurances of changes to the code to reduce heights and density – and to be “more village friendly.”

Not Everyone is Happy

Not everyone is happy, though – but few people ever are in Palmetto Bay (something in the water down there) – as groups of residents voiced their dissatisfaction with the DUV and the actions of the council.

In fact, in a recent resident blog I read, they were suggesting that while they are not unilaterally opposed to development in the downtown area, they are opposed to losing “our identity as a residential village with the development of our downtown as an Urban Center.”

During the last village election, the DUV was the major election issue. Promises about modifications to the code were made. Mayor Cunningham has spearheaded the process with drafting sessions and consensus votes that will complete the re-write of the code in the following months. That will ultimately end the moratorium and allow development to proceed.

A recent council vote to allow negotiations on a Town Center was approved. A company called I3 developers won the bid to build a hotel, a 55-and-older apartment building, a movie theater, retail space, a remodel of Village Hall, and a parking garage. Initially, the project topped out at eight stories at $72 million with a financial contribution from the Village but the recent presentation brought it down to six stories.

The downtown is struggling forward but at what cost – and do the residents of Palmetto Bay want what the Council is bringing?

The saga continues?

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  1. First the Village of Palmetto Bay declared the arterial designed 87th Avenue would NOT be extended from 164th St to SW 160th St, and convinced District 8 County Commissioner Levine Cava to persuade the County’s Transportation Planning Organization to vote “NO” on the fully funded extension which effectively bottlenecked Village traffic and caused traffic to be diverted to 82nd Avenue.
    Concurrently the Village Council became aware there would be NO real easily accessible, reliable, efficient mass transit relief for decades and also realized the SMART Plan’s Bus Rapid Transit would not be the panacea and would not relieve U.S.-1 congestion.
    Also concurrently the Village Council passed the Downtown Urban Village which authorized 5,661 apartment units plus 1,500,000 square feet of commercial, all in less than a one square mile area, offering bonuses and incentives to build up to eight story buildings.
    So here we are with a bottlenecked Village with increasing northbound traffic channeling traffic to neighborhood streets not designed to handle it, an already congested U.S.-1, no mass transit relief for decades, the Village has spent $5,500,000 for ineffective “traffic calming” (that would have been better spent after the 87th Avenue extension was completed), D.U.V. modifications that have not yet been finalized, five apartment projects (up to six stories) already approved under the original D.U.V., and now we have an opportunistic developer that wants to take over a portion of valuable and much needed Village owned land as part of their project to build a hotel, apartments, movie theaters, and a parking garage.
    Chaos in action, as traffic is still bottlenecked within the Village, no U.S.-1 improvements to ease congestion and no real mass transit relief, on the drawing board, for decades.
    Damn right the Village ought to take a deep breath and take a cautionary approach to development until residents figure out if we honor the original goals and promises that were offered before incorporation, which were: “control of our zoning”, “accessible responsible government”, and the most important “protection of our single family lifestyle”.
    Let us pray for responsible governance…..


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