Village takes major step to preserve natural forest

Old Buger King HQThe Palmetto Bay Village Council took a major step on Mar. 7 towards preserving 22 acres of naturally forested lands while also increasing park acreage for Palmetto Bay residents.

The existing natural area that serves as a visual screen to the Palmetto Bay Village Center, the site that many still refer to as the Old BK Headquarters will be transformed into a new passive park and nature preservation area.

The initiative involves transferring the remaining development rights that currently exist on the 22-acre parcel to the interior commercial/mixed-use area.

The development approval history of the two areas dates back to 1969 when the county approved a site plan allowing 1,857 residential units with heights of 126 feet. In the early ’70s, the numbers increased to 1,884 units with heights of 186 feet. As part of a site plan approval in 1985, the 22-acre site was put under restrictive covenant to provide a visual screen to the interior area where the Burger King World Headquarters was approved and later constructed.

Under the new site plan and covenant, development of the 22-acre parcel area was allowed as long as some level of landscaping remained effectively blocking the view of the commercial buildings from the Old Cutler Road.

In 2008, the village council created the VMU district, limiting development on the interior mixed-use area to 400 residential units, with heights not to exceed 85 feet. The 22-acre area was assigned “I,” Interim Zoning, which had the net effect of limiting maximum development potential to 85 residential units.

The village’s current initiative removes the remaining development right of 85 residential units off of the 22-acre parcel, and transfers them to the interior mixed-use area.

According to the county’s Division of Environmental Resources Management (DERM), although some portions of the 22 acre site contributes to sensitive natural lands, the property as a whole did not meet the requirements for an outright purchase for conservation. The council’s action achieves that goal by acquiring the land at no cost while adding to its inventory of available park lands. As an added bonus, 1.5 acres will be made available for a much-needed fire station to serve the southeast end of the village. The village also will receive another 18 acres of land, that includes other forested areas within the site, and an existing surface parking area to permanently serve the village’s library.

“This is the perfect example of a creative and mutually beneficial example of public and private cooperation, Village Mayor Eugene Flinn said. “Future generations of residents will be able to enjoy our newest park that will be nestled into a unique, natural pineland and wetland. Preserving the beauty and natural habitat of the area is our top priority. We are all truly very excited for this.”

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