Miami River group can’t swallow waterfront restaurants
Written by John Charles Robbins on January 24, 2017
If it were up to the Miami River Commission, it would bar restaurants planned for two riverfront sites zoned marine-industrial.
As it is, however, the decision is left to the city planning director after the negative river commission votes.
A rare special river commission meeting Monday considered two separate plans for restaurants in vacant riverfront buildings:
- Shahab Karmely and his KAR Properties propose River Arts Complex, to transform three warehouses into a dining and event space at 125, 129 and 131 NW South River Drive. It includes a partnership with Yachtlife, a private club with yacht sales and rentals. The plan sets aside one commercial fishing boat slip to provide fresh seafood catches to the restaurant and public.
- Henry Greenberg, with Longmore LLC, proposes remodeling two buildings at a former Anchor Marine boatyard at 961 NW Seventh St., with one becoming a 200-seat restaurant with outdoor dining, the other storage and an office for a commercial yacht charter service, with one slip for fresh seafood deliveries for the restaurant.
While both sites are zoned marine-industrial, a restaurant would be allowed with special permission or by warrant – a special conditional use that the planning director decides, subject to appeal by neighboring property owners.
A motion to recommend a warrant for River Arts Complex failed Monday on a vote of 6 “no” to 5 “yes.” A motion to recommend denial of the Longmore plan passed unanimously.
Fran Bohnsack, former executive director of the Miami River Marine Group, spoke against the restaurants on marine-industrial land. The not-for-profit trade association supports the “working river.”
Ms. Bohnsack said she’s been fighting for the working river nearly 20 years and feels “invested in it.”
She said it wouldn’t be right to back approval of the restaurants on marine-industrial land. She said there’s been no demonstration that the restaurant is an accessory use and, in fact, she sees it as a major use.
“In my view, it is a betrayal,” said Ms. Bohnsack. “It’s a working river. Give it time to evolve. Don’t give away what’s been reserved for [the marine industry].”
The River Arts Complex has met objections all along from Cory Offutt, owner of a neighboring boatyard. For months he’s spoken against the plan and the loss of marine-industrial property. He says a restaurant with outdoor dining is incompatible with a loud, smelly boatyard.
Mr. Offutt’s lawyer, Tucker Gibbs, said there’s no evidence the restaurant would be an accessory use, and in fact he said it would be the site’s primary use – “the tail wagging the dog.”
The Longmore proposal brought out opposing Spring Garden Historic District residents. The site is directly south of the long-established residential neighborhood. Residents were concerned about potential restaurant noise, particularly from outdoor dining and entertainment.
The river commission voted to recommend that the city amend its zoning code for similar warrant applications by inserting criteria for marine-industrial as the primary use and other uses allowed by warrant to be measured as the “secondary/accessory use.”