Home Depot seeking reversal of zoning panel's Grove permit denial
By Deserae del Campo
Home Depot representatives are taking an appeal to Miami City Hall on Sept. 28 in hopes of reversing the city's zoning board denial of a Class II permit to build a store in Coconut Grove.
The Grove First, an activist group of residents and merchants, is protesting the big-box retailer's plans for building at US 1 and Bird Road on the former Kmart site.
Miami's planning board granted the building permit to Home Depot in April, but an appeal by the residents led the zoning board to vote 8-1 against the permit.
Home Depot was going to file for the appeal in time for a July 27 meeting but never made it on the agenda.
Marc Sarnoff, leader of The Grove First, has said a retail "warehouse" does not belong in a C-1 commercially zoned neighborhood and it would be 15 feet from homes.
The home improvements retailer scaled down the project from 130,000 square feet to 125,000 to appease residents and also designed the store to a more affluent look, but residents still oppose it.
Home Depot has been trying to build the store for over a year.
Efforts to get keep Home Depot out are also fueled by the proximity of another Home Depot at Southwest Eighth Street and 30th Avenue, 2.3 miles from the where the company wants to build the new store, a group member said
The Grove First has starred in a 35-minute documentary film "Don't Box Me In," which chronicles the efforts to keep Home Depot out of the neighborhood. The film was made by Richard Fendelman, a producer, director, cameraman and editor who graduated from the University of Miami and opened his own local production studio in 1995.
A showing is scheduled for Sept. 9 at the Woman's Club of Coconut Grove, 2985 S. Bayshore Dr. In the film, Miami Commissioner Tomas Regalado speaks out against the retailer after he experienced dissatisfaction from constituents with a Home Depot in his district.
Mr. Sarnoff says The Grove First has not received comment from Miami Commissioner Linda Haskins, a Coconut Grove resident. Ms. Haskins, who is up for election in November, was unavailable to comment on the Home Depot appeal.
The Grove First has fought the Home Depot in more ways than one.
In January, The Grove First asked Monty Trainer, president of the Coconut Grove Art Festival, to reject a sponsorship from the Home Deport for $25,000 of in-kind kitchen equipment for festival use.
Mr. Trainer said he was unaware of the company's involvement with Grove First and requested the Home Depot logo be taken off all advertisement.
Since the zoning board approved the appeal, Mr. Sarnoff isn't positive the City
Commission will consider the 8-1 vote against the big-box retailer and vote down the appeal.
"The City Commission doesn't ordinarily consider what citizen boards have to say and it's really a shame," he said. "Right now, Miami is very a pro-development city."
Miami Beach residents face a similar dilemma.
Although Home Depot is not the confirmed retailer, the owners of light-industrially zoned property at West Avenue and 18th Street are seeking approval to erect a similar 78,294-square-foot project there.
At a July 25 meeting, the Miami Beach Planning Board instructed property owners Goldwater Realty principals Soloman and Zalman Fellig to expand a traffic survey to evaluate the project's impact.
Their attorney, Alexander Angueira, recently refuse to comment on whether that study has commenced. Previously, he has indicated that the owners might go to court instead, because the city passed an ordinance requiring planning board approval for projects over 50,000 square feet after his clients' application was already submitted.