New Miami Commissioner Vows To Fight Overdevelopment
Written by Eric Kalis on November 30, 2006
By Eric Kalis
As the newest Miami city commissioner, District 2 representative Marc Sarnoff enters City Hall determined to follow through on campaign promises to protect residents from overdevelopment.
The Coconut Grove resident of 20 years defeated appointed incumbent Linda Haskins 64% to 36% in a runoff election last week. The former president of the Cocoanut Grove Village Council, Mr. Sarnoff said he will focus on addressing several core issues in the next year.
Mr. Sarnoff’s victory might signal a make-or-break point for proponents of the Miami 21 land-use master plan, a blueprint for the city’s urban growth backed by Mayor Manny Diaz. While Mr. Sarnoff applauds the intentions of city officials to produce a model promoting smart growth, he said he is concerned by a lack of progress in the initiative and potential intrusion into neighborhoods.
"I would like this to either come to fruition or not have it at all," Mr. Sarnoff said. "We need to make a decision with public input. The plan has to be more palatable to residential neighborhoods."
It is important to define strategies for long-term planning, Mr. Sarnoff said, but city officials have to produce concrete results immediately.
"Most of us will not be around in 50 years," Mr. Sarnoff said. "What is in it for us in the next three, four years? What will the city look like? If the city wants to be exclusively vertical, let’s be honest about that."
An ardent opponent of a planned Home Depot store in Coconut Grove, Mr. Sarnoff said he will seek ways to get involved with the issue as a commissioner. Mr. Sarnoff previously led a campaign, the Grove First, which helped influence city boards to vote against a 125,000-square-foot store at the Grove Gate shopping center, 2999 SW 32nd St.
Another issue Mr. Sarnoff said he intends to examine is the city’s permitting process. He said he sees a pressing need to simplify permitting, especially in the water and sewer department.
"Contractors get caught up in not being able to secure permits for months," Mr. Sarnoff said. "It hurts them financially."
Mr. Sarnoff said he plans to put pressure on city officials to produce tangible results from the Coconut Grove Waterfront master plan. The city hired Boston design firm Sasaki Associates for about $800,000 in 2004 to create a master plan for the waterfront but all that has been made public is a primitive set of "onion-skin drawings," he said.
"There is another set of drawings that the city has not seen," Mr. Sarnoff said. "I will demand that they are made public. The waterfront is particularly important to District 2."
City officials must "be mindful of the fact that we pay an inordinate amount of tax money here," Mr. Sarnoff said. "A city should give back things like a wonderful waterfront. We need to address residents instead of developers."