Written by Miami Today on February 8, 2007
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CANADA-BOUND: The Beacon Council, Broward Alliance and Business Development Board of Palm Beach County have solidified plans for their tri-county economic-development mission to Canada. The groups will travel to Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa Sept. 23-28 to target the Canadian aviation, financial-services and biomedical industries. Members of both the private and public sectors will attend although participants have not been confirmed.
LOW-INCOME LODGE: Carlisle Development Group and Carrfour Supportive Housing are creating lodging for the homeless in transforming Miami hotel The Royalton, 131 SE First St., into affordable housing. The groups bought the 80-year-old property for $3.5 million, and the county and state arranged $15.8 million in financing. The redevelopment is to include 100 apartments, 80 reserved for former homeless, the others available to those who earn less than $22,740 a year.
FIGHTING BACK: Powerhouse attorney John Shubin is due to appear before Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Thomas S. Wilson Jr. Friday to request a temporary stay in an order forcing GB/JT Hotel Partners to give residents control of the master homeowners association that runs Key Biscayne’s Grand Bay Project, which includes the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, two posh condo towers, a beach club and a single-family development. The court action is the latest skirmish in a long-running legal feud that began two years ago when condo owners objected to plans to enlarge the Ritz Carlton ballroom. Miami hotel moguls Donald Lefton and Sherwood "Woody" Weiser are key players in GB/JT Hotel Partners.
ANIMAL HOUSE: Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday gave MetroZoo the final OK to spend $18 million in General Obligation Bond revenue 10 years ahead of schedule. The money will be used to complete the new $48 million, 11-building Amazon & Beyond exhibit that’s already under construction. Zoo officials say the building fund will be replenished through private donations so money will be available when other projects are ready to get off the ground.
TICKED OFF: For months, Miami-Dade Commissioner Dorrin Rolle has been doing a slow burn over the county’s lack of a written procedure to prioritize projects funded with bond revenue. On Tuesday, he finally exploded, saying he was fed up with stall tactics and demanded immediate action. When the dust cleared, County Manager George Burgess promised the procedures would be codified immediately.
RUSH HOUR: A decidedly unscientific survey conducted on the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Web site indicates 62% of Miami-Dade commuters get back and forth to work in a private car. Only 5% use carpools while 11% ride the bus and 13% take the train. The polled questioned 271 visitors to the transit agency’s site.
FLYING HIGH: Elite Flight Center opened at Kendall Tamiami Airport, 12940 SW 128th St., last month and offers training in new Cessna aircrafts with advanced glass cockpit controls. Students also receive computer-based interactive lessons. Training is offered 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Planes are also available for rent by licensed pilots. Details: (305) 252-1398.
ELECTRONIC EDUCATION: Barry University is the only college in South Florida to receive $10,000 in donated software from IBM. The reading-companion computer program, being used by Barry’s School of Education’s migrant education department at the South Dade Farm Worker Housing Center in Homestead, promotes literacy and increases educational opportunities among migrant farmers and their families.
IMMIGRATION SEMINAR: Panels of immigration practitioners and government officials are to discuss immigration regulations beginning at 8 a.m. during Friday’s Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce immigration seminar at the chamber’s headquarters, 1601 Biscayne Blvd. Keynote speaker Emilio Gonzalez, director of US Immigration and Citizenship Services, is to make a presentation before consecutive panel discussions begin. The event costs $60 for chamber members, $80 for others. Details: www.miamichamber.com
KEYS PROJECT ADVANCES: R. Donahue Peebles nailed down $83 million in construction loans from Fremont Investment and Loan this week for plans to build Manoir Resort Villas, a luxury waterfront residential resort, on 5 acres in Marathon in the Florida Keys. He is to launch a marketing campaign this month, and construction is to begin this year. The two- and 2.5-bedroom units begin at $1.8 million. Mr. Peebles’ portfolio includes The Royal Palm Hotel and The Residences at The Bath Club in South Beach. Details: www.peeblescorp.com.
MERCY ZONING: Rezoning of 6.7 acres zoned government-institutional on Mercy Hospital grounds to high-density residential wouldn’t violate zoning law, said Maria J. Chiaro, city chief of land use and environmental law. She said a 2004 zoning ordinance that opponents of the rezoning cite has no bearing. That ordinance requires any development on a government-institutional-zoned property to be consistent with the least-dense abutting zone, which would be a lower-density designation than what the Related Group is proposing for the Mercy land. The 2004 ordinance was passed to prevent developers from using the surrounding zoning to build higher on government-institutional land, she said. "The original ordinance had to do with properties benefiting from what is adjacent to them," she said. Commissioners initially approved rezoning late last month. A final vote is pending.
TRACKING FILES: While Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff awaits return of public files that have been missing from his office since December, he is to propose an ordinance today (2/8) that would help commissioners avoid falling behind upon taking office. If the ordinance passes two readings, all commissioners and mayors leaving office would be required to keep all printed and electronic records in their offices and return office keys to the city manager. The city clerk would continue to be the designated custodian of the records.
HOUSING FAST-TRACK: Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones wants to expedite permitting for affordable-housing projects citywide. Citing a critical need to increase the affordable-housing stock, she is to initiate a discussion during today’s (2/8) meeting about a fast track for builders of affordable homes seeking permits. No formal action is expected today.
BAY WALK ISSUE CRAWLS: The next step in Miami Beach’s bid to force two condominium buildings to open their bay walks to the public will come April 5. The continuance came at the City’s Design Review Board meeting Tuesday after city officials said they needed more time to get legal documents in cases involving the Waverly Condominiums, 1330 West Ave., and Flamingo South Beach, 1500 West Ave. The city seeks removal of their fences, which bar public access to the bay, but the condominiums’ lawyers are fighting to maintain the barriers. They contend the barriers are needed to protect condo owners’ privacy. City officials are delving into legal cases surrounding the two projects, which have changed hands or undergone renovations since they were built.
CLARIFICATION: The Feb. 1 article "Opponents cry foul in city OK of condos at Mercy Hospital" should have said Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff did not vote to support the proposed condominium development on Mercy Hospital land at a May 2006 Cocoanut Grove Village Council meeting. As council chairman, Mr. Sarnoff could not vote. He did vote in favor of reconsidering the project proposal at a September 2006 village council meeting.