Appeal Court Ruling Gives Marine Industry Future On River
Written by Eric Kalis on August 16, 2007
By Eric Kalis
A ruling last week by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal protects scarce marine land on the Miami River zone for industrial use from being rezoned for high-density residential uses in the future, marine industry advocates say.
"There’s no question that this is a big watershed decision," said Fran Bohnsack, executive director of the Miami River Marine Group, one of the plaintiffs in a suit filed against the city.
The appeal court overturned the city’s 2004 rezoning of a river parcel that would have allowed a large-scale residential development to replace a boatyard, marine advocates say.
City commissioners in 2004 approved the rezoning of the site of a self-help boatyard on Northwest 18th Avenue and North River Drive known as Hurricane Cove so developer Balbino Investments could build a 1,073-unit residential complex. In a written opinion, the three-judge panel cited the city’s failure "to consider the Port of Miami River sub-element and critical areas of the Coastal Management and Future Land Use sections of the Comprehensive Plan [and] failed to consider critical sections of the River Master Plan; and made findings that were unsupported by the evidence."
The marine group is involved with two additional appeals to be ruled on by the panel this fall. A decision on the Coastal on the River development — another Balbino Investments project — is expected soon, Ms. Bohnsack said. A hearing on Brisas del Rio, a project planned by Brazilian developer Merco Group, is scheduled for Sept. 19, she said.
If the panel denies the two appeals, Coastal on the River would replace "a shipping terminal that is very valued in terms of moving cargo," Ms. Bohnsack said. "We hated losing that" after the city rezoned the parcel.
Brisas del Rio would involve demolishing a "beautiful old facility that is also quite valuable from a marine industry perspective," she said. "It has eight or nine large deed slips for mega-yachts. The developer was going to fill in the slips. That’s a sin when there is a shortage of slips."
According to the Miami River Commission, which is not involved in the lawsuit, city commissioners have approved the rezoning of 15 marine industrial parcels to allow about 4,700 condos since the beginning of the decade.
City attorneys have the option to appeal the ruling and have another hearing at the Third District Court of Appeal or take the matter to the state Supreme Court. Phone calls to city land use attorney Maria Chiaro were not returned.
The Miami River is the state’s fourth-largest seaport in terms of cargo value, river officials say.