County looking at land-use rules for transit parcels
By Wayne Tompkins
With two attempts to develop county property at Metrorail stations in disarray, Miami-Dade transit officials are seeking new zoning standards that will clarify what developers will be able to build on the sites.
The proposed zoning standards, once Miami-Dade commissioners adopt them, would give affected cities no say in what is ultimately approved. The Rapid Transit Developmental Impact Committee, comprised of 15 county and municipal officials, would ensure future development plans are in zoning compliance.
Transit spokesman John Labriola said cities and the public will, however, be able to make comments and suggestions on formulating what the new zoning standards will be. The objective, Mr. Labriola said, will be to get city and county governments on the same page ahead of a developer's proposal.
"It gives developers some sense of assurance, in that they know up front what the rules are and they don't end of wasting their time," Mr. Labriola said. Planned developments at the Douglas Road and Coconut Grove stations stalled in part because the county and city could not agree on zoning standards for the sites.
"This proposal would put the cart before the horse," he said. "It will avoid situations in the future of the county saying "yes' and the city saying "no' to the same project."
Subrata Basu, the county's interim planning and zoning director, said the county has been meeting with cities including Miami, Coral Gables, Miami Gardens and South Miami in an effort to reach consensus on standards for stations in their communities.
The new zoning codes, planners say, will allow for faster and better planned development while generating payments to the county from long-term lease revenues or the sale of transit properties.
Marc Sarnoff, a City of Miami commissioner who represents the Coconut Grove area, said that while he had not studied the transit department's proposal, he had concerns about the county encroaching on cities' sovereignty.
If the zoning plan were adopted, a city would still be able to raise objections if it felt a proposed development violated the standards. However, a developer's plan would no longer be submitted to a city for a vote.
Orlando Toledo, senior director of Building, Planning and Zoning for the City of Miami, is among those who believe the benefits will outweigh the tradeoffs.
"It's a great idea," Mr. Toledo said. "This is what should have been done from the beginning, and it wasn't. It cleans things up and tells the developer up front, here's what you will be allowed to build and here is what is not allowed."
The proposed zoning standards apply to stations where no development has been built or approved: University, Douglas Road, Brickell, Culmer, Civic Center, Earlington Heights, Tri-Rail, Hialeah and Palmetto.
The 27th Avenue station is not on the list because zoning standards there are pending.