Past BHA News
BHA News, Vol. VII No. 2, Spring
Turn Out: Yet City Commissioners Vote Against BHA in Favor of
Despite a strong showing at the Miami
City Commission meeting by Brickell area residents against a
special zoning exception for 1900 Brickell Avenue, Commissioners
voted in favor of enabling a commercial enterprise to operate
on residential Brickell Avenue. Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to
allow the single family residence at 1900 Brickell Avenue to
be converted into a medical office/clinic by a plastic surgeon.
Only Mayor Joe Corolla, casting the final vote, sided with the
Brickell Homeowners Association officers
and residents representing nearly 5,000 homes and more than 10,000
adults attended Zoning Board, Planning Advisory Board and Commission
meetings telling commissioners and staff they did not want this
or any other medical practice here. Yet the individual doctor
prevailed, securing a special exception to the residential zoning
code so that he can open up shop in the midst of residential
The Brickell Homeowners Association will
appeal this decision in court.
The Battle to Preserve Residential
This plastic surgeon's business has broken through the residential
zoning code that the BHA strives to protect for residential Brickell
Avenue, from 15th to 25th Roads. The association views preserving
residential zoning as an important factor in enabling the unique,
high-rise community to retain some residential quality. With
the busy financial and downtown district to the north and U.S.
1's huge volume of traffic roaring through from the south everyday,
it's sometimes hard for those who don't live on Brickell to remember
that it is a neighborhood. But that is what its residents say
it is, and what they want it to remain: a neighborhood.
Both the Brickell Homeowners Association
and the Miami Roads Neighborhood Civic Association took unwavering
stands against the proposed exception, which they view as benefiting
one individual at the expense of an entire community.
Commissioner Willy Gort appeared before
the BHA Board of Directors to explain why he voted as he did.
The Miami City official said that although this special exception
was granted, residents shouldn't worry about further commercial
encroachment. He said the special language written in the resolution
and the restrictions placed in the resolution will protect BHA
"We put in a lot of restrictions.
. .he may not even open," Gort said.
But the Commissioner also acknowledged
that this exception, as well as resolutions for future similar
exceptions, can be eased, released, rewritten and changed just
as easily after a public meeting is held.
No Surgery in Surgeon's Office
One restriction that has been promised by the plastic surgeon
and his attorneys since this issue arose last September was that
no overnight stays, and even no outpatient surgery, will take
place at the office.
While some of the particulars were a little
uncertain, Commissioner Gort was sure of this restriction, saying
definitively, "He's not allowed to do outpatient surgery
It is apparent, however, that there is
no agency or other body responsible for monitoring the activity
within the medical offices and ensuring that the doctor complies
with the limitations agreed upon. "How are we going to know
what the doctor is doing in there?" BHA officials asked
Watch That Delete Key
In a recent review of the City's draft of the resolution outlining
the exception and the restrictions, the BHA found that this critical
concession, the language about no medical procedures, was left
out! Gort said it was apparently omitted due to a "computer
error" and will be put back in. When the resolution is finalized
by the City, Brickell Homeowners will have 30 days to file its
What Exactly, Does It Take?
Signed petitions. Letters to officials. Information bulletins
to residents. Posters. Concerned residents going down to City
Hall to be heard. The will of two neighborhood associations.
Some of the best legal representation in this specialized area
available. Brickell Homeowners Association residents did all
of this and yet were still unsuccessful in persuading Miami City
officials to maintain their own zoning codes.
Among the issues and concerns the BHA
has been involved with in its seven-year history, the association
has had the least success with Miami City officials and zoning.
Disappointed, ongoing discussion among BHA representatives is
focused on trying to figure out what's the missing ingredient.
Time to PAC It In?
Many BHA representatives have
concluded that perhaps an added kind of force is needed: the
power of a Political Action Committee, with the purpose of endorsing
and rejecting candidates. A PAC can financially support a candidate.
Endorsements are made public through the media.
The BHA Board voted in March to investigate
forming a PAC and have been gathering information, advice and
allies. Directors have consulted with representatives from the
law firm Adorno and Zeder, active in this area, to determine
how the PAC would be formed and who would be involved. Residents
will be kept apprised of this search for a more effective tool
in fighting City Hall.
Historic Preservation Sought for Harris
Also up for question: The future of 1548
Brickell Avenue, the home of Henriette Harris, who had lived
on Brickell Avenue for 75 years when she died in October 1994.
Built by her father George Nolan in 1925, the home was described
by local historian Cesar Becerra when he wrote for the Fall 1994
BHA News: "The 14-room mansion, complete with all
Corinthian columns, French doors and sun parlor, also boasted
a front balcony overlooking Brickell Avenue off a third-floor
In order to receive designation as an
historic landmark, the home would have to be restored to its
original design, at a pricetag into seven figures. It's a huge
undertaking, but one which historian Arva Moore Parks, a South
Miami Avenue resident, believes is well worth the effort. The
Salussolia & Associates law firm agrees. Its principals want
to win "historic overlay" status for the property from
the City of Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board,
restore the home and refit it as an office complex, and relocate
their current offices from the downtown First Union Financial
Center to the home. They have made a purchase offer on the house,
contingent upon receiving a historic overlay allowing use as
a professional office building.
The Cost of Preservation
The historic overlay status would enable the owners to be granted
such a change of use for the property in order to preserve the
landmark. (Often it takes commercial or public dollars to save
historic landmarks.) This status, however, Ms. Parks explained,
is "applied only to encourage or assure preservation of
a historic structure. Thus, if there is no threat of demolition,
the overlay would most likely be denied." Only a few properties
in Miami have received the overlay status in the 15 years since
the ordinance was passed.
While the idea of preserving the home
and restoring it to its original splendor is certainly appealing
to BHA, residents feel the same uneasiness with the commercialization
of the property as with the 1900 Brickell Avenue issue. BHA directors
have asked their attorney to look into the issues surrounding
The home is one of only four single family
homes remaining on Brickell, once known as "Millionaire's
Row" for all its grand estates and mansions. Only one other,
1870 Brickell Avenue built around 1940 may qualify for historic
designation, Ms. Parks said.
Noise: Residents Losing Sleep Under Loud Planes
Has airplane noise that you hear in your
home increased? Are you being awakened in the middle of the night
by planes? Have to stop telephone conversations? Aren't there
regulations about airplane noise, especially at night?
A return visit to the BHA by Dade County
Aviation staffer Jeff Bunting gave residents several explanations
and somewhat distant hope about airplane noise in the Brickell
Area. Indeed, noise has increased as Miami International Airport
continues to grow in passenger and cargo volume.
The details about the situation and what
can be done get a little confusing, but what is important to
know is this: Residential Brickell is under a flight path taken
by planes using the southern one of two east-west runways at
M.I.A. The Winter 1992 BHA News reported that the Aviation
Department said once a delayed refurbishing project closing the
northern runway was finished, the less noise sensitive northern
one would be used again at night and the southern one over Brickell
would be closed from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. In 1995 we reported that
Jeff Bunting said a lot of noise abatement boils down to pilot
technique and consideration. He explained how M.I.A. was working
with pilots to get them to fly high over residential neighborhoods
and would be adding shoreline and islands to the radar screen
so pilots could see where they are in relation to neighborhoods.
The BHA also reported in both issues that the elimination of
Stage 2 aircraft for the quieter Stage 3 aircraft would be complete
by the year 2000, greatly alleviating the problem.
All Night Long
Closed runway? Nothing doing, Bunting said. "Miami International
is open 24 hours a day." He explained the northern runway
is the preferred runway and air controllers try to direct
pilots over that one. The one over Brickell, however, is longer
and easier to use, especially if the plane is an overloaded cargo
carrier, which Bunting said, is frequently the case. If a pilot
tells the controller, "I want to use the other runway,"
the controller must comply.
What about the campaign to make the pilots
fly higher, make their turns farther out, over water? It seems
that it just hasn't worked so well. There are no fines or penalties
at M.I.A., unlike at other airports, thus no incentive to pilots.
"In Miami we have informal noise abatement procedures,"
Bunting said. "We're looking to formalize them." He
has a plan for consolidating the flight path, which now looks
like a hodgepodge of arcs of every degree from the airport out
to the Atlantic. The proposed plan calls for turns 10 miles out
and at a higher altitude.
But whatever he proposes can't shift the
impact on residents from one neighborhood to another. Not 1.5
decibels higher. The Aviation Department is purchasing a ground-level
microphone-recording system to measure noise to prove that they're
not increasing in one area too much.
"I can't rob Peter to pay Paul,"
Bunting quipped. That's why he can't move the flight path over
downtown, even though it's virtually shut down at night and void
of people. He has to have the ground readings to prove no one
is adversely impacted.
If the Federal Aviation Administration
approves his plan, it still must be approved by the Metro-Dade
Aviation Committee and the full County Commission body. The Commissioners,
elected by district, will each protect their neighborhoods if
they perceive they'll be adversely impacted, Bunting explained.
"What about the promised newer, less
noisy aircraft?" residents asked. Many said that when they
look out their windows to see what's making the obnoxious noise,
they often see what look to be older aircraft, surely not Stage
3. Bunting explained that the phase out is measured by fleet.
So, an airline might have an adequate percentage of its overall
fleet as Stage 3, but is not obligated to spread them around
airports. All their old planes may be used for cargo going to
and from M.I.A. All the old Stage 2 will be gone, but not until
December 31, 1999.
Column By T. Sinclair (Tory) Jacobs
City Commissioners Teach Us a Lesson. Are We Ready to Learn?
After our defeat at City Hall on the 1900
Brickell matter, many of us who had tried so diligently to protect
the residential integrity of Brickell from 15th to 25th Roads
felt much like Rodney Dangerfield: "We don't get no respect."
Upon further reflection, though still
disappointed in the City Commission vote, we should recognize
that BHA has some clout.
Our monthly board meetings are well-attended
by City and County Commissioners, high-ranking police officers
and N.E.T. managers. When we invite a governmental department
head, we usually get acceptance, even though our meetings are
not held during business hours.
Our phone calls to City and County officials
are usually returned promptly.
For an organization that is only seven
years old (almost), we do have some clout, but not enough
to survive in the City of Miami!
This was poignantly demonstrated on the
evening of April 14th. We saw (again) how little clout we have
when it really counts. The City of Miami Commission voted unanimously
to impose a Fire-Rescue fee of $160.00 annually on all condominiums
in the City. This tax, if it is not reversed, will cost our neighborhood
$960,000.00 a year for which we will receive no additional services
This is a purely political solution to
the Commissioners' unwillingness to impose garbage collection
fees on single-family homeowners that are in line with the cost
to provide the service. There are more homeowners than condominium
owners and they apparently are more likely to vote. So, for their
$160.00 they get garbage pickup service and fire-rescue
The Brickell neighborhood must generate
the clout either to get equitable treatment from the City or
to get out of the City.
Or, we can be passive victims and permit
the Commission to take more and more of our money, give us less
and less in services and amenities while granting permits for
commercial conversions that emasculate our residential neighborhood.
One vehicle to protect ourselves is a
PAC (Political Action Committee). Shall we give it a go?
Cat Burglar Hits Brickell Condos
Scaling buildings to the top floor and
working his way around the building from balcony to balcony looking
for opened sliding glass doors, a cat burglar has successfully
hit the Brickell area condos several times in the past several
months. Miami Police Lt. Manny Orosa said the burglar has hit
the Brickell area three times, Brickell Key five, Coconut Grove
six and Williams Island several times since June 1996.
From the Police report:
"He enters apartments that are not
occupied and steals only cash and jewelry. He has not left any
"He is described as: A light skinned
black male with big flat lips and wide flat nose. About 5'10".
Well groomed, wears a polotype T-shirt over pants (not inside
pants), sneakers. Might be wearing a baseball cap backwards.
"If anyone is seen in your property
fitting this description, please contact the Miami Police Department
at (305) 579-6111 or the Burglary Dectectives at (305) 643-7174.
Number One Mary Brickell Fan Has New
Carmen Petsoules, known to many as Miami's
biggest Mary Brickell fan, has a new plan to recognize Mary and
place her in the public spotlight. The location is the Brickell
Avenue median at Southeast 5th Street. The plan is to erect a
bronze statue of Mary. Ms. Petsoules hopes to fund the effort
with the sale of bricks engraved with donor names to serve as
the foundation for the sculpture. Eight thousand dollars is needed.
Readers may recall that it was Ms. Petsoules
who was responsible for spearheading the naming of 26th Road
to Pioneers Road. An officer of the Miami Roads Neighborhood
Civic Association and the Mary Brickell Garden Club, she advocates
"for historical justice, to preserve a place in history
for Mary Brickell, as the co-founding "Mother of Miami."
Stay tuned for more details on the bricks
as the plan unfolds.
Brickell Voter Participation Strong
The Brickell area has a diverse, international constituency,
with Brickell only a part-time residence for many condominium
owners. Many residents are not available, eligible or registered
to vote. Even so, turn out was strong among Brickell area registered
voters in last November's election. Among the 3,402 registered
voters in precinct 569 (polling place at the UTD Tower, 1809
Brickell), 69 percent voted. In precinct 541 where Brickell Key
residents vote (polling place at Brickell Presbyterian Church)
of the 761 registered voters, 61 percent voted last fall.
the City Of Miami Be Saved?
The Brickell Homeowners Association continues to monitor the
City of Miami's fiscal crisis and recovery plan. Gene Stearns,
leader of the abolish-the-city initiative, recently reported
that when he speaks on Spanish radio, the call-ins show growing
support for the elimination of two-tier, inefficient government.
Here is a strong statement from Mitch Robboy, president of Brickell
Place Condominium Association, one of BHA's largest and oldest