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BHA News, Vol. VII No. 2, Spring 1997

Residents Turn Out: Yet City Commissioners Vote Against BHA in Favor of Plastic Surgeon

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 residents.

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 Brickell Avenue.

The Brickell Homeowners Association will appeal this decision in court.

The Battle to Preserve Residential Quality
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 residents.

"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 there."

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 Commissioner Gort.

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 appeal.

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 Home

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 ballroom."

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 1548 Brickell.

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.

Airplane 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.

President's 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 or benefits.

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 service.

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?

Around the Neighborhood

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 legible fingerprints.

"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 Crusade

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.

Should 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 members.


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