The City of Miami Waterfront Advisory Board unanimously rejected by 11-0 the final proposed Virginia Key Master Plan at the June 9 meeting at Miami City Hall.
In a motion made in the affirmative asking for approval of the plan, each of the members present voted “No.” Two members who had said they would vote no, Manny Prieguez and Stuart Sorg, left before the final vote was taken.
Before he left Sorg offered this zinger: “I see every blade of grass has something on it. This is in another world. It’s not Miami. I wouldn’t support it for five minutes.”
He also had a few choice words for a proposed new “fishing pier” that looks like something out of a Hollywood premiere. “I would be embarrassed to go to this Fishing Pier. I think I would need a tuxedo.”
Board chair Wendy Kamilar said the deal breakers for her were the numerous parking garages along the Rickenbacker Causeway, (some which could be up to five stories tall) and the lack of a public boat ramp. The city had promised a public boat ramp on Virginia Key after announcing the ramp in Coconut Grove would eventually close, she said.
On the existing public boat ramp site across from the Bayside Hut restaurant in the Marine Stadium basin, the EDSA plan calls for a dry dock storage site for 725 vessels that would be about five stories high and about the length of 5-6 football fields. The EDSA representative said they had wanted to put a boat ramp on the north end of the island but were blocked by DERM officials.
A DERM representative present explained why: the location selected by EDSA was a public beach, a sea turtle nesting area, in a manatee protection zone, and that it would result in boat traffic cutting through the Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife Refuge or other ecologically sensitive areas.
Some board members questioned who would own or manage the facilities, and how they would be paid for. Enrique Nunez, a city planner, said no funds have been allocated. In the May 20 public meeting, the EDSA representative had said the development proposals could cost $300 – $400 million. Nunez indicated that the Master Plan would be used as the “guiding tool” to pursue financing opportunities, including a bond program.
Other board members expressed concern about the scale and appropriateness of some of the projects that block the public’s views and access to the waterfront.
“Unfortunately, the proof is in the picture and the picture is not what a lot of us thought would come out.” said board member Jose Keichi Fuentes, who said he runs on Virginia Key every weekend. “When what you see are parking lots, that takes away from what we love” about Virginia Key.
The meeting drew more than two dozen concerned citizens, many representing organizations with hundreds of members, including the Miami Rowing Club, the Sierra Club, Miami Group, Dade Heritage Trust,Tropical Audubon, the Urban Environment League, the Windsurfers and ECOMB as well as citizen representatives of neighborhood groups. Steve Hagan, a member of the City of Miami’s Park and Environment Advisory Board, said his group was never presented the plan.
Speakers from many citizen groups urged the Waterfront Advisory Board to reject the plan, stating that many of the proposals, including large parking garages, shopping areas and speciality restaurants, lodging and conference centers, were explicitly rejected by the public at the charettes organized by the City to solicit citizen’s input.
Many speakers stressed that the consensus at the previous public planning meetings was for a “less is more” approach to Virginia Key that would keep it green and preserve waterfront access and views and protect the existing wildlife refuges and other natural areas.
Representatives of the Dade Heritage Trust and Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium said the City of Miami has appealed the historic designation of the Miami Marine Stadium basin and that appeal is still pending so it would be premature to approve the Master Plan at this point.
The City of Miami Planning Advisory Board will consider the Virginia Key Master Plan at 7 p.m., June 17 at the City of Miami Commission Chambers, 3500 Pan American Drive..
The City of Miami Commission is scheduled to take a final vote on the Virginia Key Master Plan at 9 a.m., June 25, City of Miami Commission Chambers. View the proposed plan
What you can do:
Attend and speak out at the City of Miami Planning Advisory Board meeting, 7 p.m. June 17, City of Miami Commission Chambers, 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami. Contact City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and City Commissioners
Write letters to the editor: HeraldEd@miamiherald.com