A five-member Homestead City Council chaired by Vice Mayor Jon Burgess rejected a rezoning application for 73 townhomes on 9.2 acres at its meeting on Wednesday, July 24.
The vote to deny rezoning from B1 restricted commercial to townhouses for the Portobello Estates proposal was unanimous.
An additional five to zero Council vote disapproved a necessary amendment to the comprehensive land use plan.
The proposed community is located on Mowry Drive south of the turnpike and next to the Everglades Preparatory Academy.
City staff explained the land designation “flip-flopped” between residential and commercial designations over the years.
“The property is long with a narrow frontage and a slope which is why there’s a decreased demand for commercial use,” explained Attorney Maritza Haro for the applicant who purchased the land in 2005.
Councilmember Patricia Fairclough said, “You refer to community
support. The neighboring HOA did not vote in favor of this project. They did not want to take a position. The President properly recused herself because she’s on the Planning & Zoning Board – where she did support the application.”
On the issue of traffic analysis offered by the applicant, staff explained it was an issue for a subsequent site plan approval after the plan amendment and rezoning.
“Has the applicant considered single family homes for the site –
less density than the townhomes?” asked Councilmember Julio Guzman.
“With the size of this property and sitting on it for fifteen years this is the minimum number of units to make the project work for the applicant,” said Attorney Haro.
She also offered two neighbors’ statements supporting the new community.
“The City is not responsible for speculation,” said Vice Mayor Burgess. “It is what it is.”
“We’re swamped with townhomes,” he said. “If I wanted to show community support, I would have someone from the City of Homestead representing me and not someone from Miami.”
Two citizens commented in opposition to the development, one of which said he knew of no neighbors in favor of it.
The final vote denying the application was five to zero with Burgess, Fairclough, Bailey, Roth and Guzman voting No.
In another application, Council approved a master plan amendment, rezoning from light commercial to technology mixed use, and site plan modification to allow a 120-foot wireless communications tower at the Oasis Plaza shopping center.
The tower would sit on top of an existing one story building to the south of Campbell Drive and provide “co-location opportunities for multiple providers” according to staff.
Council approved all three issues by a vote of four to one with Burgess voting No.
The 7-Eleven corporation applied for a special exception for sixteen gas pumps for a new 3100 square foot store south of Campbell Drive on the northwest corner of SW 147th Avenue. The staff report listed this as a $1.5 million project expected to take twelve months to build.
The site plan for operation of the store 24/7 and permission to sell beer and wine for consumption off premises were also on the agenda.
“This proposed project is in my district,” said Councilmember Fairclough. “Before projects come into my district, I like to meet with the applicant to make sure it’s a quality project.”
“This is just another gas station,” she added. “I’m not fond of what I see. Looking at it, it’s just another box. I met with the Racetrac and had several conversations and we got a better product. I’d like to have a conversation with the applicant before supporting this.
So I move to defer.”
The applicant’s representative agreed to the deferral by Council which was unanimous.
Council was asked to approve a bank loan of $2.5 million for the land and construction of a new electric utility substation. Of five bank proposals, CenterState Bank offered the lowest interest rate and allowed early
repayment without penalty. The interest rate offer was 2.44% for a ten year term.
In answer to Councilman Guzman’s question, staff said it is standard that the first year’s payment is exclusively an interest payment.
Council voted unanimously to approve this loan termed a utility revenue bond.
Council also endorsed the City’s revised annual action plan to HUD for its community development block grant. Councilmember Fairclough recently asked her colleagues to substitute STEM programs for low income students as a CDBG category when no one responded to requests for added senior citizen
The City’s proposed 2019/2020 CDBG plan for $807,257 includes $300,000 for the Cybrary, Section 108 payments of $260,149, Administrative fees of 18% totaling $145,306, and new STEM programs for $101,802.
Homestead Council was approached by Attorney Daryl Jones to join a national lawsuit against opioid providers. Attorney Jones represents a consortium of Florida law firms.
A federal case against opioid manufacturers was filed in the Northern District of Ohio courts in 2017 and has survived several motions to dismiss. Other suits against opioid abuses from across the country have been added to this case.
A proposed damages model was set up by the judge for ultimate distribution based on number of deaths attributable to opioid abuse. Attorney Jones explained there are two classes of plaintiffs – litigating plaintiffs and a non-litigating group that must pay 22% attorneys’ fees out of any subsequent award. Homestead would join the non-litigating group for representation once
liability has been established.
Vice Mayor Burgess established there was no cost to the City at this time. Attorney Jones said resources should be committed within ninety days of application to compile data on drug enforcement costs for a higher share of potential damages awards.
Councilmember Fairclough asked for a list of participating Florida municipalities and counties. The City Attorney opined that joining the suit was a policy issue committing to information research as a potential claimant.
Council voted in favor of proceeding. Staff was directed to review the lawyers’ representational letter and the seven-page application for joining the suit.