For the fourth time in 18 months, Miami is getting a visit from a company based in Arkansas -- an English only state -- who can magically sway City Staff to ignore the meaning of any zoning code language, even in public forums.
Apparently, Miami Mayor Tomas Reglado's administration is eager to devote unlimited review to Walmart and short circuit numerous points of procedure throughout the application process. Over 3,000 city residents have signed a petition seeking to halt Walmart's plans already.
At nine months and growing, Walmart's architect Gensler created a design that oddly juxtaposes a mishmash of proposed roadway variances and tortured site planning, which is plummeting towards still birth. In no way is it a cohesive site design that incorporates mixed use and smart growth, like Bernard Zyscovich designed.
This youtube playlist contains two complete public hearings referenced throughout this article, held at City of Miami taxpayers' expense:
Ultimately, the city of Miami argued, on video tape at the last 2 Walmart public meetings, that current code allows developers to build without active use which could destroy the very fabric of our city's new zoning code and regulations.
The City of Miami Urban Design Review Board is composed of Certified Architects and professional real estate developers. One member, Mr. Willie Burmello noted that while "not a Native American" he understands Miami's land use code far in excess of the City's Planning Staff, represented by Carmen Sanchez.
On camera, Walmart's team begs the Miami UDRB to just pass their flawed design, or alternately, argues that the board is simply wrong and irrelevant because it is sadly non-binding. In three hours of Public Meetings, not a single issue raised was addressed -- the flawed rooftop plan, wrong street plan, wrong second floor setbacks and uses, a bizarre two-buildings-in-one-plan idea and more.
In the end, Walmart elected to obtain a no vote in hopes that the City of Miami Planning Director would make an executive decision to approve their Special Administrative Permit to build.
In the first un-televised UDRB meeting, Walmart revealed its plan to create a Miami Avenue service entrance -- expressly prohibited by zoning code and rejected after a series of four public meetings in the summer of 2012. Even more stupefying is that Gensler and Kimley Horn's design requires service trucks to back down a ramp into this forbidden area
Rightly, Mr. Burmello and others rejected Walmart's failed approach to designing a Frankenstinian monster.
Two weeks later, Walmart scheduled another UDRB meeting, where supposedly all of these issues would be resolved -- but they were not. Instead, its time for trying to convince the board that their interpretation of english was horribly skewed. Hilarity ensued when Walmart's lawyer from Akerman Senterfitt insisted that their design fits two opposite loopholes in zoning codes and they're just being nice by complying with one or the other.
The end of the second meeting contains a poignant moment where the Chair expressed frustration for the Board lacking teeth like boards in such cities with real standards, like Coral Gables, possess. This author strongly argues that it's well past time Miami citizens demand a city charter update to allow these boards to issue binding decisions in instances where there is unanimous or near unanimous concurrence of its members.
Ultimately, I cannot understand why Walmart continues to request the very same features, over and over again, which have been declined at six public meetings already. Mr. Burmello noted the unique standing accorded to Walmart in a Special Meeting held with limited public notice and never aired on live television.
I once again urge the Mayor of the City of Miami and its City Manager to end Walmart's charade and decline their permit application, until such time as a conforming application can be submitted with a new application fee and compliant with 100 percent of local regulations.
Once your city sets a precedent ignoring clearly articulated standards to Walmart, how can they say no to the next developer to come along with an idea to make money at the expense of rational planning?