Categories: Giveaways

Alleys are not gifts | Miami Community News

George Merrick’s planned city is a protected landmark by unanimous decision.

Coral Gables is among a limited number of municipalities whose “city plan” is a local historic landmark, officially recognized in 2018 by a unanimous vote of the City Commission (Resolution #2217-240 and Ordinance #2018- 13).

An ordinance is a law or decree of a municipality. An ordinance is a local law. Ordinances usually prohibit or restrict some type of activity.

The municipal commission has the duty to comply with its ordinances and “prohibit or restrict” any activity that deviates from the decree.

Thus, George Merrick’s planned city, with its “rights of way, roads, highways, alleys, open spaces, parks, canals, reserves, sidewalks, waterways…” is legally protected.

Furthermore, the plan’s landmark status should not only protect its carefully developed urban landscape from ill-conceived projects that detract from the existing harmonious attributes of Merrick’s vision, but also protect against any possible yielding of these public spaces ( i.e. “rights of way,” “roads,” “alleys,” etc.)

In planning Coral Gables, founder George Merrick employed Garden City concepts and the City Beautiful movements of comprehensive planning. This type of planning took aesthetics and functionality into account.

Alleys are not fodder. They are fundamental.

This point follows the theme of ‘streets’ and their importance and purpose in enabling a city center to function. The back of the house is just as important as the front of the house. Alleys (some narrow, some wide) play a crucial role in sanitation, distribution, demarcation and emergency service routes. On page three of the plan designation report, it states: “The business, industrial and commercial lots also had narrow interior streets at the rear of the lots.” Alleys may be at the back, but they are front and center in urban core development.

In planning his city, Merrick left nothing to be desired. It goes without saying that alleys are not disposable; are important

Which brings this conversation to the July 25 Coral Gables Commission meeting.

The recent committee meeting was long and expectations were high. Specifically regarding the Ponce Park item on the agenda. All the discussion focused on the height of the project but not on the implication of abandoning the public alley which is a protected historical resource according to the legislative decree.

Topic F-13: Ordinance of the Municipal Commission approving the abandonment of a public street…
Vacating a public alley (for the benefit of a private entity) is a key concession. Without the alley, the Ponce Park project (Ponce de Leon Boulevard and University Drive) would have to be reassessed. Code allows 50 feet. The proposal calls for triple the height.
Coincidentally, voters in Miami Beach will face this very issue in August. Referendum 6 would require a voter referendum before the city could “vacate” streets or other public property to allow developers to increase the density of their projects. The abandonment of a public space means that a city cedes control of a public asset to a private owner. When the city cedes control of a roadway to a developer, the developer can include the area of ​​that roadway in density calculations and increase the size of its buildings (Miami Herald, July 25, 2022).

Coral Gables voters do not need a referendum to protect their public spaces because they should be able to rely on the city’s Historic City Plan, a historically designated local landmark, to protect their public assets. The city plan is the plan that protects the city of Merrick.

Last year, regarding the Ponce Park project, both the city’s planning and historic preservation staff recommended denying the alley. The preservation department cited the “alleys” as protected public land under the Coral Gables Historic City Plan. This guiding principle should solve the problem of abandoning alleys or other public spaces without requiring residents to succumb to a voter referendum according to Miami Beach.

Residents must continue to oppose any surrender of public lands, specifically historically protected areas such as alleys, using the power of local law and ordinance legislation.
In 1940, Merrick thanked the city for its vigilance, successful ordinances, and said that moving forward there “should be no disappointment in the Coral Gables plan which has been so successfully carried out.” (Miami News, Apr. 4, 1940).

The city’s historic plan is a powerful tool for Coral Gables leaders. Let’s not disappoint Merrick.

Karelia Martinez Carbonell, defender of preservation


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