Midtown Walmart Amendment Denied 9-0
[music 0:00-0:36] Bernard Zyscovich: Hello. I'm Bernard Zyscovich. I want to give you a little bit of history, if you don't mind, because I think it's relevant in this particular matter. My initial involvement with Midtown was before it was Midtown. We were actually hired by the city of Miami to do the urban design code, as part of the Florida east coast study that resulted in what became Midtown. During the course of that study, we came up with certain fundamental ideas that have, I'm very happy to say, proven to work out. First of all, even though there is 56 acres totally fenced in, for those of you who remember it, the initial thought was to make it more like a gated community. Thankfully, that didn't happen and our method prevailed, which is that all of the streets actually line up with the grid of the community and the neighborhood. They line up both to the west, with Wynwood. They line up to the north with the design district. It was laid out specifically to enhance the catalyst and redevelopment opportunities of the overall neighborhood. This is very important, because what's before you today is actually a text amendment which has very, very broad and very powerful implications. The implications are, in effect, so strong that if this text amendment were in place before Midtown actually had a chance to develop, my sense of it is that Midtown would not have developed. If you really imagine Miami Avenue when there was a fence across the street, and Midtown was encircled by a fence which was the rail-yard, you would know that there was nothing particularly valuable there. The site was completely disconnected from every other thing. What I wanted to show you was to potentially...I don't know if you can see this, but this is the plan in terms of the street hierarchy that is the subject of tonight's meeting. The street hierarchy is developed in a very particular way. You have three different colors. You have the purple. You have the blue. You have the green. But more importantly, every single thing in the code is specific to the blocks. It's true that there is a service connection off of Miami Avenue, but if you read the code carefully, it says North of 34th Street, you're allowed to have a service connection. The reason that it was allowed when we wrote the code was, in order to allow an access point into what became this mega-block that is contained by Thousand-Plus Cars, Target, et cetera, as a way of bringing the truck into the building, having it circulate in the building, have it service everything within the building. That was a better tradeoff than trying to prevent it from being able to access. The code also very specifically says that service entries south of 34th Street are not


permitted. It's a very important distinction, because part of what's happening today is that there's text amendment that would allow it to happen. The other thing that's very important to understand is that as you go east-west with these streets, the streets are intended to be the place where vehicles actually service and enter the buildings, so that we maintain the integrity of Miami Avenue as a pedestrian street, and the integrity of Midtown Boulevard as a pedestrian street. If you go to these side streets today, you'll see that that's why the garage is placed across from this parcel. That's why the loading docks happen on the east-west streets, not on the north-south streets. What does it really mean when you begin to look at why the zoning change? Fundamentally, you can answer that in one simple question. This text amendment, if approved, will allow for a project to be approved without a public hearing. To answer the question you asked the attorney, the entire SD-27 piece of the code is specific and important for one really important reason. If you abide by all the rules and regulations of this code, you can get a class two permit, which is administrative, no public meeting. If you ask for a variance to this code, it says very clearly that you need to go through the process called major use special permit, which requires a public hearing. What might seem like an innocuous change to a street actually is an enabling of allowing for a project to move forward without any public hearing, when the fundamental intention of this code in all of its specificity is to ensure that projects that don't meet all the letters and requirements of this code have to go through a public hearing, because it means by intention they were not anticipated. The reason I showed up here tonight is because I heard through the grapevine, because I'm not being paid by anyone, I heard through the grapevine that my name had come up in various public meetings. That people were saying that we didn't really think through the southern edge of this property, that it was kind of a leftover, that it wasn't really considered. I want to tell you one thing. Every aspect of this code was considered. I would be bragging if we still had an empty piece of dirt, but I feel validated by virtue of the fact that Midtown has become such an important and vibrant community. I think a big part of that is the code. Let me take you through specifically what's in the amendment. The first thing is building functionality. 627.2.11, the words "North Miami Avenue south of Northeast 34th Street" are struck. What that means is, it permits loading on North Miami Avenue. By striking out the words, you're now permitting loading on Miami Avenue without any conversation about the impact that that might have. Secondary streets, it says diagrams and illustrations. The typical diagram and illustration


shown for this roadway may be modified with the approval of the planning director in conjunction with the issuance of a class two permit. Parentheses, class two permit means no public meeting, no visible illustration that gives anyone access to having any comment about it. Affecting the height, the bulk, the location, the exterior configuration of any existing building or any new building. You might as well take this last lot and everything that affects it, and you might as well throw the code in the garbage. Man: I'm going to try to make it simple for me. What you're saying is if we approve this without any type of plan, without any type of diagrams, they could put a Taj Mahal there and we would have really no say in it? Bernard: That's what I'm saying. Woman: No, not necessarily. Just to clarify the record, Madam Chair, we need to wrap this up on the presentation portion. Basically, a class two special permit, based on 11,000 criteria, goes through the planning department and all the different referrals, and you can't build Taj Mahal. If anyone, and there's plenty of people here, is not satisfied with that, they can appeal it. Because those types of decisions are sent to all homeowner's associations in the area, and they're posted on the website. There's plenty of notice on that. I just wanted to clarify that for the record. Bernard: Yes, but there's no public meeting, and a class two allows -- this is what this is saying -- that the planning director can make that decision. That's my point. Next one, 31st and 32nd Streets, minimum 60 foot right of way. They're inserting the word minimum. What that means is you can make the street any size you want, which means that the character of the street could be changed by the planning director. Guidelines. Where actual parking is provided, one-foot-wide gutter should where parallel parking is provided. That means you can remove the parallel parking. That means that the cars that are parked on the street can now become more roadway. Now you have roadway next to sidewalk, which is not the character of Midtown. The whole point is that it's a pedestrian friendly environment. That gives this individual or the city the ability to do that just because they want to. Travel lanes have a minimum width of 10 feet. That's inserted. Why did they insert a minimum width of 10 feet? Because they want to add more travel lanes. 31st Street is not designed for four lanes. It's designed for two lanes. Medians. Stone or concrete medians may be placed within the right of way where appropriate to provide a pedestrian refuge for street crossings and optimize vehicular travel. They're going to need a refuge, because that's what the street will become. In closing, I write these codes. I write them all over the country, just like others do.


Typically, a text amendment is to correct text that has some kind of incidental impact where the language of the code might be confused, or possibly needs some amendment. I think you have to ask yourself this question. Why are you changing the code through text amendment without seeing a project, without seeing a drawing? The impact of it is not that it's a text amendment. The impact of it is that the way the code was written, which is why Midtown is there so fast, is that if you abide by the rules, you get to build your project without a public hearing. When you change the text amendment, what you're really doing is you're eliminating any public hearing process other than an appeal after it's done, and that's why I'm alarmed. This is a very big project. I have nothing against Walmart personally. That's not my issue. My issue is that the impact of these text amendments, and giving all the authority to a single person within the city without public hearing that affects so many people, whether pro or con, seems to fly in the face of the intention of why we wrote the code. We wrote the code to say one thing. If you abide by the rules, this is what you get. If you don't want to abide by the rules, make your project public, let it be vetted, and then if you win, you win. Thank you. Man: I have one question, Mr. Zyscovich. The developer handed out a copy of the Zyscovich NFIU May 2002 FEC quarter strategic development plan. The developer highlighted the last sentence on page 35. You probably don't remember it. It's 2002. You can have my copy, but I'll read to you the portion they highlighted. It said, talking about this area, "The remaining 20 acres within the southern portion of the site would accommodate an urban design treatment of big box retail development." Is this the portion that we're talking about here now? Bernard: No, I'm really glad you raised that. That document, if I'm remembering correctly, was done while we were engaged by the city of Miami in the FEC master plan, when we were looking at evaluating the economy of trying to make an inner city neighbor. What businesses could we bring in there that would make it work? That is before Midtown, before the property was purchased. It was still under the ownership of the railroad, and it was a hypothetical situation saying, "Put all the stuff on the north end. Put all these big boxes on the south end." When we actually had a client with a real project and we actually put in streets and made a neighborhood, the only thing that counts is the code. That precedes any dream that what we were dreaming about back then would actually occur. That's a completely irrelevant thing. Man: You answered my question. Thank you. Bernard: Thank you.


Woman: Thank you.

Transcription by CastingWords