- FACT - the owner of the land has filed an application with the town of Cutler Bay to change zoning from the current low density residential to commercial use...anything from apartments to a strip mall
- FACT - commercial zoning is not in keeping with the Cutler Bay Master Plan which identifies this land as conservation land and a potential future ecological park
- FACT - a commercial development is not consistent with land use and zoning of all the surrounding properties
- FACT - storm surge in Hurricane Andrew was 17 ft near this property, and the property is only from 5 to 10 ft. in elevation.
- FACT - a change in zoning to commercial use will increase the value of the land and put it out of reach for future purchase for park land
- QUESTION - How much more traffic and noise will this bring to already congested Old Cutler Rd.?
- QUESTION - Will joggers and cyclists that use the bike path adjacent to Old Cutler be in peril?
- QUESTION - Is a commercial development up to four stories tall what Cutler Bay residents want at the NE entrance to their city near their peaceful neighborhoods?
- QUESTION - Is it wise to build a commercial development on low land east of Old Cutler likely to be impacted by hurricane storm surge?
- QUESTION - How will this high density development impact the adjacent coastal wetlands?
- FACT - It will be up to the Cutler Bay Council to vote and decide the zoning issue
Peggy Bell, Mayor of Cutler Bay - firstname.lastname@example.org
Ernie Sochin, Vice Mayor of Cutler Bay - email@example.com
Roger Coriat, Council Member - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue Ellen Loyzelle, Council Member - email@example.com
Mary Ann Mixon, Council Member - firstname.lastname@example.org
and copy the Town Clerk - email@example.com
If you are a resident of Palmetto Bay this commercial development will impact you also, please contact the Cutler Bay officials above and copy those in your town below:
Eugene Flinn, Mayor of Palmetto Bay - firstname.lastname@example.org
John Dubois, Vice Mayor of Palmetto Bay - email@example.com
Karyn Cunningham, Council Member - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Schaffer, Council Member - email@example.com
Larissa Siegel Lara, Council Member - firstname.lastname@example.org
Please contact email@example.com to be placed on a mailing list for updates on this matter.
A great day was had by all. Weather was perfect for planting Muhly grass, cloudy and cool. Excellent participation with more than 50 volunteers from Wells Fargo Bank, Biotech Academy High School, and Daniella Levine-Cava, our new District 8 Commissioner!
Tony Pernas - National Park Service
click to enlarge images
- Restore important and threatened coastal and Pine Rockland habitat.
- Restore habitat for many endangered and threatened plant species.
- Eradicate non-native invasive species and promote native plant growth through prescribed burning.
- Provide control for several species of invasive exotic pest plant species.
- Create a more resilient coastal system in the face of sea level rise and climate change.
- Provide opportunities for community involvement and education.
Schools, Organizations and Community Members
Interested in contributing to restoration efforts through volunteer work days, neighborhood workshops and educational events? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This land is now in public hands because of grass roots community action. Tenacity throughout a long process at multiple levels of government is what it took to keep this last piece of coastal green from seemingly inevitable development. Heartfelt gratitude to all who contributed to this outcome!
Locals traveled to the Seminole Reservation in Okeechobee and spoke once again to support acquisition and advocate for educational/recreational public access on the property. Tropical Audubon as well as elected officials, government agencies and non-profit organizations also spoke or wrote once again to highlight the public good that will be served by acquisition of the property.
The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board:
-voted unanimously to authorize the settlement deal
-approved acquisition of 129.88 acres
-acted to access funds from the Save Our Everglades Trust Fund
-approved wetland restoration costs
This action demonstrates commitment to CERP/Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands and to the longterm health and well being of our residents and to fragile coastal habitats. BBCW aims to:
-improve natural fresh water flows to Biscayne Bay
-reduce salinity in the Bay
-rebuild coastal estuaries
-protect Biscayne National Park
-protect our water supply
-sustain the economic viability of the bay
Celebration planned for Saturday, March 27th at Tropical Audubon's Moonlight Concert at the Doc Thomas House. 5530 Sunset Dr., South Miami, 7pm. (305) 667-7337
Let's pop some corks and raise a glass in toast to this community victory!
Every action large and small that Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay residents took to advocate for our area counted. It's just sinking in. No celebrations planned until the ink is dry. Updates to follow...
Beth Kibler, Old Cutler South
Dr. Amy Roda
The number of persons who personally attended the hearing to speak surprised the Board members and others associated with the process, especially after three years. Board members commented on the overwhelming number of email they each received in just a three day period. Thanks to all who took action to send a clear message to the board about how important Biscayne Bay and our coastal wetlands are to our area. Special thanks to those who took off work and and drove to Key Biscayne to participate!
Our communities were supported by numerous elected officials, government agencies and non-profit organizations. In attendance to speak in favor of the resolution, and thereby reflecting your concerns, were:
Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorensen
Mayor Eugene Flynn, Palmetto Bay
Mayor Paul Vrooman, Cutler Bay
Vice Mayor Ed MacDougall, Cutler Bay
Councilman Tim Meerbott, Cutler Bay
Department of the Interior
Biscayne National Park
Tropical Audubon Society
National Parks Conservation Association
Clean Water Action
Florida Audubon Society
Hopefully a resolution will be reached soon. Update next month.
400 More Houses on Coastal Wetlands OR Protection of Biscayne Bay And Everglades Restoration?
Exactly 3 years ago residents of Cutler Bay and Palmetto Bay organized to stop over-development along Old Cutler. The hundreds of locals that wrote and attended meetings stopped development of this property at the county level. Now the same development application is before our state water board this Thursday in Key Biscayne.
Both the developer and the South Florida Water Management District are hoping our community has forgotten...
You can help preserve 122 ACRES and the last piece of green between Biscayne Bay and Old Cutler Road:
#1 - Email the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board members NOW. Emails must be received by the board members before Wednesday!!! Letters must focus on environmental issues as this board makes decisions based only on environmental criteria. In a simple one or two line email, tell the board you expect them to:
* vote YES on Discussion Agenda #26, Resolution 2010-111.
* settle the lawsuit with Cutler Properties
* acquire 122 acres of coastal wetlands to enable Bay and Everglades restoration
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
IMPORTANT: Please cc the clerk and OCS to make sure your email makes it into the record: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
#2 - Attend the Governing Board meeting Thursday. This is it. We need folks to show up at this meeting to let the State Water Board know that they have to represent Miami Dade, make decisions that protect our neighboring national parks and our local coastal resources. Miami Dade has been short a representative for years so your action at this time can make or break outcomes for these wetlands! Locals are taking off work and hope you will too. Luckily the meeting is here in Dade Co. at the Key Biscayne Village Chambers on 88 West McIntyre Street. The meeting starts at 9am but the item will likely be heard after lunch.
Questions? Review history of this development application on cutlerbay.net, livablecutler or contact Beth Kibler at email@example.com/ 786-877-6489.
Please forward this information to your contacts to help get the word out!
No-build policy for Biscayne Bay wetlands is rescinded
The South Florida Water Management District, citing budget cuts, went back on a decision prohibiting development in critical restoration areas along Biscayne Bay.
BY PATRICIA MAZZEI
Reversing a no-development policy set last year, leaders of the South Florida Water Management District said last week they would give case-by-case consideration to applications to build on coastal wetlands set aside for restoration in South Dade.
The decision might directly affect Cutler Properties, which applied three years ago to build on its 136 acres on the southeast corner of Southwest 184th Street and Old Cutler Road in Cutler Bay.
In September 2007, district officials said they would negotiate to acquire the land after prohibiting development on close to 6,400 acres of wetlands along Biscayne Bay from Southwest 152nd Street in Palmetto Bay to Biscayne National Park. When they didn't reach an agreement, Cutler Properties sued the district over how much the agency should pay for the land.
Those wetlands, once swampy and dense with vegetation, were deemed critical for the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project -- part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project -- to restore freshwater flows to Biscayne Bay and preserve mangrove and other habitats.
But on Dec. 15, the district's governing board rescinded last year's decision, telling staff members to reconsider permit applications required for construction on some of those wetlands because the cash-strapped agency cannot afford the roughly 580 acres in the restoration area still in private hands.
''We have things getting ready to start falling off the tables because we don't have enough resources,'' said governing board member Michael Collins of the Keys.
The district will likely revert to requiring that developers preserve some land to mitigate for construction, said Ken Ammon, deputy executive director of the agency's Everglades Restoration Resource Area.
''We're going to find this situation more and more in the future,'' he said in an interview Wednesday. ``We may have to, quite frankly, compromise with certain applicants for a development in order to realize a bigger restoration objective.''
Board members said the policy shift was not specifically aimed at Cutler Properties, though it was the only example staff members cited at the meeting. The board signed off on its decision after a closed-door session on the developer's lawsuit.
Cutler Properties, owned by Fortune International, had proposed building close to 400 residential units on the site's westernmost 42 acres that are either not wetlands or less-pristine wetlands. The remaining 96 acres would be set aside as a wetlands preserve, probably with no public access from land. Some Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay residents had rallied against the project, sending the district letters decrying overcrowding and damage to the environment. They celebrated the halt of development plans last year. In August, Cutler Properties took the district to court over how much the district should pay the developer to acquire the land and for delaying its permit to build.
Howard Nelson, an attorney for the developer, told the governing board its policy change might not save the district from having to pay for the land's lost value from last year to this year.
''I have a client who has had this property with an inability to move for close to four years,'' Nelson said. ``To make the assumption that we're just going to reverse the policy a year later and give them a permit -- that still comes with consequences.''
In a related case, a trial is scheduled to start next month on how much the district should pay Cutler Bay Venture, which is owned by developer Luis Machado, for its close to 377 acres east of Southwest 87th Avenue from 224th to 232nd streets.
A district appraisal valued the land at about $4 million, while one for the developer estimated its value at about $20 million, said Andrew Schuster, an attorney for Cutler Bay Venture.
Today the South Florida Water Management District's Governing Board voted to deny environmental resource permits and will allow the use of inverse condemnation orders in critical coastal wetland areas east of 87th avenue. The District has the funds in place to purchase the Cutler Properties 130 acre property at 184th and Old Cutler. Hundreds of acres of Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands will be preserved and everglades restoration projects enabled as a direct result of this thoughtful decision. Closer to home, our coast and green spaces will be preserved and over-development kept at bay.
Public serving groups and agencies from the Governor down to our local officials have been involved in making this happen but we would personally like to thank all of you that participated in the grassroots effort that contributed to this outcome.
Your participation has made a difference.
• You have shown the county that the community believes that the preservation of our coastal wetlands is essential
• You have demonstrated to county agencies that meetings should be held in the communities that are affected.
• You have shown the developers who wish to work within our communities, that we expect them to respect our environment and work with us to preserve our quality of life.
We have completed just the first step in a very long process. The owner still has applications in with the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District. This process may take months or years and the developers are counting on the public losing interest. We are dedicated to taking action on this property and three additional properties located on Cutler Bay coastal wetlands.
We ask you to continue the fight with us and hope that we can rely on you to take action when needed.
HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
Please take the time to write a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE). In the past we created form letters and asked you to simply copy and paste them onto an email to the recipient. Unfortunately the ACE will not seriously consider form letters. Original letters are preferred in this situation. However, to make this as easy on you as possible we have come up with some points loosely grouped by subject. Please look at the list, pick one or two that you feel is most relevant and either rephrase it in your own words or copy and paste it into your email.
Letters can be addressed and headed as below:
ATTN: Leah.A.Oberlin@sajo2.usace.army.mil, Regulatory Project Manager USACE
c.c. firstname.lastname@example.org, Representative District 117, Florida House of Representatives
In reference to Permit Application No. SAJ-2005-4653 Cutler Properties LC:
Cutler Properties LC is proposing a high density multistory development at this location and plans to unnecessarily fill 33 acres of coastal wetlands that will certainly have negative impacts to both the adjacent 90 acres of wetlands and Biscayne National Park. The proposed development is not water dependant and under Section 33 part 320 #32.4 of the Code of Federal Regulations the developer must justify why the proposed project cannot be pursued elsewhere. The community is strongly opposed to the unnecessary destruction of our much needed wetlands and asks the corps to consider the CFR when reviewing the Cutler Properties application.
Cutler Properties bought this 138 acre property just over three years ago (October 2003), knowing that only 9 acres of it were available for development without a variance. The property owners have the right to build on the 9 acres of uplands, but destroying an additional 30 acres of wetlands that could be restored is not in the best interest of our environment, nor our community.
The project planned by Cutler Properties LC is not the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative (LEDPA) for the projects proposed mixed use and residential housing purposes. The property purchased by Cutler Properties has only 9 acres of uplands yet they propose 42 acres of development that would require the filling of 33 acres of coastal wetlands. This proposed project is not the LEDPA and the applicant should not be granted a 404 permit.
Cutler Properties LC is proposing to fill 33 acres of Class I Coastal Wetlands. In return they are only offering 3 acres of on-site mitigation in just a 30ft buffer. The 90+ acres of high quality wetlands adjacent to Biscayne National Park that they're offering to give to the county cannot be developed under current laws and is therefore irrelevant. Our community is losing 33 acres of wetlands How is this in the public interest?
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) has been deemed a National Issue of Overriding Importance in the interest of preserving our water quality. This property is in the footprint of CERP. The developer plans to destroy 33 acres of coastal wetlands in an area that is critical to the aquifer and the bay. CERP needs to be implemented and our threatened wetlands need to be restored. The national goal of preserving our water supply is more important than the need for housing in an already saturated market or the desire for profit by a few individuals. The community relies on the corps to promote the full implementation of CERP on what little is left of our coastal wetlands.
As the population increases throughout South Florida it becomes increasingly important to protect our natural resources. Our coast line must not be sacrificed unnecessarily. It is in our collective best interests to conserve this land and allow it to work for us as a filter for water runoff, and as a sanctuary for birds, crabs and others who call this piece of land home.
Conflict with the Watershed Study
Cutler Properties LC is proposing a plan that is in conflict with the goals of the South Miami-Dade Watershed Study and Plan. The plan establishes an open space/conservation zone (Zone C) "that ensures that lands needed for the protection of Biscayne Bay are available for storm water treatment, wetlands restoration (including the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands CERP Project) and open space (including agriculture) as required." The importance of state and local decisions in the regulatory process is recognized in Section 101(b) of the Clean Water Act and in Section 202(b) of the Environmental Quality Improvement Act. The Army Corps of Engineers is requested to respect local initiatives to preserve land and water resources and consider the long term goals of the community while reviewing Cutler Properties application to fill our coastal wetlands.
There is little green space in Cutler Bay along Old Cutler Road. This is not in keeping with Old Cutler's Historic and Scenic designation. Past development and commercial ventures have already hurt the scenic value of this road.
Lying just outside of Cutler Bay’s town limits is Blackpoint Marina. This marina serves as the launching point for recreational fishermen and boating enthusiasts. As more and more of our shoreline is sacrificed to development, we compromise the health of our bay and the joy of communing with nature.
Cutler Properties LC is owned by Fortune International (Edguardo Fortuna of Fortune Magazine/Realty, etc.) Cutler Properties has filed an application with the Environmental Quality Control Board for a waiver of Chapter 24-58.3(B) of the Miami-Dade County Code. Cutler Properties wants to fill over 30 acres of Class I Coastal Wetlands to build high density/multi-use residences and shops of undisclosed detail in a primarily single family home dominated area. Cutler Properties LC does not meet any of the requirements of county code for the filling of wetlands- yet the director Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) has recommended that the Environmental Quality Control Board (EQCB) grant a variance.
The property at 18551 Old Cutler Rd. was purchased in October of 2003 for $2,400,000 and has since been refinanced for $8m +/-. The property consists of 9 acres of uplands (no variance required), 33 acres of lower quality wetlands and 93 acres of higher quality wetlands. The 93 acres of high quality wetlands are being offered to the county as part of the deal with DERM and will be used to allow higher density on the remainder of the property during the zoning process even though the higher quality wetlands can never be touched for development.
EQCB agendas are only published in the Daily Business Review and on the Miami-Dade website making it very difficult for citizens to know what’s in store for their neighborhoods until the bulldozers have begun clearing the land. Just a week before the November 9th EQCB Palmetto Bay individuals happened upon this information, began investigating, contacted the Tropical Audubon Society and began Googling Cutler Bay citizens groups. A TAS email was widely circulated and representatives from homeowner’s and activist’s groups began working together in opposition of granting the variance for the filling of wetlands.
WHY CUTLER BAY AND PALMETTO BAY GROUPS OPPOSE GRANTING A VARIANCE OF COUNTY CODE
• This is the last piece of green that stretches from Old Cutler to Biscayne Bay in Cutler Bay
• Past developments like the adjacent Cutler Cay (National Geographic 9/06) are endangering our coastal wetlands and the bay.
• The proposed filling does not meet ANY of the requirements of county code.
• DERM is accepting a bad project with bad mitigation. 33 acres of impact to 3 acres of mitigation is an unacceptable deal and not in the public’s best interest.
• The development does not allow for full implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) currently envisioned for the site.
DEVELOPERS COMMUNICATION WITH RESIDENTS
At the September EQCB the chair commented on the applicant’s contact with neighbors. As of the November EQCB no proof of community contact was found but the applicant submitted a request for a deferral to DERM on the basis of the need for community contact and stated, “That process has been on-going and continues to this date.” The only contact uncovered was an informal meeting with environmental groups 15 months previously.
Cutler Properties attorney Howard Nelson, of Bilzin Sumberg, was contacted directly by representatives of Cutler Bay/Palmetto Bay groups. He was asked to quantify who he considered the community and to notify the writers of any meetings scheduled before the December EQCB. In a phone conversation Mr. Nelson characterized the environmental community as the only stakeholders and reiterated that he had met with them and had therefore met with the community. He stated that the lawyers handling the zoning process were handling meetings with neighbors. When told that the residents were concerned with environmental issues Mr. Nelson said he would meet with residents. As community awareness rose, email poured into DERM and pressure mounted, reports of undeclared meetings with members of Cutler Glen Homeowners Association emerged. The attorney handling zoning applications, Simon Ferro of Greenberg Taurig, gave only two days notice of a meeting to which only a few were invited. This meeting was basically a sales pitch and did not address environmental impact. As of the December EQCB no meetings on the environmental impact of the project were conducted by representatives of Cutler Properties.
DECEMBER 14th EQCB HEARING
Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay citizens groups have organized in strong opposition to the filling of the wetlands and to developing the last piece of green in Cutler Bay that goes from Historic Old Cutler Rd. to Biscayne Bay. These groups have worked diligently for months to inform area residents about the proposed development and its consequences. As a result, concerned individuals took the day off work and made the trek downtown to attend the EQCB even though letters from DERM and the developer informed citizens of the request for yet another deferral.
After hearing several residents of Cutler Bay and Palmetto Bay and an adamant representative of the Sierra Club speak against the continuance on the grounds that Cutler Properties had not made a good faith effort to communicate with stakeholders about the environmental impact of the proposed project, and discovering that 370+ letters had been received by DERM from citizens opposing the variance, the board, in front of a packed room, summarily voted against granting the continuance. The attorney for Cutler Properties was not prepared for this and did not have his case in order. He stated that he needed time to locate his witness from the South Florida Water Management District. It is highly unusual that the SFWMD would speak on the behalf of a development project. DERM revealed that their letters to citizens advising them of the continuance may have discouraged attendance by the community. In light of these facts a compromise was promulgated where Cutler Properties had to go on record that if allowed a continuance to January they would seek no further continuances. Many citizens were unhappy with the compromise and continued to strongly disagree with granting the continuance. They made a forthright request that the meeting be held in South Dade and in the evening to assure the participation of all concerned citizens. In a move viewed as unprecedented by many, this request was granted by the EQCB.
The developers committed to having a meeting with the public and it is scheduled for January 8th. The EQCB is on Thursday, January 11th at 5:30 at the South Dade Government Center.
Trebloc Corp. was the previous owner of the property. Trebloc was responsible for unauthorized clearing of wetlands. DERM and the county spent a lot of time and money in litigation to establish that the wetlands were class one coastal wetlands and to obtain a Consent Agreement from Trebloc. The consent agreement has not been fulfilled as of this date. Violations on the property stay with the property and are the responsibility of the new owner.
DERM’s motto is “Delivering Excellence Everyday”. Delivering it to whom? DERM rarely recommends that variance applications be denied and the EQCB almost always follows DERM’s recommendation.
DERM’s past performance demonstrates that they view developers as their customers rather than serving in the best interests of the public. 370+ emails were received in opposition to this development by DERM (The most mail DERM has received on one application) yet at the EQCB DERM did not notify the board of this fact! The only way for the EQCB to gain knowledge of the volume of email is for a resident to stand before them and speak about it, but the resident would have no idea how many letters were received by DERM unless he formally requested the public records.
Mayor Vrooman of Cutler Bay wrote directly to the chair of the EQCB and instead of supporting this citizen’s movement to contain development wrote that he agreed with DERM’s recommendation and asked that the 90 acres of higher quality wetlands be deeded to Cutler Bay to help satisfy the green space to development ratio required under the CDMP for incorporation. Why have the 90+ acres given over to the Town of Cutler Bay? Yes they can claim it as “parkland” (passive) to help satisfy the requirements of their Comprehensive Development Master Plan but it will not be on the tax rolls and the responsibility for maintenance will be on the taxpayers/town.
The Town of Cutler Bay has declared a moratorium on building along Historic Old Cutler Rd. DERM records show that staff was aware of this. Why were the desires of the town disregarded and a variance approval recommended by DERM?
Due to the “Jennings Rule” citizens are unable to contact their county commissioner because the matter may come before the BCC. Citizens of Cutler Bay have also been told by their mayor and council members that they cannot speak to them on the subject, citing Jennings, despite the developer’s assertion that a zoning application has not yet been filed.
There was a 14ft? storm surge recorded on the adjacent Burger King property during Hurricane Andrew. Does it make sense to continue building on wetlands in consideration of that fact and in light of what we’ve learned from Hurricane Katrina?