Residents upset over Coral Gables' trolley depot

By Christina Vazquez, Reporter, cvazquez@wplg.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 04:04:59 PM EST
Updated On: Jan 15 2013 10:58:59 PM EST

People living in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood are upset with a new trolley depot being built for the City of Coral Gables nearby.

MIAMI -

People living in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood are upset with a new trolley depot being built for the City of Coral Gables nearby.

Construction has already begun on Coral Gables' new trolley depot at the intersection of Frow Avenue and Douglas Road in the West Grove.

Pierre Sands, President of the Coconut Grove Village West Homeowners and Tenants Association, is one of those upset residents.

"This project is wrong-headed on many levels," said Sands. "We're maintaining that it's a precedent both on the City of Coral Gables and the City of Miami in its dual practice of ignoring the needs and welfare of this community."

When Astor Development wanted to buy the city's current depot, near Coral Gables High School, to build condominiums. Coral Gables said yes, but only if the developer built a new trolley depot first. The developer decided on a site in the West Grove.

"My client searched high and low to find a suitable site that was properly zoned and in close proximity to the trolley route, and we couldn't find one within the City of Coral Gables," said Mario Garcia-Serra, an attorney for Astor Development.

People living nearby say the trolleys produce toxic fumes and question whether the site's commercial zoning allows for automotive maintenance of Coral Gables' six trolleys. They've launched a petition drive and are considering filing an injunction.

But those who opposed the project missed their chance to appeal, said Coral Gables City Attorney Craig Leen.

"And as far as the city of Coral Gables knew, it was our understanding that there was no objection or no appeal," said Leen. "In fact, we did not approve the agreement until after the appeal period ran. We wanted the trolley depot to stay in the City of Coral Gables. We made that clear to the developer. They found that, economically, they could not do this deal and they would have to move it into another area and they found this area."

"All it was was single letter that needed to be by an adjacent land owner or somebody within 300 feet and it would not have cost anything. You could have simply have written a letter to the City of Miami and said 'I disagree' and there would have been an appeal. We had all the land owners right next to it and all the folks over there had that opportunity but didn't take that opportunity. The City proceeds based on the appeals we get and we just didn't get an appeal for that," said City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.

Sarnoff said he's calling a public meeting for residents to express their concerns, adding that he negotiated with the developer to secure more than $200,000 to improve an area park.

Garcia-Serra provided Local 10 with a notice about the depot.

The Coconut Grove Village Council is expected to discuss the depot during a meeting Thursday.