Mayor vetoes commissioners' decision to allow more stories to be built on Brickell building

Developer seeks to double height of former Brickell Babylon apartments

By Ian Margol - Reporter

MIAMI - A critical vote by city of Miami commissioners is impacting a prized property in Brickell.

Several people who live in the area are upset about the decision, arguing that it will have a huge impact, especially on traffic.

The proposed project begins where 14th Street becomes Brickell Bay Drive.

While much of Brickell consists of massive high-rise buildings, another part of the neighborhood is filled with buildings that are much smaller, mid-rise buildings.

The developer in this case wanted to get permission to change zoning, so they could double the size of one of the mid-rises.

For only the second time in his term as mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez is vetoing a decision by the city commission, putting at least a temporary stop to the plans for building the 24-story building on the plot of land where the famous Brickell Babylon apartments once stood.

"There is a lot of zoning -- already existing zoning capacity -- in that Brickell corridor, so the concern is that the current traffic, the current density, is only going to get worse," Suarez said. 

In contrast with much of the rest of Brickell, in that specific area zoning regulations only allow for developers to build up to 12 stories high. 

But developers for the Babylon International Group tried to get the plot of land up-zoned to allow them to double the height to 24 stories.

The commission initially voted 4 to 1 in favor of the change, despite the nearly 800 signatures on a petition against it and push back from surrounding neighborhood associations who said the area is already too packed as it is.

"Right now, we have over 100,000 residents in that area in the Brickell area," said Ernesto Cuesta, of the Brickell Homeowners Association. "The infrastructure is not there, lack of signalization, lack of traffic devices. This is too much. This is against the quality of life of the residents in this area."

The commission now has a chance to overturn the mayor's veto in their next vote, which will likely come in the next few weeks.

To overturn it, they have to get four votes in favor of the project.

Below is a statement from Babylon International regarding the mayor's veto:

"It is unprecedented for the mayor to veto a quasi-judicial decision of the City Commission. 

"The City Commission voted twice by an identical 4 to 1 vote to approve the rezoning of the Babylon property. Those four Commissioners concluded that the proposed rezoning was compatible with the area and would not impact quality of life. The Commission also decided that the City's own error was a regulatory taking that violated the owner's due process rights.  

"Four votes are needed to override the veto. Why would the Mayor now expect a different result?

"It reminds one of the saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

"Clearly, the Mayor's veto is not intended to produce a different result. It is purely a political decision to please the objectors who live in the Point View area of Brickell. And the decision was heavily influenced by an unregistered lobbyist for that area who is employed by the Mayor as Special Counsel." 

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