HEARING NO. Z2017000361 -- DISTRICT(S) 10 -- JACK J. TIERNEY -- REQUEST(S): -- THE APPLICANT IS SEEKING TO PERMIT A CHARTER SCHOOL ON THE SUBJECT PROPERTY FOR 1,450 STUDENTS IN GRADES K-12. ADDITIONALLY, THE APPLICANT IS REQUESTING TO PERMIT DRIVEWAYS AND PARKING WITHIN 25' OF THE RIGHT-OF-WAY, AND TO PERMIT A LOT COVERAGE MORE THAN PERMITTED BY CODE. LOCATION: 5600 SW 118 AVENUE, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA. WITHIN THE URBAN DEVELOPMENT BOUNDARY (UDB)
Motion to deny
Mr. Nathan Kogon, Assistant Director, Development Services, Regulatory & Economic Resources Department, read the foregoing application into the record; noting 667 protests and no waivers.
Chairman Bovo pointed out the public hearing was closed and would not be re-opened because a public hearing had already taken place for this item.
Mr. Hugo Arza, Holland & Knight, 701 Brickell Avenue, representing the applicant, expressed appreciation to the parents who were in attendance of today’s (11/15) meeting, although the public hearing was closed. He recalled his presentation to the Board regarding this application and the project itself, and indicated the Board members urged the applicant to work with the neighbors to reach a settlement on this project and return to the Board. Mr. Arza explained that he and the applicant met with the neighbors on several occasions and recently held more formal meetings; and made presentations and a proposal. Unfortunately, despite the applicant’s best efforts, the applicant’s proposal with conditions had been rejected, with no counter proposal. Mr. Arza said he trusted the Board would see the value of a school at this location and pointed out that he and the applicant were prepared to make the same proposal to the Board today that he made to the neighborhood association. He referenced staff’s recommendation of approval with conditions, noting many were standard conditions, while others were specific to this project. Mr. Arza explained the applicant had embedded the original offer made to the neighborhood association into the series of conditions, and requested a motion be made to include those conditions if it was the Board’s desire.
Mr. Arza gave a brief description of the proposal for consideration. He noted one concern was the recommendation of 1,450 students being enrolled; however, the applicant understood the traffic issue this could create; and although approval was recommended for 1,450 students, the applicant made a reduction in the total number of students to 1,000 by the 7th year. In addition to the cap of 1,000 students, Mr. Arza noted the school would initially begin operating with 400 students and slowly increase to the 1,000 student cap, thus phasing in a systematic growth pattern which would allow the school and the community to grow together. In connection with the student enrollment, Mr. Arza said the applicant proffered in the conditions that they would not seek an enrollment increase beyond 1,000 students unless they were able to secure 75% of the property owners’ signatures who were within 2500 feet of horse country. He explained the applicant offered to make improvements to SW 118th Avenue by adding an additional lane to address traffic congestion, noting that preserving horse country was critical and the applicant wanted to pay respect to the agricultural community. Mr. Arza further explained the applicant was working with Florida International University to implement agricultural sciences that would allow horse country to evolve and grow. In closing, Mr. Arza urged the Board to consider the conditions the applicant offered and approve the application.
Mr. Tucker Gibbs, 3835 Utopia Court, Coconut Grove, Florida representing horse country, noted that he attended the meetings between the neighbors and the applicant. Mr. Gibbs pointed out that the cap of 1,000 students was not enough and stated that adding 1,000 students would contribute to the congested to traffic on Miller Drive. He noted that more schools were being developed in this neighborhood and the schools needed to be small. Mr. Gibbs stated that he understood the applicant wanted to construct a charter school in that location, however, the neighbors rejected the applicant’s offer due to the amount of students proposed. He inquired how many more schools would be approved in this area creating more traffic congestion.
Commissioner Souto noted his decision did not reflect on the quality of the school, but was based on the number of students and the amount of traffic this would generate in the area. He noted he was not in support of the foregoing application and made a motion to deny the application.
Chairman Bovo noted there was a large number of speakers present for today’s (10/3) meeting and suggested each side (supporters and opposition) select a representative to speak on behalf of the group to help save time and eliminate repetitive testimony.
Discussion ensued among Chairman Bovo, Mr. Hugo Arza (attorney for the applicant Jack J. Tierney) and Mr. Tucker Gibbs (attorney representing the residents opposing the application) regarding the number of speakers to appear before the Board and agreed that 12 representatives from each side should speak.
Commissioner Sosa requested the speakers who lived in proximity of the subject area to stand in order to determine the balance of both groups.
Mr. Nathan Kogon, Assistant Director, Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, read into the record the title of the foregoing application, noting there were 667 protests and no waivers filed.
Mr. Hugo Arza, Holland & Knight, 701 Brickell Avenue, Miami, counsel for Jack J. Tierney appeared before the Board and introduced the project’s stakeholders. He spoke about the applicant’s efforts to meet with residents in the spirit of compromise and emphasized the need for the charter school in the area (True North Classical Academy) citing a wait list exceeding 800 students.
Mr. Arza identified the location of the subject area on an aerial map and noted the property was located on an ideal lot of land and next to an arterial roadway perfect for accommodating growing infrastructure and development.
Mr. Michael Bileca, 9130 SW 100th Street, Miami spoke about the vision for the school and efforts made to meet with residents opposing the application. He noted the community was concerned about the number of schools in the area and preserving “Horse Country” and argued True North Classical Academy would actually benefit the community because of its strategic partnerships with agricultural science programs. Mr. Bileca reported the school was in the process of developing partnerships with the University of Florida (UF) and Florida International University (FIU) to create an agricultural research center in the community which would help preserve the area’s unique lifestyle.
Mr. Arza reiterated the benefits of the school and spoke about parents’ choice to choose. He reviewed staff’s recommendations and highlighted the extensive evaluation process undergone by the application, including the traffic mitigation measures incorporated in the school’s designs.
Mr. Rolando Yanez, Principal of Civic Governor Architectural Firm, 8323 NW 12th Street, Doral, described the buildings’ multi-faceted design and practical components of the site plan including the court yard. He pointed out the school had 2800 lineal feet of onsite queuing which along with the two shift system would help alleviate some of the traffic concerns raised by the residents.
Mr. Arza introduced letters from FIU and UF pledging commitment to work with True North in the development of agricultural and horticultural programs. He noted the waiting list for this tuition free public school included families from the community along with those on the outskirts of Horse Country and urged the Board members to approve the foregoing application pursuant to staff’s recommendations.
Mr. Tucker Gibbs, 3835 Utopia Court, Coconut Grove, appeared on behalf of Horse Country Miami, Inc., and residents Paola Queipo (5991 SW 118th Avenue) and William Perez (5909 SW 118th Avenue) to request the Board deny the foregoing application. He argued the proposed mega school was unnecessary and incompatible with the Horse Country agricultural community and failed to meet the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) regulations requiring the uses compatibility with agriculture and the rural residential character of the area within the agricultural land use designation. Mr. Gibbs stated approval of the application would lead to excessive traffic, and an overcrowded concentration of people that was contrary to the zoning code. He also noted the application did not meet the
zoning code requirements and was unnecessary and unreasonable to the present and future development of the Horse Country area.
Mr. Gibbs critiqued the short comings of the traffic study and the County’s traffic report; and contended the application failed to comply with various zoning and CDMP requirements which warranted a denial.
Mr. Ernie Thomas, 6050 SW 120 Avenue, President of Horse Country Miami Inc., and resident in close proximity of the proposed site, stated the primary objection to the application was related to the location of the school and not the school itself. He urged the Board members to consider the land use, rural community and the long-term caretakers of the land who fought to preserve and maintain the area. Mr. Thomas noted there were already seven private schools and four charter schools located in the area and pointed out there was a pending application for an additional 1,000 students at True North Classical Academy’s Sunset location.
Mr. Thomas published a video showing traffic during morning drop-off between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. and submitted a petition containing 2,413 signatures of residents’ opposition of the application.
After a brief break, Assistant County Dennis Kerbel reminded the County Commissioners they had to listen to the entire meeting in order to vote on the application.
Commissioner Sosa asked speakers to state their proximity to the subject site.
Chairman Bovo opened the public hearing, and the following persons appeared before the Board in support of the foregoing application:
1. Mr. Marc Snyder, 12509 SW 124th Terrace, Miami
2. Mr. Jorge Finlay, 15382 SW 92nd Street, Miami
3. Ms. Monica Cuenca, 13011 SW 182nd Terrace, Miami
4. Ms. Dana Pezoldt, 17903 SW 87th Place, Palmetto Bay
5. Mr. David McCloud, 6465 SW 95th Avenue, Miami
6. Ms. Jessica Gomez, 6555 SW 94th Avenue, Miami
7. Mr. Shane Connolly, 11850 SW 30th Street, Miami
8. Ms. Cynthia Demos, 14441 SW 80th Street, Palmetto Bay
9. Mr. Chris Claflin, 6415 SW 82nd Street, Miami
10. Ms. Gladys Amato, 13100 SW 82nd Terrace, Winston Park
11. Mr. John Chester, 3914 NE 20th Circle, Homestead
12. Mr. Dennis Locke, 8420 SW 48th Street, Miami
The following persons appeared before the Board in opposition of the foregoing application:
1. Ms. Barbara Lopez, 5800 SW 123 Avenue, Miami and owner of 15 adjoining acres of property in the proximity of the subject property.
2. Ms. Paola Querpo, 5991 SW 118th Avenue, Miami
3. Ms. Michelle Sebree, 6150 SW 120th Avenue, Miami
4. Ms. Guillermina Palomares (with the aid of an interpreter), 5707 SW 118th Avenue, Miami
5. Mr. Humberto Triana, 6211 SW 116th Place, Miami
6. Mr. Tom Worrell, 6200 SW 125th Avenue, Miami
7. Mr. William Thomson, 10451 SW 47th Street, Miami
8. Mr. Marcus Mortensen, 10501 SW 45th Street, Miami
9. Mr. Michael Gast, 5801 SW 120th Avenue, Miami
10. Mr. Michael Rosenberg, 13030 North Calusa Club Drive, Miami
11. Ms. Ileana Petisco, 14590 SW 179th Avenue, Miami
There being no other persons wishing to speak, the public hearing was closed.
Addressing comments made by residents opposing the application, Mr. Arza pointed out that traffic congestion was not unique to Horse Country. He noted pursuant to the goals, objectives and policies under the “Institutions, Utilities and Communications” text of the CDMP “public and private schools may be approved, where compatible, in all urban land use categories, including agriculture, inside the Urban Development Boundary (UDB).” Mr. Arza spoke about the number of schools located in the area and reiterated True North Classical Academy’s pledge and commitment to develop an agricultural program and research center.
Acknowledging the concerns voiced by the residents, Commissioner Souto proffered the following ideas for the applicant to consider:
~ Open the school with a reduced student count with the ability to increase capacity by 100 students annually;
~ Board review of the school every 2 years with a maximum buildout and capacity to be determined by the Board;
~ Prohibit cars on the school compound;
~ Implement a bus system for transporting students to school;
~ Create a central location away from the school where students can be dropped off by their parents and bused to the school.
Commissioner Suarez concurred with the suggestions made by Commissioner Souto regarding the implementation of an external central pick-up and drop-off point and suggested maintaining the current lot coverage restriction at 15% while reducing the size of the linear driveway.
Commissioner Heyman recognized the merits of both sides’ arguments. She stated while she supported the expansion of the school she could not support the application based on the proposed location.
Commissioner Sosa requested clarification regarding the applicant’s request.
Assistant County Attorney Kerbel stated the applicant requested a special exception to permit a Charter School, kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12).
Commissioner Sosa noted there were 25 traditional public schools and 10 charter schools located in the area and reported 19 out of the 25 traditional public schools had additional capacity. She expressed concerns regarding the proposed location and the traffic impact on the community and suggested the applicant find another location.
Commissioner Martinez requested clarification as to whether the proposed site would serve as an expansion of the existing True North Classical Academy located on Sunset Drive or was an entirely new school.
Mr. Arza stated the current school went up to grade 8 with no ability to expand, thus the applicant’s request for the new K-12 school, and spoke about the applicant’s intent to first build the high school at the proposed site.
Commissioner Martinez commented on Commissioner Souto’s suggestion to limit the student capacity and require students be bused to the school campus.
Discussion ensued between Commissioner Martinez and Mr. Arza regarding the challenges of expanding the existing school as opposed to building the new school.
Commissioner Martinez spoke about the inevitable impact the proposed school would have on “Horse Country.”
Commissioner Levine Cava stated the issue before the Board was a zoning matter and not about education. She noted she could not support the application based on traffic, compatibility and necessity issues and suggested the applicant pursue alternative solutions such as expanding the current location to accommodate a high school.
Commissioner Diaz indicated his intent to support the District Commissioner’s decision and recognized the benefits of the lineal driveway included in the school’s design in alleviating traffic during pick-up and drop-off times.
Commissioner Monestime questioned the basis for staff’s recommendation to approve.
Mr. Kogon explained that staff’s recommendations were based on several factors including the traffic analysis performed on the area and proceeded to review the process.
Commissioner Monestime asked what other factors were taken into consideration other than traffic.
Mr. Kogon stated the structure’s massing, orientation and buffering were also reviewed.
Responding to Commissioner Monestime’s question as to whether need for capacity was a deciding factor, Mr. Kogon explained that while the data was included in the application it was not considered by staff since it was not included in the CDMP or zoning analysis provided to staff for review.
Commissioner Monestime voiced concerns about the review process.
Assistant County Attorney Kerbel clarified while the zoning code for special exception requests state that the Board “can consider the necessity for and reasonableness of such applied for exception or use”, the issue of was not one that staff could prioritize given the context. He pointed out that charter schools were governed by the Florida Statutes which provides for both need and choice, making the Board’s decision difficult. Assistant County Attorney Kerbel explained why school capacity/need was considered for residential development applications but not for new school requests.
Discussion ensued between Commissioner Monestime and Assistant County Attorney Kerbel regarding need for choice.
Assistant County Attorney Kerbel reiterated the issue before the Board was a zoning matter and noted the quality of the school was not a deciding factor.
He pointed out that while the County did not control charter schools’ curriculums, the application before the Board presented a unique opportunity for the Board to determine compatibility given the agricultural component of the program.
Commissioner Monestime spoke about the importance of safeguarding residents’ interests given the unique characteristics of the community and urged the parties to consider the suggestions offered by Commissioner Souto.
Commissioner Higgins stated she could not support the application based on the number of schools with vacancies in the area and the Board’s commitment to mitigate traffic in areas impacted by the recently approved Kendall Expressway.
Chairman Bovo discussed the possibility of changing school hours to help alleviate traffic. He noted many of the schools with available capacity were not located in close vicinity to the subject site and spoke about parents’ choice. Chairman Bovo reiterated the issue before the Board was a zoning matter and stated he would support the District Commissioner’s decision and suggested the applicant revisit the school hours and number of students.
Commissioner Sosa spoke about classroom sizes and stated the existing school’s application for expansion should be resolved before considering the foregoing application.
Responding to Commissioner Souto’s request for a status update on the application for expansion at the Sunset location, Mr. Arza insisted both schools were needed based on the wait list.
Commissioner Souto reiterated the Board’s concerns that there were two pending applications from applicant and asked the applicant to choose which application they would prefer to proceed on.
Mr. Arza highlighted the importance of the subject site in Horse Country for the continued growth of the school.
Discussion ensued between Commissioner Souto and Mr. Arza regarding the applicant’s willingness to accept the proffered suggestions.
Commissioner Souto proffered the following amendments to the foregoing application:
~ Limit beginning student count to 400;
~ Limit increase in size to 100 students per year with the maximum enrollment capped at 1000 students;
~ Board review of school every 2 years;
~ Review the school’s hours of operations;
~ Focus on creating a hi-tech agricultural program/center.
Mr. Thomas voiced his concerns regarding the implementation of the proffered suggestions particularly the busing component and requested additional time to meet with the homeowners.
Commissioner Souto moved to defer the foregoing application.
Commissioner Diaz seconded the deferral with the stipulation that there be no more testimony on the item when next it was considered by the Board.
Mr. Bileca stated he was confident a compromise could be reached within the parameters proposed by Commissioner Souto.
Discussion ensued between Chairman Bovo, Assistant County Attorney Kerbel and Mr. Kogon regarding scheduling.
Chairman Bovo asked staff to analyze split shifts on traffic.
Responding to Commissioner Moss’ question as to the current enrollment at the Sunset location, Mr. Arza explained enrollment was capped at 380 students.
There being no further questions or comments, the Board proceeded to vote to defer the item to the November 15, 2018 Zoning meeting.
Chairman Bovo reiterated there would be no public hearing when the item was heard on November 15, 2018.
SPECIAL NOTE: The foregoing application was adopted by the Board at the November 15, 2018 Zoning meeting and assigned Z-25-18.
Board of County Commissioners
Mr. Hugo Arza, Holland & Knight, 701 Brickell Avenue, Miami, requested a deferral of this item.
Prior to a motion for deferral, it was moved by Commissioner Edmonson that a Regular Zoning meeting be set for Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. in the Commission Chambers. This motion was seconded by Commissioner Heyman and upon being put to a vote, passed by a vote of 11-0 (Commissioners Souto and Suarez were absent).
There being no further questions or comments, the Board proceeded to vote to defer the item until October 3, 2018.
Board of County Commissioners
Assistant Director Nathan Kogon, Development Services Division, Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources (RER), noted that the applicant, Jack J. Tierney, had requested the foregoing item be deferred to no date certain.
Mr. Hugo Arza, Holland & Knight, 701 Brickell Avenue, counsel for Jack J. Tierney, appeared before the Board to request an indefinite deferral to allow for additional time to continue discussions with the neighbors about their concerns and be able to reach an agreement regarding the application.
Upon conclusion of the foregoing discussion, the members of the Board proceeded to take a vote on the foregoing application and deferred this zoning application to no date certain.
Assistant County Attorney Kerbel advised that the foregoing item had to be re-advertised in light of the indefinite deferral.
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