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Zoning change paves the way for `Grand Bay'

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DORAL

Zoning change paves the way for `Grand Bay'

The Doral City Council suffered a defeat Thursday when the Miami-Dade County Commission approved a zoning change that would allow for a controversial new community within the city's limits.

BY JENNIFER MOONEY PIEDRA

[email protected]

A project to build a new community in Doral moved a step closer Thursday to becoming a reality.

The Miami-Dade County Commission voted unanimously in favor of changing the zoning of a large tract of vacant industrial land to a traditional neighborhood development district, also known as a ''TND.'' The community, already named ''Grand Bay'' by Century Homebuilders, will include 2,998 residential units, two schools, a church, a town square, a community center, a park, restaurants, a bank and a grocery store, a company official said at the meeting.

Approval of the plan for the one-square-mile tract, known as ''Section 8'' because of its location in the county's plat books, upset city officials and a handful of residents who requested the application be deferred.

It was a victory, however, for dozens of supporters who spent most of the day in the commission chambers.

City leaders were at odds with the county over the zoning jurisdiction of the land, which is bounded by Northwest 90th Street to the north, Northwest 74th Street to the south, Northwest 107th Avenue to the west and Northwest 97th Avenue to the east.

Even though the land falls within the city boundaries, Doral's charter allowed the county to retain zoning control following incorporation more than a year ago.

Doral officials have said they sought permission from the county since July to let voters decide the zoning dispute in a referendum. The request, they said, was repeatedly stalled by the county.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz, whose district includes Doral, urged his colleagues to support the application.

''This is, to me, a great project,'' Diaz said during the meeting. ``I have heard all of the facts from both sides and I see a project that is something of beauty.''

Oscar Puig-Corve, president of the prominent community group One Doral, spoke against the application, citing the city's right to make zoning decisions that will affect its residents.

''When I look at that, I look at a beautiful project,'' Puig-Corve said, referring to display boards showing sketches of the proposed community. ``But, as a resident of the city, I do have a concern of making sure that this project goes along with the master plan that is in effect right now.''

But Century Homebuilders President Sergio Pino told the commission the project would conform with the rest of the city -- where his company has already built about a dozen communities.

Pino said the new development will benefit Doral and is part of a countywide trend to build communities with a small-town feel where residents can live, work, shop, play and eat within walking distance of their homes.

A similar community has been planned in West Kendall, where construction is set to begin in March on the ''Kendall Commons,'' a traditional neighborhood development that will include a school, a church, a town square and homes.

As for the Doral TND, Pino called it a ``dream community.''

''The most important part of Grand Bay is the lifestyle that the home buyers are going to enjoy once they live there,'' Pino told the commission.

Pino cited some highlights of the proposed community, including its educational facilities. Two charter schools will be built on the property for 1,430 students in kindergarten through 12th grade and will be operated by Fernando Zulueta, founder of the Doral Academy.

Another attraction will be an assortment of restaurants and retail shops. Representatives of Century Homebuilders said they have made presentations on business opportunities in the community to well-known companies such as Starbucks Coffee Company, Bonefish Grill, Cold Stone Creamery, Chicken Kitchen, Carrabba's Italian Grill and Verizon Wireless.

After the developers made their pitch, it was the city's turn.

Luimar Saides, a resident, said Doral became a city to avoid such disputes with the county.

''We incorporated over a year ago for a reason, yet the Board of County Commissioners still has control over certain development occurring in the city of Doral,'' Saides said.

The commissioners asked few questions and made few comments.

Commission Chairman Joe Martinez said the TND will benefit Doral but he agreed that city officials should be making zoning decisions on the land.

''It is what it is,'' Martinez said. ``When the charter was approved, this was kept out [but] I do believe you should have had jurisdiction.''

Still, Martinez voted in favor of the zoning change.

Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez expected the defeat. He said he isn't opposed to the Grand Bay project but wishes the City Council could have had an input in the decision-making process.

''It was no surprise,'' Bermudez said after the meeting. ``Hopefully we'll still be able to find a way to make sure this project is consistent with our vision for Doral.''

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