Miami commissioners told planned condo tower too close to airport runway
By Suzy Valentine
More than a year after presenting a mixed-use project to the Miami City Commission, Century Homebuilders of South Florida heard last week that the project may be too close to the runway at Miami International Airport.
Century Plaza, formerly known as Ocean Palace, is to rise 74 feet at 850 LeJeune Road and 865 NW 43rd Ave.
The commission heard from a Miami International Airport representative that although the Federal Aviation Authority had no objections to the height of the project, there could be a breach of a county ordinance.
The site is less than a mile from Green Runway 12/30 in the Outer Safety Zone, Assistant Aviation Director Bruce Drum told the commission.
The city approved the project, leaving it to the Miami-Dade County Commission to resolve. "It goes to the county now," said Commissioner Johnny Winton. "Good luck at the county."
An attorney for Century took the commission through the project's history.
"Commissioners, you may recall that we appeared before you back on April 16, 2004," said Gilberto Pastoriza. "We appeared before you on Sept. 24, 2004, and, needless to say, the reception was not very good."
He then pointed to improvements.
"We have a project that has 324 units - that's a reduction in the number of units - and we now have two buildings," he said. "The project exceeds the landscaping requirements."
"We do tell people to go back to the drawing board," said Commissioner Joe Sanchez.
"It has been very well-received by the internal Design Review Board," continued Mr. Pastoriza. "Both the Miami-Dade Aviation Department and the FAA have indicated their approval."
Mr. Drum then submitted the airport's objections.
"It's 0.99 miles from the runway," he said. "The ordinance affects the height and the land use around Miami International Airport."
Quoting from the zoning ordinance, Mr. Drum said, "New residential construction and educational facilities, excluding aviation-related schools, and buildings for public assembly are prohibited within this zone."
Commissioner Tomas Regalado compared other land uses abutting the airport.
"Your concern is not about people," said Mr. Regalado, "because next to the runway, you have a hotel with banqueting facilities that hosts meetings at night, and there are 500 to 600 people. Across the street, the Marriott has large banqueting facilities.
"The issue is not about safety of the people because there are more people congregating at a convention at the Marriott at one given time than all the people that could live in this (development)," he said. "The wording 'land use' cares not about safety."
Mr. Regalado said an accident is not impossible. "The law of probability says that it shouldn't happen, but, like Forrest Gump said, it happens."
"I'm a public servant. I'm an operations guy," Mr. Drum said. "I'm here to tell you what the ordinance says. I didn't say it in my own words. I just read it as a matter of the fact. I didn't say anything about airplanes or safety. Those are your words."