Town council meeting recap

Friday, August 2, 2019 0 Comments

Despite a concern over a gun range open to the public adjacent to a dance school for kids in an industrial area could jeopardize their safety, the Miami Lakes Town Council approved several changes requested by the applicant so the indoor facility can operate a viable business.
Andy’s Shooting Range, 14000 N.W. 82nd Avenue, was initially strictly a training facility for police officers and academy cadets, but lawmakers approved to allow the public to use the shooting range, extended the hours of operation on the weekend and increased the noise level to eight decibels.
According to Susana Alonso, the town’s senior planner, the original agreement called for zero noise from outside the facility which was approved by the Town Council in 2015.
But she said that’s inconceivable for a gun range or any other business in an industrial area.
“0 noise level is impossible,” she told council members at their July 16 regular meeting.
Alonso said Andy Perez’s modification requests meet the town’s code and other local and state requirements to operate his business in an industrial vicinity.
The shooting range is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and council members extended the hours on the weekend from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.
However, Miami Lakes residents and parents for Miami Dancity Studios students, which is located next to the pistol range, raised a safety concern since most kids walk in front of the firearm facility to gain access to the school.
They felt safe when only police officers used the firing range but anyone from the public, especially an inexperience gun owner, can pose a threat to the students’ well being.
Ariel Martinez, whose daughter is a student at the dance school, said a public gun range in the Miami Lakes community is a bad idea.
“People with no experience with a weapon is a concern,” Martinez said during a 3-hour debate. “Whenever you have the public with access to a gun range is a chemical for problems.”
Martinez asked the council a question: “If you have children and grandkids, would you ask them to walk in front of a gun range? “
Yvonne Alvarez, who owns the dance school which opened in 1998 and enrolls 200 children, said she and the kids’ parents feel extremely uncomfortable with an indoor gun range that is now opened to civilians.
“I don’t see how a shooting range can be open to the public in a community that has always been safe,” said Alvarez, who grew up in Miami Lakes and now lives in Southwest Miami-Dade. “A gun range open to the public changes everything.”
The Town Council approved Andy Perez’s original zoning requests in 2015, but the configurations of the facility wasn’t suitable for his business.
Council members approved nine modifications with several conditions including changing positions of the shooting range stations.
“I didn’t represent him in 2015 but he shouldn’t have agreed to these conditions,” said Javier Vazquez, Perez’s attorney. “He did everything right with the conditions approved by the council.”
Vazquez, a longtime Miami Lakes resident, said he would never jeopardize the safety of kids and business owners in the town.
He said his client assured Miami Lakes that at least two license gun instructors will be on hand for customers, especially inexperience gun owners, during the shooting range’s hours of operation.
Vazquez said firearm experts will work one-on-one with people who lack the experience of shooting a gun, and the ammunition fired from a pistol only pierces the concrete wall inside the gun range, keeping people outside the facility out of harms way.
“My client has procedures for customers without experience and people with concealed weapon permits to ensure the safety of the surrounding areas,” Vazquez said. “A shooting range is allowed in an industrial area and the council can’t use the existence of a school to deny his modifications.”
Tucker Gibbs, a lawyer representing Raul Diaz, who owns the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) which is also near the shooting range, said changing the configuration of the facility and extending the hours of operation would further “hurt” his client’s company.
He said the council approved the configuration in 2015 from east to west of the building, which causes a noise nuisance for his client, but the change from north to south would create even more noise.
“That’s the issue we have tonight,” Gibbs said. “It’s disruptive to his business.”
Gibbs claimed since the shooting range opened up in November 2018, Perez repeatedly violated the conditional uses for his business including the noise level and non-police officers used the facility when the conditions prohibited the public inside the gun range.
He said Miami Lakes received some complaints but no actions were taken.
“How did the pistol range continue operating?” Gibbs asked. “In January 2019, the applicant ignored the noise level of his shooting range. He asked for the conditional use and six months later said the conditions were too strict and goes back before the council? I urge you to deny his request and agree to the conditions he ask for in 2015.”
Diaz, who employs 50 federal workers for his agricultural business, said the shooting range makes it difficult for him to hire workers and conduct business.
“I hired a janitor and she heard the gun shots and ran out of the building and quit,” he said. “I completed a business deal but she heard gun fire and canceled the contract.”
Diaz presented three cell phone videos he took from inside his business to the council and the noise level was loud, and lawmakers heard bullets piercing the wall.
“It makes a terrible situation,” he said. “You should terminate the original agreement because he failed to comply with the conditions.”
Perez disputed the noise level and claims he sold guns to kids and assault weapons.
“You can shoot inside the store and not hear it in the parking lot,” he said. “I don’t sell guns to kids or sell assault rifles. My son is a police officer and I don’t want him to get shot by an assault weapon. To have a gun range and say a child gets shot or hurt is ludicrous.”
Carmen Stuart was hoping her emotional testimony would influence council’s decision to deny Perez’s modification requests.
She said her sister, who suffered from a mental illness, committed suicide shortly after she visited a gun range during the Holidays.
“Adrian was my sister who walked into a gun range after the best Christmas we ever had,” she said as she four back tears. “Guns get in the wrong hands of people who are suffering from mental illness and commit suicide. You guys don’t know the guilt when some you love commits suicide. The only thing that keeps me going are my kids.”
But council members approved Perez’s revised plans for his business indicating they must follow the city’s code and town staff recommendation for approval.
Council member Carlos Alvarez was the sole dissenting voice, and Council member Luis Collazo recused himself citing a conflict of interest.
“If it was policy issue we can make changes but we must go with the town code as its written at this time,” said Council member Josh Dieguez. “For violations of prior conditions, were are not the body to handle it. We have an executive branch to enforce the laws by this legislation.”
Council woman Marilyn Ruano said dance studios and other businesses are perhaps not compatible with industrial areas with heavy activities.
“Only certain businesses are allowed in industrial areas, where we group them together so they can tolerate each other’s level of noise,” she said. “Dance studios and other businesses are not the place for industrial uses.”
Rodriguez echoed similar sentiments.
“My concern is a safety issue that you are in an industrial area, where we need to consider what type of businesses should be allowed in those areas,” he said. “The gun ranges opens from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it doesn’t affect the dance school which opens at 4 p.m.,” he said. “But the weekend is a conflict.”

In other Town Council news:

* Council members gave their final approval for an ordinance that now prohibits overnight street parking for commercial vehicles within the town’s right-of-way adjacent to residential areas, parks and government buildings.
The town’s planning and zoning agency addressed the issue and suggested changes to the town’s code for overnight parking for commercial vehicles.
The ordinance bans parking in any right-of-way abutting either a residential district or government facility that contains a park, public playground, library, and fire and police stations.
Residents complained overnight parking for commercial vehicles create hazardous conditions by blocking visibility for other motorists and encroach onto travel lanes and sidewalks.

* Council members gave their final approval for an ordinance to create a dockless mobility program to regulate deckles mobility programs and motorized scooters within Miami Lakes.

* Council members gave their initial approval for an ordinance amending a section of the town’s code for variance application fees.
The town’s Planning and Zoning Board initiated a review process for the fees, and based on research by town staff, Miami lake was subsidizing many variance requests above and beyond existing fee schedule.
Council members instructed Pidermann to adjust the variance fee schedule to recover the full cost of providing the service.

* Council members authorized the town manager to execute contracts with SFM Security Services, Kent Security Services and FPI Security Services for the town’s special taxing districts for an amount not to exceed the town’s budgeted funds for those services.
The town took over the special taxing districts from Miami-Dade County after residents approved a referendum to manage and maintain the guard gates for the town’s affluent neighborhoods.

* Council members approved a measure to co-designate N.W. 170 Street between 87th and 88th avenues as Sgt. Larry E. Marrero Drive.
Marrero was a decorated Miami Beach officer who tragically passed way in the line of duty last year.
He spent three decades as a law enforcement officer.

* Council members authorized Town Manager Edward Pidermann to execute a contract with Superior Landscaping and Lawn Service for ground maintenance services for FDOT rights-of-way sites in an amount not to exceed $158,919.

* Council members approved a resolution for a memorandum of understanding for school based law enforcement officers with Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic School.
Last year in the wake of the Majorie Stoneman Douglas mass shooting, the town, as part of an agreement with the public school system, added officers at Bob Graham Education Center and Miami Lakes K-8 Center to protect students from gun violence.
The agreement also included providing protection for private schools in Miami Lakes.
The town has estimated the costs at $22,484 to assign a school resource officer at Our Lady of the Lakes.

* Lawmakers authorized the town manager to execute a contract with Electrical Contracting Service for Royal Oaks Park athletic LED retrofit lighting in an amount not to exceed $180,930.

* Lawmakers approved Council member Josh Dieguez’s two proposals on traffic safety.
Dieguez is suggesting placing traffic calming devices on Fairway Drive after the town has experienced too many threatening incidents along the roadway.
He’s also recommending installing a traffic calming device at the K-9 Cove dog park along N.W. 79th Avenue until the town builds parking spaces adjacent to the outdoor facility.

* Lawmakers approved Council woman Marilyn Ruano’s proposal to instruct the town’s public works department to design an effective drainage project for residents who are affected by massive flooding in the Royal Oaks area.
Ruano said the residents have been battling extreme flooding conditions on their block for years.

* Council members approved Mayor Manny Cid’s proposal to create a resolution to support a Senate bill and Congress bill that would designate an independent zip code for Miami Lakes.
Cid has been spearheading the issue since he first took office as a council member in 2010.
The town’s resolution would support Senator Marco Rubio’s bill and Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart’s bill to give the town its own zip code.

* Council members approved Vice Mayor Nelson Rodriguez’s proposal to name the new courtyard areas at Royal Oaks Park after Brenna Vergara.
Vergara was 10 years-old when she died from a rare heart condition during dance class.
Vergara has inspired several Miami Lakes regulations that require athletes and people participating in physical activities at the town’s parks and facilities get a cardiogram to detect any heart problems.
The town honors Vergara with the annual Breanna Vergara KK and Color Run which is held in December.
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