MIAMI, FL — A Miami billboard has generated lots of double takes in recent weeks while taking city officials to task for allowing a tight squeeze between two homes that some neighbors view as an "eyesore."
Attorney David Winker told Patch his clients want to hold the city accountable for allowing a pair of duplex homes to be built only 6 inches apart rather than the city-mandated 10 feet based on a legal settlement that he challenged in court.
"They almost touch," Winker said of the homes in the city's West Grove neighborhood. "You can’t even fit a fence in there. You can be in the bathroom (of one) and like hand the toilet paper over."
He said a group of concerned residents, including Miami Dade College architectural professor Melissa Meyer, came up with $3,100 to pay for the billboard along Grand Avenue and 33 Avenue, which is only blocks away from the homes on Day Avenue. One home is already complete and the other is under construction.
Winker, who has brought a number of legal challenges against the city in recent years over the Ultra Music Festival and the planned Inter Miami CF Freedom Park soccer complex among others, recently received a notice he was in violation of city zoning regulations for working from home during the pandemic even as the entire Miami area briefly earned the dubious distinction of becoming the global epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
"I wrote them back a blistering letter denying each and every one of their allegations and I haven't heard anything back," Winker insisted, saying he believes he was targeted because of his legal activism.
The bright yellow billboard with bold black lettering states: "Shame on the city of Miami" and superimposes the 6-inch measurement between a photo of the two homes. The billboard was paid for by the Village West Homeowners and Tenants Association as well as the Coconut Grove Village Council.
"We have no comment on this," city spokesperson John Heffernan told Patch with regard to the billboard.
But Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell, who was the only dissenting vote in approving the settlement with the developer that allowed for such a tight squeeze between homes, sided with the residents.
"If you call me and ask me, I'll tell you I agree with the billboard 100 percent," Russell said in response to Winker's social media post about the case. "Buildings that violate our code should never have been approved and when they were caught, we never should have settled. Such a bad precedent."
If you call me and ask me, I’ll tell you I agree w the billboard 100%. buildings that violate our code should never have been approved and when they were caught we never should have settled. Such a bad precedent.
— Ken Russell Miami (@kenrussellmiami) September 9, 2020
Winker said he is challenging the settlement between the city and the developer on grounds city officials should never should have been able to enter into it.
"To me, the city can no more just enter into an agreement to allow this than they can privately agree to allow a house of prostitution to exist, or a gambling den. That’s not an enforceable contract."
Winker said his clients want the city to take down the home that is still under construction and have the developer start over, possibly at city expense.
"If you are going to grant a variance you’ve got to go grant a variance. That’s in effect what they’re doing," Winker asserted. "You can’t avoid all that process through private contract, which is what the city is doing here. They didn’t do all the process that you would need — the public notice, the public comment, the meetings."