UMCAD application causes a stir between city, university

Only 8 days after the City of Coral Gables Planning and Zoning Board struck down the proposed amendments to the University of Miami Campus Area Development (UMCAD) amendments, the university announced Thursday that the City Commission vote has been delayed to Feb. 13.

This delay comes after the university agreed to hold a neighborhood meeting, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31, before moving on to the commission. All residents living within 1,600 feet of the university border are invited to attend.

“We usually have neighborhood meetings,” said Janet Gavarrete, assistant vice president of facilities design and construction. “Now that we’re being asked by the city to hold another meeting or they will, we will gladly hold one.”

Cooperation between the university and the city comes at a time when accusations of UM’s arrogance and a shakedown on the city’s part fuel the community media.

According to an article in The Miami Herald last Thursday, Coral Gables and the university share a complicated and often tense bond.

Gavarrete disagrees.

“We have a very good relationship with Coral Gables,” she said. “It is when we want to change our master plan that the conflict, or appearance of a conflict, comes up.”

Brandon Gross, speaker pro tempore of the Student Government Senate, feels that the problem is one of perception.

“The students think that Coral Gables never lets us do anything; people in Coral Gables think we just do things to try to improve ourselves,” he said. “Everyone thinks we’re in this feud, but we’re not.”

Adding more fuel to the controversy are rumors that UM plans to secede from the city. Sergio Rodriguez, UM’s vice president of real estate and facilities, commented on these reports to the Coral Gables Gazette.

“We are looking at every option,” he was quoted as saying in the Gazette. “Instead of [the] due process we are entitled to, the city’s administration has repeatedly thwarted our legitimate projects with frustrating delaying tactics and demands for payoffs.”

The payoffs he referred to involve a development agreement under which the city wants the university to contribute $50 million. Under such an arrangement, UM would have more freedom in campus development, but negotiations ended last summer.

Amidst all the back-and-forth, Gavarrete said the university is keen on moving its UMCAD amendment application forward. She feels that, with the additional time, the university will see some significant progress at the City Commission meeting on Feb. 13.

“We’re always going to push for what we want,” she said. “But we’re also going to be practical and realistic and understand that there are rules and regulations that we have to follow. We’re willing to modify what we propose just so long as it’s productive and both sides understand the benefits.”

Megan Ondrizek may be contacted at