The Cutler Bay Town Council at its regular monthly meeting on May 15 voted to approve the developer’s plans for a new shopping center that includes a Publix Supermarket as its anchor, clearing the way for the project to move forward.
An earlier version of the proposed 11- acre development project known as “Shoppes of Cutler Bay,” to be located on Old Cutler Road and SW 208th Street, had been denied approval by a 3-2 vote in January. After public hearings for input and negotiations with the developer the areas of concern that had been troubling residents and town officials appear to have been resolved.
Rather than one single vote for the project, the matter was divided into five separate votes, each involving a specific variance that was being requested by the developer, allowing each to be weighed on its own merits.
The first involved a continued use application, which was given a unanimous 5-0 vote of approval. The second item called for waiving the landscape requirements for the project, which also received a unanimous 5-0 vote.
The third item was requesting a variance to permit Publix to erect an additional monument sign on the corner to identify the store. That passed by a 4-1 vote, with Councilmember Peggy Bell casting a “nay” vote.
Fourth before the council was a request to permit a 55-square foot wall sign for Publix. That passed by a unanimous 5-0 vote.
The fifth and final variance request was to permit a mixed use development, comprised of restaurants and retail stores, at that location. That passed by a 4-1 vote, with Bell casting the “nay” vote. Bell could not be reached for comment regarding her concerns.
Mayor Ed MacDougall was pleased with the way things worked out and acknowledged the community’s input for moving things in the right direction.
“We negotiated this transaction with the developer because of the push-back from the public, and at the end of the day the community was correct in demanding changes that needed to take place,” MacDougall said. “I want to make sure that they [the residents] get credit for it. We made sure that the developer did everything the citizens asked for. So the people had the last word.”
One thing that the mayor was adamant about was the concern many have that Publix may hang onto its lease at its present location at Old Cutler Town Center, 20425 Old Cutler Rd., even after it moves, maintaining an empty store there just to prevent a rival supermarket chain, such as Sedanos, from moving into the spot. With no anchor at that shopping center, the other stores would likely suffer loss of business.
“Because of the long term lease that Publix holds over the other shopping center, I’m going to make a personal appeal from him [the developer] asking that they come to the table and work out an agreement,” MacDougall said. “The merchants in that other shopping center will be affected terribly financially if they do not come to an agreement, and he [the developer] said he would do that.”