By a unanimous 4-0 vote, the East Kendall Community Council on Jan. 7 denied a variance to allow Jorge Carvajal to loan money on gold or jewelry at his MG Jewelers of Miami store at 11760 N. Kendall Dr.
The decision on the controversial case came after an hour-long public hearing that saw overwhelming resident and neighborhood support for the Kendall jeweler, as well as bulky pro-variance documentation from the community, furnished by attorney Juan Mayol.
There were no objections voiced from the audience (eight supported the variance) and all county departments had approved the measure, “including the police,” Mayol noted.
Carvajal had applied for a zoning variance because his store is located in a BU-1A commercial zone and a pawnbroker use is only permitted in BU-3 zoning districts.
Nevertheless, the newest version of Carvajal’s application to restrict loaning to jewelry could not overcome the council’s decision to abide by a planning board recommendation for a strict reading of the Miami-Dade County zoning code.
Initial review by Department of Regulatory and Economic Services planners had recommended denial, stating the request “is not in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the regulation,” and that Carvajal hadn’t demonstrated a potential hardship if the variance is denied.
In a last-ditch effort to try to salvage a rephrasing of the variance, council chair Elliott Zack wondered if Carvajal, who operates three such stores in Kendall, might legally qualify for “hardship” status, an effort planners felt would not stand up.
“While I understand Mr. Carvahal’s interest and community support, we are here to represent the public and my own view is that we should stand by the zoning code as written,” declared former chair Peggy Brodeur. “It is our duty to keep the integrity of the code intact, not to allow special uses even though they may seem permissible at the time.”
Agreeing with her were Zack, Jose I. Valdes and Alberto Santana; members Angela Vazquez and Matthew Larsh had excused absences. The Sub Area 126 seat remains vacant.
The zoning code separates BU-3 districts for gun shops, secondhand stores, locksmiths, garages, etc., as against BU-1A zoning for uses such as jewelry, art, and business offices.
Carvajal had successfully sought approval of his application from both fellow storeowners and the public by distributing 3,000 letters, explaining in detail why the business of taking loans would assist the area economically with added employment opportunities, as well as providing a public service.
Mayol submitted an eight-point list of conditions for approval headed by a site plan, which required approval of the director of Regulatory and Economic Resources, as well as a pledge to renew a new Certificate of Occupancy annually to confirm compliance with a newly adopted plan.
In addition, he pledged not to erect “stringer lights, pennants, mobile or stationery mobile devices” or use the words “pawn, pawning or pawnshop” on visual signs.
The conditions included limiting pawnshop hours to those of the jewelry store, operating as an accessory with automatic expiration if store use was terminated.
An additional condition solved a required tree-planting issue by Carjaval’s agreement to plant a continuous 36-inch high hedge on a grass area adjacent to SW 89th Street on both east and west sides of the property.
Despite recognition of his continued 19- years of service at the La Carreta Restaurant shopping center, the four-member quorum voted to deny the variance sought without prejudice (allowing for re-filing in less than 18 months) while accepting the landscaping agreement.