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Surfside commission approves development plans for collapse site with changes

Families of Surfside condo collapse victims voice opposition to development plans on tragedy site
Families of Surfside condo collapse victims voice opposition to development plans on tragedy site 02:37

MIAMI -- After hours of heated debate, Surfside commissioners voted 3-2 early Thursday to approve a controversial plan to erect a 52-unit luxury condo tower on the site where the Champlain Tower building collapsed in 2021, killing 98 people.

Part of the plan calls for moving the dumpster pick-up and loading site to the southwest corner of Collins Avenue..   

"That's the final vote right now," said Surfside Mayor Shlomo Danziger, who voted for the plan.      

Damac International, the developer behind the new plan, offered to reduce the use of the loading dock on 88th Street and move the trash collection to the basement. 

But even after six hours of contentious conversation and passage of the measure, relatives of the victims said the developer's plan was not enough.  

"We requested that they bring forward a plan, they need to bring forward that plan to FDOT for approval," Danzinger said.  

Debate over Surfside memorial site turns heated 02:10

The decision stemmed from a motion by commissioner Fred Landsman who proposed relocation of the garbage pickup and loading area for the new building on Collins Avenue, completely away from 88th Street.

Under that proposal, Landsman voted yes along with the mayor and Vice Mayor Jeffrey Rose while commissioners Marianne Meischeid and Nelly Vasquez, who had several confrontations with the mayor during discussion, voted no. .  

"It's disappointing, it's painful," said Martin Langesfeld, who lost his sister and brother-in-law and feels the considerations for the family have been ignored. 

"88th Street is not part of that development, we're not stopping that development from coming," he said. "But why keep hurting us?Trash smells. Trash on top of a memorial -- where is the respect?" .    

According to those opposed to the current plan, previous commissioners decided to reserve 88th Street as a memorial to honor the lives lost and those affected by the building's collapse on June 24, 2021

They say the current commission was overlooking the legal resolution and attempting to provide the developer with over 40 percent of 88th Street to place their trash trucks and loading docks right above the memorial.

On Wednesday night, representatives from the developer presented a revised plan reducing the use of the loading dock on 88th Street and moving the trash collection to the basement.

However, the victims' families said they still have concerns about the placement of the loading dock, which would include garbage and recycling trucks, on the same street where a memorial for the victims is scheduled to be built.

"The trash is still being collected on the corner of 88th Street and the loading dock is still 20, 30, I don't know what exact percent of 88th Street, it doesn't matter if they keep shifting it, it's still on 88th street," said Miami Martin Langesfeld, who lost his sister and brother in law in the June 2021 collapse. "It needs to be completely moved off to Collins Avenue, just like the building next door."

Besides Langesfeld, relatives, neighbors, and friends of the victims had three minutes to state why they were against the location of the loading dock of the new 12 story condo Damac Properties plans to build adjacent to 88th Street, where the memorial is scheduled to be installed.

The debate turned contentious.

The mayor asked a resident who allegedly made a hand gesture toward him, to be escorted out by officers. Another resident was also kicked from the meeting but later allowed back.

The residents reiterated that 88th Street belongs to the town and not the county and urged the commission to be on their side about allowing it to be only used for the memorial and emergency vehicles.

In the end, Surfside commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the condo's site plan with certain conditions. Part of that includes moving the dumpster pick-up and loading site to the southwest corner of Collins Ave. 

"The divisiveness surrounding this submission is unfortunate. We believe the conditional approval of the site plan establishes a new way forward towards better collaboration between all stakeholders. This significant milestone represents a step forward in bringing the vision of DAMAC to the wonderful city of Miami," said Niall Mc Loughlin, DAMAC International Senior Vice President of Communications in a statement. 

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