Is Trolleygate Headed For An Out-Of-Court Settlement?
Before the meeting of the Coconut Village Council got underway

The February 25th Coconut Grove Village Council purred along nicely until the agenda item of Trolleygate. That’s when the wheels fell off the meeting’s diesel bus. Residents broke Robert’s Rules of Order to talk out-of-turn, denouncing the proposed settlement concerning the non-conforming diesel bus maintenance garage on Douglas Road that contravenes not only the Miami 21 plan, but also the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Such was the outrage that the committee presenting the report had to remind the residents that they were just messengers.

So confident are all the parties that an agreement is possible, that they’ve requested a 60-day freeze in all legal proceedings to see if they can all get on the bus. Based on the anger expressed at the Village Council Meeting, it may be an uphill climb on a rough road to a negotiated settlement.

The former future non-conforming diesel bus garage?

The broad outline of the proposed settlement looks like this: Coral Gables agrees to drop its lawsuit against Astor Development that asks a judge to abrogate its contract with the developer. Meanwhile Astor Trolley/Astor Development agrees to stick the new fake trolley garage RIGHT WHERE IT IS NOW, more or less, as opposed to the non-conforming White Elephant on Douglas Road.

Everything old is new again: The new plan is for Astor to build the multimillion dollar mixed use complex with a maintenance bus garage hidden inside. However, because it will take time for Astor to build the multimillion dollar mixed-use development in Coral Gables, these two parties are asking the West Grove residents to allow the Douglas Road vehicle maintenance facility to operate for the next 18-months to 2 years.

That’s when the meeting exploded.

While this is not a scientific survey by any means, it appeared the majority of those present at the Village Council meeting (which was so small a group that it represented only the tiniest fraction of Coconut Grove residents) were vehemently against allowing any use of the non-conforming bus maintenance garage as a bus maintenance garage, even for a day.

And, if those residents read yesterday’s Miami-Herald, they won’t be reassured. According to Jenny Staletovich:

The city would need to use the 12-bay depot that neighbors bitterly oppose in the 3300 block of Douglas Road in the West Grove while the new depot is being constructed. After two or three years, the trolleys would then move out, said Coral Gables City Attorney Craig Leen.

So, the 18-months-to-2-years touted at the meeting is already being stretched to 3 years and that’s before any construction delays — or construction begins, for that matter.

However, let’s assume this deal is accepted. What becomes of the building on Douglas Road after Coral Gables gets done with it? The community is already eyeballing it for some practical use in a community trying to pull itself out of a downward economic spiral. F’rinstance, there is a dearth of grocery stores on that end of Grand Avenue. Or, what about an artist’s cooperative? Indoor/Outdoor all-weather Farmer’s Market? Or a cooperative retail space like that of The Rust Belt, in Ferndale, Michigan, but with a Bahamian/West Grove vibe? These are all ideas already being kicked around. However, that’s putting several carts before all this horsepower.

The main sentiment heard at the Village Council meeting was, “If you give them an inch…” Similar was expressed to Miami New Times’ writer Allie Conti, who writes in today’s Riptide:

Although the plan seems like it could work, the steering committee that represents the West Grove residents says no way. Committee chair Linda Williams says it’s important that the community decide what the garage is used for once it’s vacated. But she is also concerned the plan isn’t binding enough to get the city and developers out of there at all.

“We will not commit to letting them use the garage for two more years, because then we’ll never get them out,” she says. “There will be delays, and even trying to fine them won’t work — these people have deep pockets, so they’ll just pay the fine.”

While an inch hasn’t even been given yet, some people are already planning the next mile of road under these fake trolleys. This vision asks West Grove residents to put up with this non-conforming diesel bus maintenance garage forever, and a day, not just for a couple of years. 

As predicted in these pages only days ago: The Coconut Grove Grapevine asks the musical question, “Maybe we can use it for the Grove trolley?

In other words: Ignore the
century of institutional racism and the [alleged] Miami corruption that
sited the garage on Douglas Road in the first place. Let’s make West Grove live with it because that’s how Modern Day Colonialists operate.

There’s a fascinating story about that blue triangle
above in which Coral Gables was able to hide its
racism in plain sight by making it a historic district

Speaking of Colonialism: In a totally unrelated, but tangential issue, Coral Gables still plans to run its fake trolleys into the MacFarlane Homestead Subdivision Historic District, which it has ignored up until now. This weird triangle of Coral Gables land, wedged between West Grove and famed U.S. Highway #1, housed the Black enclave of Coral Gables. These folks were the servant class of Coral Gables and this is the only area in which they were allowed to live at one time.  U.S. 1 served as The Colour Line in those days, making this neighbourhood the exception that proves the rule.

It would be an irony indeed if this under-served area of Coral Gables is finally brought into the 20th Century as a result of opposition to Trolleygate by their West Grove neighbours. Maybe one day West Grove will be treated with the same belated dignity.

As the Merry Pranksters were fond of saying, “You’re either on the bus, or you’re off the bus.” Can the lawyers get all parties on this bus before the 60-day deadline expires?

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.