By Selene Raj
At nearly 2:00 a.m. on Thursday, the commission chambers of Tamarac’s City Hall erupted with applause and cheers as city officials unanimously voted no against a major site plan to include a hotel smack in the middle of the Woodmont community.
Before them, the commission had two items on their agenda related to Woodmont: one regarding the approval of the hotel developer’s major revised site plan, and another regarding the approval of granting them a special exception to allow for the operation of a hotel as an ancillary use to a private country club in the recreational zoning district.
Through emails, Facebook comments, phone calls, and in-person public participation, Woodmont residents repeatedly voiced their disapproval of the project in their neighborhood.
More than 300 comments were posted on Facebook alone. Of the residents who were sworn in and gave official comments in the quasi-judicial hearing on Wednesday evening, everyone opposed the hotel.
Several residents even waited outside in the cold for hours until others left, and Covid-19 capacity restrictions were met to sit in the chambers.
Among their concerns were increased traffic, the lack of a need for another hotel in the area, an eyesore in an otherwise scenic community, a transient population with no investment in the city having access to their neighborhood, amenities, and children, the proximity to schools, decreased property values, a lack of privacy, decreased open and green space.
Ian Hernandez, a resident who once attended Tamarac Elementary School, said he understood that his safe and easy walk to school is part of what attracted people like his parents to Bon Aire in Woodmont.
“I ask you to consider your constituents in this room, who clearly, unanimously, don’t approve,” said Hernandez.
Woodmont’s La Reserve’s HOA President, Willie Johnson, was one of several homeowners association leaders who spoke against the hotel.
“The increased traffic, noise pollution, the hotel’s four stories tall that’s going to be an eyesore for most of the community– we don’t want it,” he said.
Commissioner Debra Placko, a Woodmont resident, stated that she could not support the hotel after questioning the developers. She took particular issue with the special exception motion, saying she didn’t believe the hotel met all of the conditions necessary to be granted such exception, despite their presentation stating otherwise.
One of the conditions was that the land use did not bring adverse public health effects. Commissioner Placko said that the anxiety of a parent knowing a hotel was so close to their child’s school is an adverse health effect on its own.
She also took issue with the notion that the hotel would meet the qualification of being compatible with the existing environment, calling it incompatible.
“It’s a residential area; it always has been,” she said, “The benefit to the community is absolutely nothing.”
Her colleagues agreed. Mayor Michelle Gomez, newly appointed Vice Mayor Elvin Villalobos, and Commissioners Mike Gelin and Marlon Bolton, as the commission voted, 5-0 against both motions to approve the major revised site plan and special exception.
The meeting lasted nearly seven hours, but residents, though tired, left feeling victorious.
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master's in Mass Communications in 2020, and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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