River Cities

Tavern owner says county took away his parking

Fred Suco, owner of Woody’s West End Tavern, was livid when he went to work a few weeks ago and saw Miami-Dade County no-parking signs planted in the swale along Ludlam Drive behind his business.

“Why is it OK to park on swales in every other commercial area but not here?” asked Suco, who opened Woody’s in September 2010 during the recession and now employees 23 people. “This is a fairness issue.”

Suco added that he worked hard to raise property values in his area of Miami Springs. Since opening, he has made improvements to the business, such as installing a new sidewalk and landscaping with mature palms.

When asked how the county signs got there, Suco said they came from a “gadfly.”

Through a public records request, the Miami Herald obtained more than 300 city emails from the last year pertaining to Woody’s. Most addressed things like “re-certification” and real estate matters. There were a couple of noise complaints but nothing extraordinary for a seven-day-a-week tavern.

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Only two emails in the records’ cache dealt with parking.

In one case, a neighbor called police, on March 13, 2013, when two men parked on the swale near her home and verbally threatened her when she asked them to park elsewhere. Police noted in the report that Woody’s had a “permit for swale parking today.”

The other email was more on point.

“Cars must enter the middle of Ludlum Drive in order to see if there are any oncoming vehicles from either direction,” wrote Shirley Prakelt, in an Aug. 30, 2013, email to City Manager Ron Gorland. “This is a very dangerous situation, which, if not addressed, I fear will result in a tragedy.”

Prakelt said: “I have personally phoned the police 5-6 times over the past year to report this situation, but nothing has been done to ameliorate it.”

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It remains unclear whether the city or the county has jurisdiction over Ludlam Drive. When the city entertained placing a jet-fuel pipeline underneath the road in 2013, City Council members argued over who had control.

“We thought this was a county issue, but the county made it very clear that this was a city street and we have control over it,” Gorland said at a February 2013 council meeting.

But one veteran council member cried foul when he heard this.

“That is a contradiction to what the county’s position has been with Ludlam in the past,” said then-councilman Bob Best, who cited the tree issue in 2009 when the county pulled rank over the city to uproot nearly 3,000 Australian pines along Ludlam’s bike path. “It makes no sense what the county’s response was.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office did not respond to emails asking why county-issued parking signs were placed at Woody’s.

The county’s “no parking” signs have indiscriminately targeted his business, Suco said, and have done a disservice to the community.

Suco wants county officials to rethink this decision and notes several taxpayers have received parking tickets that run about $18.

“That is unfair,” Suco said.

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