Save Smoker Park

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Smoker (Family) Park is part of a massive 99-year land lease between Broward County and developers that was initiated in the early nineties. As such, listed below are strong justifications for having the park protected with the P (Park)-Conservation Area zoning designation as related to the language in that lease.  

The City Commission had already voted unanimously in its Conference Meeting in June of 2010 to move the rezoning forward. City staff had already prepared the required rezoning notices to go to neighbors when the mailing was suddenly halted because of developer opposition to the rezoning. 

At the bottom of page eight of the 99-year ground lease pertaining to the park, the language states that the Lessee (the developer at that time) and the County shall not "unreasonably" withhold consent to modifications in zoning and land use classifications. 

Consistent with this language, we believe that it would be "unreasonable" for the County and the developer to withhold their consent to the park's rezoning to P (Park)-Conservation Area for the following reasons:

  1. The plain language of the ground lease establishes that 4.19 acres of parcel B (where Smoker Park is located) shall be restricted to park use (page two of the lease) AND the developer agreed to it. This is strong justification for rezoning, not against it. Sadly, this language could be deleted from the lease without any written notice being sent to the hundreds of park neighbors giving them the opportunity to strongly object. The County Commission has already approved reduction of park space from the original 4.19 acres to the 2.224 acres of Smoker Family Park through plat amendment.
  2. A triparty park easement agreement involving Smoker Park is in place between the City, County, and the developer. Once again, this is strong justification for the rezoning, not against it. However, this easement agreement too could be terminated without any written notice being sent to the hundreds of park neighbors giving them the opportunity to strongly object.
  3. The park is already listed on the city's list of parks as a conservation area and has been formally dedicated as Smoker Family Park.
  4. The developer's stated reasons for opposing the rezoning (resulting vagrancy, degradation, and crime) lack validity as the park is unfenced and already wide open for public use as a park. In addition, park hours are limited in other parks in the city so changing the park's zoning would not prevent its hours from being limited, thereby invalidating another claim by the developer.
  5. The discovery of the Seminole Indian artifact during the preliminary archaeological testing of the park in the early nineties establishes the historical significance of the park. In addition, both Broward County Archaeologist Matthew Defelice and Seminole Tribe Archaeologist and Historian Will Steele believe that additional archaeological testing within the park may very well uncover additional artifacts, especially because of the park's close proximity to the former Stranahan Trading Post on the north side of the New River.
  6. The park's current RAC-CC zoning which allows for the construction of a highrise, nightclub, multilevel parking garage, etc. is completely contrary to the original intent of the parties as established by the plain language of the lease (i.e. 4.19 acres of parcel B shall be restricted to park use).
  7. The park’s current RAC-CC zoning could allow the City Commission to approve construction on the park by mere resolution without requiring any advanced written notice be sent to the hundreds of park neighbors giving them an opportunity to strongly object. The City Commission just approved an 18-story apartment building on the narrow sliver of land between the park and SE 5th Ave. by mere resolution because it also has an RAC-CC zoning designation. The developer didn’t send advanced written notice to each of the hundreds of condo owners that border the park. Imagine, one day you’re sitting under the park’s tremendous tree canopy and the next day bulldozers start mowing it down without you being sent any advanced written notice that a developer had sought approval from the City Commission to demolish the park.
  8. City Manager Lee Feldman’s Memo of July 13, 2011 to the City Commission provides no guarantees against the park’s destruction but suggests that rezoning is unnecessary.
  • The Memo referred to language in the land lease that restricts the park parcel to park use. However, the Memo didn’t mention that this language could be deleted from the lease without any advanced written notice being sent to hundreds of park neighbors giving them the opportunity to strongly objectIn addition, the County Commission has already reduced the park area from 4.19 acres to 2.224 acres through plat amendment.
  • The Memo also referred to a triparty park easement agreement (between the City, County, and the developer) but this too could be terminated without any advanced written notice being sent to the hundreds of park neighbors giving them the opportunity to strongly object.
  •  Although the park is already being used as a park, the Memo refers to the developer’s (unsubstantiated) concerns that the rezoning “may” result in vagrancy, degradation, and crime.
  •  Although other city parks have limited hours, the developer also suggested that rezoning would not allow the park to have restricted hours.
  • The Memo references zoning protection for the park’s trees. What it did not mention is that the city has authorized relocation of trees that have been given “protected tree” status under the city code. Making matters worse, not all of these relocated trees survived their relocation. Thus, this provides no guarantee that the park’s trees will remain part of its magnificent tree canopy.
  • Also noted in the Memo is the resolution noting the area’s historical significance. Sadly, this recognition of historical significance was insufficient to convince the developer that the park deserved rezoning to P (Park)-Conservation Area. Instead, the developer has minimized its importance by insisting that the park retain its current RAC-CC zoning.
  • Finally, the Memo refers to the developer’s stated interest in cooperating with the city but its act of opposing the rezoning speaks louder than its words.  After all, in June of 2010, the City Commission (in its Conference Meeting) voted unanimously to move the rezoning forward but the ensuing mailing of rezoning notices by the city was suddenly halted because of the developer’s strong opposition to the rezoning.

Thus, this Memo provides no guarantees against the park’s destruction, cites protections that can be terminated without any advanced written notice being sent to the hundreds of park neighbors, and refers to developer concerns that lack validity. Clearly, rezoning the park to P (Park)-Conservation Area is a necessity to protect the park.

It is important to note that separate and major parts of Smoker Park are within the property boundaries of two condominium communities, Las Olas by the River (520 SE 5th Ave.) and Nu River Landing (511 SE 5th Ave.). This is confirmed by land surveys included in Declaration of Condominium documents recorded in Broward County and by mapping on the Broward County Property Appraiser's web site. This suggests that the current leaseholders of the park are the two condominiums, not one of the initial developers who opposes the rezoning. In spite of this information, the developer was able to halt the rezoning process back in 2010 after the Fort Lauderdale City Commission had voted unanimously to move the park rezoning forward.
In conclusion, we believe that it is imperative that the park be rezoned to P (Park)-Conservation Area to ensure its perpetual protection. Smoker Family Park, as it was officially designated, provides needed open green space along the New River. This green space is significantly enhanced by its magnificent tree canopy and proven Seminole Indian heritage. 

Please do two things to help us rezone the park to P (Park)-Conservation Area:

  • ·         Please send a quick email to County Commissioner Tim Ryan, the County Commissioner representing the park’s district, at to say: “I want Smoker Family Park rezoned to P (Park)-Conservation Area.”
  • ·         Email us at and include your full name and home address so that we can add you to our list of rezoning supporters.

For more information, email