Design District parking plan OK’d
Written by John Charles Robbins on June 4, 2014
A controversial parking program that led to a 120-day moratorium in February finally has been updated by Miami commissioners.
A second and final vote to approve changes to the Design District Parking Improvement Trust Fund and rules and fees governing parking waivers came after months of negotiation among the interested parties – mainly the city and the property owners in the burgeoning Design District.
An ordinance creating the fund hadn’t been updated since 2006 so it didn’t reflect market rates or consider the Design District’s rapid expansion.
The goal is to use the parking waiver fees to build or obtain shared public parking to benefit the entire district.
By ordinance, developers in the Design District may buy parking waivers. The charge was $12,000 per parking space waiver. The proposed amendment as drafted in February would have bumped that up to $35,000 per space.
In the end, the price of a parking waiver will shoot so high that some fear it will discourage development by those property owners not blessed with the financing prowess of larger players.
When the dust settled on the final amendment, the fee was set at $45,000 per parking space.
Art Noriega, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority, also known as the Department of Off Street Parking, anticipated “plenty of dialog” about the proposed changes at the commission’s May 22 meeting.
He wasn’t wrong.
Jeff Bercow, an attorney representing the Miami Design District Property Owners Association, said he was speaking on behalf of several dozen property owners concerned about the level of the new fee at $45,000.
“Where does this number come from? Two weeks ago it was $35,000,” Mr. Bercow said.
The industry standard currently calculates the cost of providing one new parking space at $15,000 to $25,000, he said.
“Our group never opposed $35,000,” Mr. Bercow added. “We fear this large number will discourage future development.”
No one responded directly to Mr. Bercow’s comments.
Commissioner Keon Hardemon passed out the commission’s final version of the amendment, with a few more modifications he had made.
Those changes dealt with the make-up of the Design District Improvement Committee, a new body with seven voting members who will oversee how the parking waiver fees are spent.
Deputy City Attorney Barnaby Min explained that the intent of the proposed language creating the committee was to ensure diversity among the members, basically to make sure the committee included other property owners in the district beyond Dacra, the major stakeholder.
Schiller Jerome, who said he was speaking for a group of property owners in an adjacent neighborhood, told commissioners there is already limited parking in the area and talk of allowing new construction without more parking is a concern.
“My community will have to deal with these parking issues,” he said.
Commissioner Hardemon told Mr. Jerome the amendment would require a property owner to get a building permit within one year of getting a parking waiver, and the main intent of the ordinance is to “have the funds to put the parking in there.”
The ordinance requires that the funds from parking waivers be used “to facilitate parking purposes within the area,” through (in part): acquiring land for parking; constructing, operating or leasing off-street parking facilities for public use; coordinating parking facility improvements or expansion in conjunction with public transportation plans and operations; and providing accessibility to off-street parking facilities by suitable means such as public shuttle, tram or trolley.
The intent of the amendment is to have at least 90% of the money in the trust fund used for those activities, and it requires at least 10% be maintained as reserves.
“We’re trying to alleviate the parking problem in your neighborhood,” Commissioner Hardemon told Mr. Jerome.
Planning Director Francisco Garcia noted that parking waivers are not a commodity that can traded or sold. The waiver runs with a project until built, then it runs with the property, he said.
If a parking waiver is not paid for as required, or if the project is never built, the waiver would be lost, he said.
The amendment also allows an applicant to pay for the waivers over time, after making a 50% deposit and paying a special $500 application fee to the parking agency.
The commission approved the first reading of the amendment back on Feb. 13, along with an emergency 120-day moratorium on issuing parking waivers for the Design District.
Commissioner Frank Carollo feared the “floodgates” would open without the moratorium and the city would get countless applications for waivers at the $12,000 rate from developers hoping to avoid a price hike.
Mr. Carollo and others were also concerned about control of the trust fund, and Mr. Carollo argued for wording to make sure the city commission retained oversight of the money.
The final version of the amendment grants initial oversight of the trust fund to the new improvement committee, and final approval by the Off-Street Parking Board. It does, however, require the parking agency’s board to submit annual financial reports to the city commission each year.