Miami considers moratoriums on developers
By Susan Stabley
Miami city commissioners today (4/8) will consider restricting development in two areas.
Commissioners will consider a pair of 90-day moratoriums on building applications along Biscayne Boulevard in the city's Upper East Side neighborhood.
The first proposal would halt temporarily approval of buildings taller than 85 feet for commercial and 95 feet for residential use. Also on the agenda is the first reading of a stricter moratorium for the same neighborhood, creating a 90-day ban on applications for new buildings higher than 40 feet.
A third moratorium could halt construction on Southwest 27th Avenue from Coral Way to US 1 for 90 days, until zoning issues are reviewed. Commissioner Johnny Winton has asked City Manager Joe Arriola to make a study of the corridor a top priority.
All three issues are planned for discussion at today's meeting at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive.
Growth is prompting Miami officials to revisit the city's entire zoning code, with Mayor Manny Diaz calling for a master plan last month during his State of the City address.
A citywide initiative to be guided by Commissioner Winton is to consolidate existing plans and focus on economic development, historic preservation, arts and culture, transportation, parks, planning and zoning, the mayor said.
"Amen," said real estate analyst Michael Cannon to the mandate for a master plan. The managing director of Miami's Integra Realty Resources and executive committee member of the Urban Land Institute's Southeast Florida District Council said he long has advocated modernization of the city's zoning code.
Miami's many overlay districts have acted as "Band-aids," he said, and developers, attorneys and city staffers disagree over how to interpret the current code.
"The zoning doesn't even match the infrastructure," he said. And, he said, all neighborhoods should not be geared for high-density development.
More than $2.3 billion dollars of construction is under way in the city, according to Mayor Diaz. Another $5 billion in projects have been approved and another $5.2 billion worth are in the works.
Mayor Diaz said the city's tax base increased more than 15%, or $2.3 billion, last year.
"Greatness, however, is not a distinction achieved without sensible planning. While our challenge to accommodate growth is immediate, we must not act in haste," Mayor Diaz said in his March 24 State of the City address. Changes are under way and longstanding development incentives are targeted. Commissioners last month gave preliminary approval to tightened development bonuses on Brickell Avenue, altering provisions that allow for more units in residential projects than basic zoning permits.
"I think people are worried. Communities are concerned," said Tucker Gibbs, a Coconut Grove attorney who represents homeowners associations and developers. "The issue is understanding the existing zoning codes. Citizens don't always understand, and they feel powerless to even question big development."