Miami commissioner, staffers plan mural laws stricter than county's
By Risa Polansky
To combat what he calls "murals on steroids," Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has drafted an ordinance governing the use of large advertisements on the sides of buildings in the city's downtown core — calling for fewer murals, a smaller area where the signs would be allowed and higher costs for permits than an ordinance recently passed by Miami-Dade County.
Mr. Sarnoff's ordinance would
Limit the number of murals permitted to 15, compared with 45 in the county ordinance.
Confine murals to an area bounded by Northeast 15th Terrace and the Miami River, though the county ordinance would allow them in the Design District.
nBan code violators and buildings displaying a mural from receiving permits for five years.
Impose annual fees of up to $130,000 per mural.
The goal, Mr. Sarnoff said, is not only "smaller borders, smaller murals and less of them" but also to improve quality of life in the city by devoting funds collected from application and permitting fees as well as fines from illegal murals to parkland acquisition and the arts.
His ordinance calls for a lottery to be used to determine who gets a permit.
Meanwhile, city administrators are cooking up a "tougher" ordinance than the county's, said Orlando Toledo, senior director of building, planning and zoning. The "work in progress" may limit murals to 30, he said. Staffers "haven't thoroughly discussed" boundaries or whether current or former violators would be permitted to participate in the lottery system.
The city's version also calls for devoting mural-generated revenue to parks and the arts.
Staffers are to meet with Mr. Sarnoff today (7/19), Mr. Toledo said, to hear his proposal and potentially integrate his ideas into the city's proposal with hopes that it would appear on the July 26 agenda for initial consideration.
Mr. Sarnoff also aims to have his heard at the July 26 commission meeting, although it could come up at an early-August special session designed to deal with overflow issues before the commission recesses for the month.
Both say an ordinance stricter than the county's is essential.
Some county commissioners agree.
After passing an ordinance in April allowing 30 murals in a limited area of downtown, the county narrowly approved an amended version last week upping the number of permissible signs to 45 and expanding the mural zone to include the Design District.
Commissioner Katy Sorenson, one of the five dissenting voters — seven commissioners supported the ordinance — said she was distressed by the relaxed standards and the prospect of a continued lack of enforcement.
"We passed a mural ordinance a month ago, and now we want to expand the area, the number of walls and the number of wall signs allowed and allow them to cover windows — not just blank walls but now windows," she said at the commission meeting last week. "They're still proliferating in areas where they are not allowed. Are we ever going to enforce any of this, even if we have the ordinance?"
Mr. Sarnoff plans, concurrent with the county ordinance, a $1,000-a-day fine — in addition to hefty application and permitting fees.
Under his proposal, an applicant would pay $500 and a permit holder $10,000 a month along with an annual renewal fee of $10,000.
Permit holders would be required to post a $100,000 bond or letter of credit to the city, to be forfeited if the holder is found to be in non-compliance and fines are not paid within 30 days.
Mr. Sarnoff's ordinance also bars the use of murals on windows as well as on abandoned buildings and prohibits illuminated murals.
The specifics have yet to be nailed down by city staff, Mr. Toledo said, but "we know for a fact we're going to be tougher than what the county is allowing. We just need to get it right."