Miami commission to wrap up a few things before recess
By Risa Polansky
Miami city commissioners are to tackle a few lingering issues today (7/26) and have scheduled a special meeting for next week to wrap up loose ends before their August recess. But much ongoing city business may be left unfinished, potentially making for action-packed post-summer sessions.
Commissioners are to be asked today — though the agenda is largely zoning-oriented — to approve a payout to residents in the continuing fire-fee saga as well as to consider an ordinance limiting murals in the downtown core.
Commissioner Tomás Regalado has asked to discuss at today's meeting the fate of the city's auditor general, who awaits contract renewal.
Still up in the air are items such as:
nHow the city plans to fund its share of the county's proposed port tunnel.
nPlans for redevelopment of the Knight Center downtown.
nThe fate of the Orange Bowl and a new baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins.
nA $2 million grant to the Miami Science Museum in bond money for its proposed Museum Park facility.
nApproval of the Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan.
nApproval of city staff's proposed streetcar project.
nApproval of Miami 21, the city's proposed new zoning code and blueprint for growth.
The agenda for the Aug. 1 special session is to be published today and could include some of those outstanding items, but many are to be heard in the fall.
Streetcar legislation is slated for a December commission meeting. Commissioners have asked not to see Miami 21 again until more public comment is heard.
They deferred last month items giving the long-awaited plan the go ahead after more than eight hours of public hearing and discussion.
Consultants, the commissioners said, are to run more real-property scenarios and inform Miami residents citywide of the code — designed now only for the eastern quadrant of the city, which includes downtown and Brickell — to address lingering concerns.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff repeatedly has asked for images illustrating what a building would look like under the current zoning code compared to how it could look under Miami 21.
For that reason and to make clear the new plan's financial implications, Commissioner Joe Sanchez directed consultant Duany Plater-Zyberk to run comparative analyses on three properties — one downtown, where he sits as chairman of the Downtown Development Authority, and one each in Brickell and Edgewater, as property owners from both areas have lobbied hard for zoning changes.
"Based on a lot of discussion we heard, we need to look forward and explore," Commissioner Sanchez said.
One major hang-up of constituents and officials has been the plan's discouragement of parking accommodations.
Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk maintains the parking restrictions are designed to segue the city into a pedestrian-friendly, mass-transit-oriented area.
"The buildings will require less parking — that's the future of downtown," Commissioner Sanchez said. "But to be honest with you, the infrastructure isn't there."
Carter McDowell, an urban planner-turned-attorney, called the code the "most complicated" he's ever seen.
The marketplace will not accept buildings without parking, he said, and agreed with the commissioner that there is not enough infrastructure to allow people to conveniently forgo driving.
"What comes first, the transportation system or the need?" said Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.
A number of experts who spoke at the hearing agreed it's the former.
But a larger issue, said Commissioner Tomás Regalado, is that only east-quadrant residents have had a chance to weigh in on concerns.
He made it clear at a Miami 21 briefing that he would vote against the code if residents citywide were not given the chance to understand and shape it.
In deferring the vote, commissioners required three public hearings in each quadrant.
At Mr. Regalado's request, they agreed to refuse to see the code — or any of its accompanying legislation, such as a zoning-in-progress measure that would stall permit approval in the east quadrant as the code is rolled out — until all meetings take place.
They are to go back to Miami 21 no earlier than September.
"I don't want to wait an inordinate amount of time to approve this," Commissioner Sarnoff said. "Yet I don't want to force this down anyone's throat."