No quadrants, city plans all-in-one Miami 21 rollout
By Risa Polansky
Some Miami residents and commissioners have gotten their wish. Miami 21, the city's proposed new zoning code and blueprint for growth, is to be rolled out through the whole city rather than section by section.
One hitch: the new arrangement means it will be at least eight months before the plan can be implemented.
It's been in the works since 2005.
Consultants Duany Plater-Zyberk had been designing the blueprint by quadrant, beginning with the city's eastern section, which includes downtown and Brickell.
The process drew criticism from commissioners representing other areas, who feared their residents would be left out of the planning process that eastern quadrant residents were privy to.
Some worried also that having two different zoning codes — Miami 21 in the east and the current code in the rest of the city — could cause confusion and allow developers in other areas to continue building under current rules.
Commissioners deferred a vote on the code in June, calling for three public hearings in each of the rest of the quadrants before they'd take back up the issue.
City Manager Pete Hernandez told commissioners last week in their first public update since the summer that city staff and the consultants "have had an extensive number of meetings" and will be ready to post the latest draft of the code on the Web early next month.
But commission Chairman Joe Sanchez, who prompted the discussion, told him "there are some issues with Miami 21."
The "number one issue for me: quadrant vs. citywide," he said. "I strongly believe it should be voted citywide."
Approving the code quadrant by quadrant could "leave this city in chaos with two codes to follow," he said, as well as "expose the city to legal exposure that I have a great concern with."
He suggested staff and consultants move forward in posting the draft code on the Web in early March to allow residents a further look.
Commissioners agreed to see the bare bones of the code in April but requested mapping be done for the remaining three quadrants before Miami 21 would actually be implemented.
The process could take six to seven months, Mr. Hernandez said.
Commissioner Tomás Regalado, who had vocally opposed the quadrant system, supported the plan to implement the code citywide.
He suggested also a "moratorium on big projects until everything is done."
Commissioners did not vote on that particular issue, but there had been plans in the past to impose a "zoning in progress" ordinance in tandem with Miami 21.
It would allow only projects planned under the anticipated new guidelines be permitted until the code's final passage.
If passed, Miami 21 would be a complete overhaul of the city's current zoning code, focusing on form and calling for smooth transitions between buildings of different heights and densities.
Developers have balked already at some of the code's principles, including providing less parking in new developments to encourage the use of public transportation.
Others have already begun lobbying for changes to the current draft, such as more height and density be allowed in the Brickell West area.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who represents Brickell and the bulk of the eastern quadrant said last week "I'm in favor of Miami 21 with some adaptive changes."