Changes in new Miami zoning code startle, irk some in Downtown Development Authority
By Catherine Lackner
While Miami's Downtown Development Authority has endorsed the Miami 21 zoning initiative as "a holistic approach to land use and urban planning," several of its members strongly oppose amendments they say have been added as the city works out the final details. Years in the making, Miami 21 is to be implemented next month.
"I only found out about these changes by happenstance," board member Jerome Hollo said at last week's meeting. "This is as stealth as they come."
One provision would reduce Major Special Use Permit extensions from six years to one, while two others would allow building permits and waivers in certain districts to be appealed directly to the city commission.
Because of the real estate collapse and credit crisis, many special use permit holders have temporary shelved projects. The city currently allows two three-year extensions but the proposed Miami 21 requirement would require the permit holder to get city commission approval beyond a one-year extension.
Putting caps on extensions "would severely affect the viability of projects in the pipeline," Mr. Hollo said. "I find it objectionable and not an appropriate code for our district. They've thrown a big blanket over the whole city. I don't think it's right."
"This economy," said board member Alan Ojeda, "has been a force majeure; it's a huge thing. But we try to play by the rules."
"It's a very important concept that's being violated," said board member Rolando Montoya. "Laws should not be retroactive. People made decisions based on a set of circumstances."
"It's a disincentive to development," said board member Miroslav "Misha" Mladenovic. "When they finally got the answer right, somebody changed the question."
"I'm a Miami 21 proponent," said Marc Sarnoff, authority chairman and Miami commissioner, but the authority resolved to take its opposition to the commission.
"Just think how bad last year would have been if these buildings had not come on line," Mr. Hollo said, referring to the property tax boost Miami got when downtown condominiums began to fill. "We toe the line, but I don't think everyone here thinks Miami 21 is a good idea."