By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – On Tuesday, November 5th, the City of Miami Beach will vote on 3 of 6 City Commission seats, as well as in increase of Floor Area Ratio (FAR), to 2.0 for buildings in the CD-2 district, located along Washington Avenue and Alton Road if more than 25 percent of the building area is used for offices.
Currently, the maximum zoned FAR – the measure the City utilizes to regulate overall building size – in the CD-2 (commercial, medium intensity) zoning district is 1.5. However, when more than 25 percent of the total area of a building is used for residential or hotel units, the maximum FAR is 2.0.
City Charter Section 1.03(c) provides that “[t]he floor area ratio of any property or street end within the City of Miami Beach shall not be increased by zoning, transfer, or any other means…unless any such increase in zoned floor area ratio for any such property shall first be approved by a vote of the electors of the City of Miami Beach.”
This ballot question asks whether the City Commission shall adopt an Ordinance increasing FAR to 2.0 for buildings in the CD-2 district, that are located along Washington Avenue and Alton Road, if more than 25 percent of the building area is used for offices.
The measure is intended to provide the same maximum FAR for buildings along Washington Avenue and Alton Road that contain offices, as the maximum FAR that currently applies to buildings in the CD-2 district that contain residential or hotel units.
Daniel Ciraldo, Executive Director of the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL), recommends a “NO” vote on the issue because the request for additional floor area is not the result of a consensus master plan.
Ciraldo said, “We are not clear on the public benefit to a density increase for office uses on Washington Avenue and Alton Road. We are also concerned about the impact on the Art Deco Architectural District of increased development on Washington Avenue. Due to this, we suggest a No vote.”
Scott Needelman of the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association also said the residents are against it, saying, “Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association unanimously and vigorously urges all Miami Beach voters to vote NO on referendum question six.”
Adding, “[It] proposes a radical 33 percent increase in office building size, traffic intensity, and over-development along South Beach’s two most important traffic corridors.”
“For many years the Flamingo Park neighborhood has advocated for the ELIMINATION of the few remaining ‘bonus’ development rights, which increase maximum building density (FAR) from 1.5 to 2.0 and overwhelm their small-scale historic neighbors.”
Needelman continues, “Instead, the Commission has shockingly gone in the opposite direction and proposed a new private windfall for special interests.”
“For voters concerned with good government and fair process, it should also be distressing that the Commission has asked Miami Beach voters to approve an up-zoning in advance of properly noticed hearings that would fairly expose the harmful impacts on Miami Beach residents and drivers.”
The issue seems to be among the most controversial of six questions on the ballot, along with the FAR increase for historic buildings. The city commission did not respond to requests for comment on who supported the ballot question and why.
However on social media, outgoing city commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán, wrote, “Regarding office space, there is already an FAR incentive equivalent for hotel[s], so this would give the same incentive for office space that already exists for hotel[s].
Adding, “So if you’re like me, and you think we have enough hotels but you like the idea of live/work/play in Miami Beach and realize we need more class A office space then vote Yes.”
“[I]f you don’t vote, then you abdicate responsibility to the next person who DOES vote, and you lose all right to complain about things,” Bhatt said.