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By Jessica Sanchez and Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporters

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – On November 5th, the City of Miami Beach will vote on 3 of 6 City Commission seats, as well as six important ballot questions facing residents. Perhaps the most controversial issue to be voted on is an ordinance authorizing new floor area ratio (FAR) within the interior of historic buildings for adaptive reuse.

Adding new floor area to a property or a building that has no available floor area would mean the increase in zoned FAR, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
Adding new floor area to a property or a building that has no available floor area would mean the increase in zoned FAR, photo internet recreation.

FAR is the measure that the City uses to balance the general size of a building or property, and “floor area” in general means the total of the horizontal area of the floors of a building. Current statutes mandate no additional floor space may be added to a building, if exceeds the maximum permitted FAR.

Land Development Regulations of the City establish a maximum FAR for each of the City’s zoning districts. “Adaptive reuse” generally means the renovation and reuse of pre- existing buildings for new purposes.

Adding new floor area to a property or a building that has no available floor area would mean the increase in zoned FAR. In order for this measure to be approved, it must be done by the city’s voters on elections day pursuant to the City Charter.

Daniel Ciraldo, Executive Director of the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL), recommends a “NO” vote on the issue. The reason is “It is unclear what the enabling legislation would look like after voters give their approval to this ballot question.”

Adding, “The voters would be authorizing the city to adopt an ordinance, but there are not specifics on the ordinance to be adopted. For example, if theaters are to be adapted, would interior historic features be preserved? For this reason, we suggest a ‘No’ vote.”

The 1936 historically designated Lennox hotel, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
The 1936 historically designated Lennox hotel had undergone a $71 million renovation in Miami Beach, press photo.

Miami Beach United (MBU), a volunteer based non-profit group representing residents published a statement that they oppose this resolution as well. Their position was communicated in an email along with their position opposing the floor area ratio (“FAR”) changes on Washington Avenue and Alton Road.

The statement explains why it matters. “The City is experiencing a great deal of new construction which is making Miami Beach increasingly congested. Allowing an increase in the FAR of historic buildings is being proposed without benefit of providing any apparent preservation purpose for doing so.”

“As it is currently written, this question is overly broad and fails to adequately explain the propositions or the reasoning behind it. This leaves open the possibility of Commission overreach on the specific details when drafting the enacting ordinance.”

The MBU feels there is significant recent precedent for broadly and vaguely worded referenda items getting voted in, and then residents/advocacy groups which seek to implement details that had been left out of the referendum language.

Tanya K. Bhatt, President of MBU is hopeful the voter turnout will be strong on November 5th, “[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.”

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