The Real Deal Miami

Miami 21 delay adds doubt to building market

By Luis F. Perez | December 24, 2009 02:45PM

The Miami city commission’s decision last week to put on hold a major overhaul of the city’s zoning code called Miami 21 has some in the development community scratching their heads.

It’s unclear what the extra 90 days called for to review a plan that was in the making for years could achieve. But most agree it adds another level of uncertainty to an already distressed building market.

Even so, Ashley Bosch, a developer and managing director of the Blok Group, thinks delaying the implementation of the new code to ensure it works in the “real world” makes sense. He owns a parcel he’s waiting to develop, in part, because of the uncertainty with Miami 21.

“We need to merge the practical and reasonable while trying to keep the integrity of what they’re trying to do,” Bosch said.

At last week’s city commission meeting, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado requested the delay for implementing Miami 21 to get added public input. The rezoning plan was set to go into effect Feb. 19. He said publicly he doesn’t plan to scrap the new code that he opposed as a Miami commissioner before he was elected mayor in November.

But some proponents of the plan, which was approved in October, fear the mayor is behind the delay.

Arva Parks, who chaired the city’s planning committee during the four years it developed the new code, doesn’t buy that the mayor wants to hear more community opinions on a plan that could shape development in Miami for generations.

“I think that they’re trying to put it off in an attempt to kill it,” Park said, adding, “Never in the history of Miami has there been this much public comment about anything.”

Even after all the debate, and at times rancor, Bosch said he has concerns how the new code would handle non-conforming uses and about losing vested building rights. For example, he said, what happens if a 200-unit condo building is destroyed in a hurricane but the new code doesn’t allow that same density? Which of those unit owners would be allowed to rebuild? In that scenario, would the building even be insurable? Bosh said.

Bosch said he supports the plan, but wants it to be clear so developers know the ground rules before investing.

Neisen Kasdin, a board member of the Miami Downtown Development Authority and a land-use attorney at Akerman Senterfitt, said now is a good time to implement the zoning changes since the economy has put a hold on projects anyway.

He doesn’t know of any in the pipeline that would be impacted by the new code.

“There’s very little development going on today,” he said.