Miami Beach board recommends against further downsizing of single-family homes

5446 North Bay Road
The home at 5446 North Bay Road prior to demolition on the left, and the lot’s new spec home on the right (Credit: Aerial Photography Inc. via Todd Glaser’s website)

The Miami Beach Planning Board on Tuesday recommended against a proposed change to the city’s zoning code that would reduce the size of single-family homes.

The board voted 5-1 against portions of an ordinance recommended by planning and zoning staff that would have slashed the maximum lot coverage from 30 percent to 25 percent in all single-family districts, as well as scaling back the maximum unit size on a lot from 50 percent to 45 percent.

The board did approve other parts of the ordinance that increases front setbacks from 20 feet to 30 feet for two-story homes but allow 20-foot setbacks for one-story homes in most cases. In addition, side setbacks would be boosted 10 feet from the current 7.5 feet for most properties.  The proposed ordinance is scheduled to go before the city commission on Dec. 9.

The measure sharply divided single-family home developers, who were against the lot and unit size reductions, and Miami Beach preservationists, who supported the changes. Ten people spoke in favor of 25 percent lot coverage and 45 percent size for units. Eleven spoke against the measure, noting that the city had tinkered with regulations governing construction of single-family homes in early 2014 when the maximum lot coverage was set at 30 percent and unit size was reduced from 70 percent to 50 percent.

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In the end, a majority of planning board members sided with developers and homeowners like Seth Heller, who owns a 6,000-square-foot vacant lot at 4193 North Bay Road. Heller said further reductions in lot and unit sizes would prevent him “from building anything suitable for my family.”

“This is not something that should be passed,” Heller said. “It is a travesty.”

Board member Brian Elias said he opposed further reductions to the maximum lot coverage and unit sizes because not enough time had passed since the last time the city made changes. “I am reluctant to interfere with people’s property rights,” Elias said. “I think it needs to play out more or be studied further.”

Board chairman Jeffrey Feldman concurred. “Before we take away people’s property rights, we need to make sure this is absolutely necessary,” Feldman said. “I have never seen a city change its code as much as Miami Beach. It borders on the absurd.”