Miami Beach commission rejects reducing size of new 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)

After months of heated debate, the Miami Beach Commission rejected an ordinance on Wednesday that would have limited the lot coverage and unit size of new single-family homes being built in Miami Beach.

At a commission hearing packed with supporters and opponents of the measure, commissioners voted against reducing maximum lot coverage from 30 percent to 25 percent, and reducing the maximum unit size on a lot from 50 percent to 45 percent. If the measure had passed, anyone trying to build a 5,000-square-foot-home on a 10,000-square-foot lot would have had to reduce the house’s size by 500 square feet.

Commissioners agreed with opponents of the ordinance who argued that not enough time had elapsed since the city last reduced lot and unit size in 2014. Commissioner Michael Grieco said of the 4,059 single-family homes in Miami Beach only 220 were between 45 to 50 percent unit size and most of those he said were built before 1942.

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While they rejected the proposed ordinance the commissioners did approve an amended ordinance that had earlier passed the city’s planning board that imposes front setbacks of 30 feet for new two-story homes as well as 10-foot setbacks between any new home built and its neighbor. Commissioner Joy Malakoff the sponsor of the original ordinance told The Real Deal she was pleased the amended ordinance passed. “As homes are built higher, the greater setbacks, 30 feet for example, instead of 20 feet in front, will allow for a gradual adjusted grade going up to the homes, and because it’s more gradual, it won’t be running off into the neighbors, whose homes may be lower,” she said.

But preservationists like Daniel Ciraldo of the Miami Design Preservation League said stripping out limitations on unit size and lot coverage from the ordinance means more architecturally significant homes on Miami Beach will be lost. He said that more than 100 homes had been approved for demolition since 2014 when the most recent ordinance was passed limiting home size.

Both sides used the issue of sea level rise to argue their case. Preservationists argued that reducing lot coverage and unit size would help preserve more green space needed for flood control and cut back on new homes towering over their neighbors. However opponents of the ordinance like Ralph Choeff, who has designed many new homes on Miami Beach in recent years, said that new FEMA flood control requirements could make many old Miami Beach homes uninsurable in the years to come, and putting more restrictions on lot coverage and unit size was an “infringement on people’s property rights.”