North Bay Village, which bills itself as a three-island paradise, took a step back this week from approving a major new development that backers said would boost its low tax base and fraying infrastructure, but which opponents said would overwhelm the sleepy village and exacerbate already congested traffic on Harbor Island.
At a packed and contentious village commission meeting that stretched late into the night on Tuesday, commissioners deferred approving a new overlay district for Harbor Island, one of three man-made islands that straddle the 79th Street Causeway that connects Miami Beach to the city of Miami.
Under a new overlay district, building heights on Harbor Island could go from 240 to 340 feet. Currently, the tallest building on Harbor Island tops out at 170 feet.
Citing unobstructed water views of Biscayne Bay, village officials have long said North Bay Village could be the next Bal Harbour. At least eight residential buildings opened on Harbor Island over the past decade, but most were built before the recession battered South Florida. The most recent, MODA, opened in 2015 offering luxury rentals, with unobstructed views of the bay.
Enter P&O Global Technologies, a Malaysian-based company that has proposed building a 77-unit, 340-foot high luxury condominium at 7918 West Drive.
P&O, whose main business is security systems, paid $8.3 million in January 2015, for the site containing three lots. They have a total of 33,600 square feet on 0.77 of an acre.
The project can only move forward if the village commission approves a new overlay district, which will allow an increase in height and FAR (Floor Area Ratio) and also allow P&O to use TDR’s (transfer of development rights) from Vogel Park, which is adjacent to the P&O property.
The proposed condominium would have 33 two-bedroom units and 44 three-bedroom units that architect Juan Azulay, told the village commission would be offered at approximately $700 per square foot.
P&O would use the TDR’s to build 36 units, and self-finance the project. P&O attorney Graham Penn told commissioners the village would receive $2.24 million in compensation for the TDR’s and that P&O would provide 30 mechanical parking spaces for lease to residents of congested Harbor Island. Penn said P&O would also extend the left turn lane off of the 79th Street Causeway onto Harbor Island and re-stripe Larry Paskow Way, adding an extra exit lane to ease congestion that backs up in the morning as residents leave the island for work.
Earlier this month a divided village planning and zoning commission approved the overlay district plans on a 3-2 vote. A similar overlay district was created on the 79th Street Causeway in 2013, but so far no developers have moved to build on the five largely vacant waterfront parcels that line the causeway.
Many residents of North Bay Village oppose the proposed new overlay district, and Tuesday night’s commission hearing was packed with Harbor Island residents opposed to the proposal. Two Harbor Island residents, Ken De Loreto and Ritch Holben, submitted a petition with 209 signatures against the overlay district. A separate similar petition with 117 signatures was also submitted by another Harbor Island resident. Saying that the village’s own planning consultant had “concerns about the consistency and compatibility” of the proposed district, De Loreto told commissioners that “nothing in the village looks like this, and the proposal offered no public benefit,” to North Bay Village. Holben noted that even though the city has approved an overlay district for the causeway, “nothing has been built there.”
While several commissioners said they liked the proposed design of the building, they also said they were reluctant to approve a proposal that would allow such a large building to be built on Harbor Island. As she moved to defer the proposal to an unspecified date, Mayor Connie Leon Kreps said she and her colleagues “all want progress,” but that she was not prepared to vote against recommendations from the village planner who had concerns about the proposal.