Legal fight pits historic preservation against climate-change preparation

An owner of property in the flood-prone Tatum Waterway area of Miami Beach has gone to court to undo the area's historic designation

Jul.July 14, 2018 02:40 PM

The Tatum Waterway in north Miami Beach (Credit:

An owner of property in a Miami Beach neighborhood prone to flooding has taken legal action to overturn the city’s designation of the area as historic.

The property owner, a company called Ytech, has petitioned a judge to undo the designation for the Tatum Waterway neighborhood, claiming it hinders efforts to respond to rising sea levels.

Ytech owns nine buildings in the Tatum Waterway neighborhood, a low-elevation area between 77th and 87th streets in North Beach.

Miami Beach designated the neighborhood as a historic area to preserve dozens of buildings with of MiMo, or “Miami Modern,” architecture.

The designation prevents owners from demolishing buildings in the neighborhood and requires them to get approval for major renovations from the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board.

The board is required to take climate change into account when deciding whether to approve a demolition request. But the historic designation makes approval of such requests harder to get.

Ytech argued in its court petition that the historic designation of the Tatum Waterway neighborhood will make it harder to prepare properties for rising sea levels.

The company also contends the designation will diminish the value of buildings along the Tatum Waterway by complicating efforts to insure them and to sell them.

Attorney Joni Armstrong Coffey, who represents Ytech, told the Miami Herald that the historic designation applies to “buildings in excess of 50 years old sitting in water.”

The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact predicts that sea level will rise as much as two feet by 2060. [Miami Herald] – Mike Seemuth

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