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Setai and other Miami Beach property owners sue city over stormwater fees

The property owners want to stop paying the fees and get reimbursed for fees already paid
By Keith Larsen | August 13, 2019 05:30PM

The Setai Miami Beach

The Setai Miami Beach

In the midst of near-daily rain storms and the semi-regular flooding in Miami Beach, a group of property owners in the city including the Setai hotel are alleging the way the city collects stormwater fees is illegal.

The Nakash family, which owns The Setai Miami Beach, along with 24 other condo associations, multifamily owners and commercial property owners filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade Civil Court alleging that the method the city uses to calculate stormwater fees is “unreasonable, arbitrary and discriminatory” and violates Florida law. The fees are collected to manage the city’s stormwater system.

The suit further alleges the city is imposing an undue burden on condominium, multifamily, and commercial property owners.

RE Miami Beach first reported the lawsuit.

The main issue stems from a method the city uses called Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) to calculate the stormwater fee that property owners have to pay the city, according to the complaint. To calculate the ERU, the city lumps together the single-family homes, multifamily properties, townhouses and condos as residential properties and divides them by the total number of residential units, even though single-family homes take up more area.

The plaintiffs allege the current method penalizes condos, multifamily homes and commercial property owners who bear the brunt of the major costs of the program.

The average impervious area of condo and multifamily units – which refers to the space covered by impenetrable materials, like asphalt – is 306 and 478 square feet, respectively. In comparison, the average impervious surface area of a single-family home in the city is 2,868 square feet.

The suit argues that because single-family homes are bigger, they use more stormwater management services than a condo or multifamily home.

The city of Miami Beach disputes these claims.

“Contrary to the Claimants’ frivolous allegations in the complaint, the City’s stormwater utility fee is in full compliance with Florida law, which unequivocally authorizes local governments to establish and charge these stormwater utility fees throughout the City, ” Miami Beach Chief Deputy City Attorney Aleksandr Boksner said in a statement.

The suit is seeking to prohibit the city from continuing to collect the fee and is also seeking to be reimbursed for fees already paid.

An attorney for the plaintiffs, Thomas Robertson of Bercow Radell Fernandez & Larkin, did not immediately return a call for comment.