Sunny Isles Beach imposes one-year development moratorium west of Collins Avenue

City commissioners approved the moratorium on development orders and permits in the Town Center area

Sunny Isles Beach skyline (Credit: Getty Images)
Sunny Isles Beach skyline (Credit: Getty Images)

Sunny Isles Beach approved a one-year moratorium on real estate development in a low- and mid-rise area west of Collins Avenue across from a row of high-rise oceanfront condos.

City commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday night to impose a 12-month moratorium on development in the Town Center area between Collins Avenue and the Intracoastal Waterway from 163rd Street north to 172nd Street. The commissioners gave preliminary approval to the moratorium on first reading at their Aug. 28 meeting.

Mayor George “Bud” Scholl, who proposed the moratorium, said it will give the city time to correct flaws in its land-use plan for Town Center, making it consistent with local zoning and compliant with state law.

In 2011, the state government started requiring that the quantitative limits on development in comprehensive land-use plans match limits written into zoning rules for the same land. But the Sunny Isles Beach government has not amended its comprehensive plan for Town Center to match zoning rules for the area.

Commissioner Dana Goldman, who cast the only ‘no’ vote against the moratorium on development orders and permits for Town Center projects, criticized it as “completely useless … It’s not what we really need to fix the zoning code mismatch.”

At their July 18 meeting, city commissioners postponed action on a proposal to amend the land-use plan by adding quantitative limits on Town Center development that match those in the zoning code.

At the city commissioners’ meeting Thursday night and their meetings in July and August, opponents criticized the proposal to amend the comprehensive plan as an effort to up-zone Town Center and allow denser development there.

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Opponents including Ranaan Katz, founder of RK Centers, a major retail landlord in the Town Center area, claim Mayor Scholl and his allies on the commission want to approve a mixed-use development in Town Center called Infinity. It would put 120 residential units and 220 hotel rooms just west of the Newport Beachside hotel at 16701 Collins Avenue. In the last 18 months, the sole application for site-plan approval in Town Center has been submitted by the developer of Infinity

City commissioners voted in December to postpone a decision on whether to approve the Infinity project – which led city officials to discover the errors in the comprehensive plan for Town Center, according to Scholl.

Scholl rejected claims that amending the comprehensive plan would up-zone Town Center and pave the way for approval of the Infinity development. “If it’s genuinely about the Infinity project, we wouldn’t be proposing a moratorium,” he said at the city commission meeting Thursday night.

The Sunny Isles Beach government adopted a comprehensive land-use plan in 2000, three years after the coastal community incorporated as a city less than two square miles in size. In 2004, the city designated Town Center as a zoning district with an allowable density of residential development that ranges from 25 to 85 units per acre. City staff have since interpreted the comprehensive plan to allow for a maximum of 85 units per acre as they reviewed applications for site-plan approval.

Six buildings including condominiums have been completed in Town Center since 2004, and the owners could face financial problems if insurers or lenders determine that their properties fail to comply with a comprehensive plan that conforms to state law.

John Galinos, who owns a condo at one of the six buildings, told commissioners Thursday night that he worries his home at the 400 Sunny Isles condominium is part of “non-conforming” building “that should never have been built.”

Mayor Scholl said that, at the next city commission meeting in October, city staff will present a proposed change to the land-use plan that will address the concerns of the owners of the six buildings, which are clustered along 163rd Street. “The most important issue today is the six buildings,” he said.