The Miami Beach City Commission moved forward with approving a zoning overlay district in Sunset Harbour that encourages office development, as some residents tried to stop a hotel project in the same neighborhood from being grandfathered in.
The overlay district, which was passed on first reading at Wednesday’s meeting and will head to a second reading vote, increases the height limit for office buildings to 65 feet from 50 feet. It would also allow office building developers to aggregate more than six lots in the Sunset Harbour district, while blocking other builders from doing the same. Those incentives were added to encourage the development of Class A office buildings in Sunset Harbour to further diversify the city’s economy.
The overlay district would also allow residential units to be included as part of office projects, but most of the development must be devoted to commercial uses with retail space on the first floor while rooftop deck amenities are to be restricted to the building’s residents or tenants. Additionally, the zoning code would require a conditional use permit for new projects over 25,000 square feet, and forbid outdoor speakers, except for life-safety devices.
Finally, the overlay district would prevent new hotels and condo-hotels from being built within the Sunset Harbour overlay district, although the planning board recommended language that would allow projects that already applied for design review approval to move forward. That would allow developer Ronny Finvarb to continue on with his proposed hotel at 1790 Alton Road.
But several residents from west of Alton Road, most of whom reside in Sunset Harbour, wanted to prevent Finvarb from constructing a new 36-unit hotel. Among the fears expressed was the possibility that Spring Breakers would pack themselves into the future hotel’s rooms.
Sara De Los Reyes, a Sunset Harbour Neighborhood Association board member, said there are already plenty of hotels near her neighborhood. “There are more than five hotels within a five-minute walking distance of Sunset Harbour,” she said. Two of those five hotels were built by Finvarb: the Kimpton Hotel Palomar South Beach at 1750 Alton Road and the Residence Inn by Marriott South Beach.
Finvarb’s attorney, Mickey Marrero, said his client was never warned that the city would revoke Finvarb’s ability to build a hotel on the site he bought in April for $4 million. Marrero said Finvarb already has a commitment with a hotel chain. The attorney warned there would be “a chilling effect” from future investors if Finvarb and his partners were sent away.
Not everyone was against the hotel project. Half the people who spoke were in favor of Finvarb’s plans.
Commissioner Ricky Arriola said he appreciated the investment Finvarb made. “That said, I don’t love the idea of having a hotel here,” Arriola said.
Commissioner Mark Samuelian was likewise uneasy about another hotel near Sunset Harbour, especially since the new overlay prohibits hotels and condo-hotels. Samuelian supported the overlay on first reading, which included allowing Finvarb’s hotel project , but he wants the developer to engage in “more outreach” with the surrounding neighborhood.