Bal Harbour to retake final vote on Live Local Act ordinances next week

Council to decide on setting minimum unit size at 600 sf, in addition to rules on FAR, “poor doors” and construction noise

Bal Harbour To Retake Final Vote on Live Local Regulations

From left: Bal Harbour Mayor Jeffrey Freimark and Matthew Whitman Lazenby along with a rendering of the proposed expansion of Bal Harbour Shops (Getty, Bal Harbour Village)

Bal Harbour’s Village Council will retake its final vote next week on Live Local Act ordinances addressing unit size, “poor doors,” parking, construction noise and more tied to the proposed expansion of Bal Harbour Shops.

Bal Harbour council members voted unanimously to pass the ordinances last week again on first reading. Part of that included the council readopting rules it voted on as a final vote at its March 5 meeting in order to address a meeting advertising concern that Bal Harbour Shops raised, Village Manager Jorge Gonzalez said last week. It was also to address changes the Florida Legislature recently passed. The new second reading vote is set for April 9. 

The village council has taken up the regulations in response to Whitman Family Development’s plan to expand its shopping center property under the state’s Live Local Act. The legislation provides incentives to developers that incorporate workforce housing into their projects. 

Whitman filed its application in January for a mixed-use expansion of the high-end shopping center that would include buildings of up to 275 feet tall, workforce housing, luxury residential and a hotel, causing a massive uproar in the town. That same month, the developer sued Bal Harbour alleging the village “promised residents a moratorium” instead of processing the application as it’s supposed to under state law. 

Bal Harbour’s ordinance ensuring “dignified and respectful housing” that bans so-called poor doors would require that Live Local Act projects provide residents with equal access to units through the same entrance, elevators and stairwells, as well as equal access to amenities, common areas and parking. It would also outline minimum unit sizes in the oceanfront district, starting at 600 square feet for efficiency units, 900 square feet for one-bedroom units, 1,150 square feet for two-bedrooms and 1,500 square feet for three-bedroom units. 

Bal Harbour Shops’ attorney John Shubin said in a statement provided to The Real Deal that the village “is going to great lengths to keep working class residents on the outside looking in,” calling Bal Harbour’s actions “a shameful attempt to preserve [its] exclusivity.”

Other ordinances addressing floor area ratio and density in the village’s oceanfront district, parking requirements and construction noise also passed last week. The village states that these regulations have “nothing to do with” Live Local. An expansion of Bal Harbour Shops has been under construction for years, and the village said that it has had “an adverse impact on the overall quality of life of our residents.”

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The construction noise ordinance would ban construction on weekends and holidays anywhere in the village.

Shubin said Bal Harbour Shops is “the only property in Bal Harbour that can accommodate this development, and yet Village leadership is doing everything in its power to derail the project and maintain long-held exclusionary zoning policies that fly in the face of the Federal Fair Housing Act and Florida’s Live Local Act.” 

The Live Local Act allows developers to bypass local zoning and land use regulations, which kicked off a firestorm in some municipalities like Bal Harbour. 

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The village introduced its proposed ordinances in February and amended them after the Florida Legislature passed tweaks to the Live Local Act that same month. The changes, referred to as a “glitch bill” will allow such projects to tap into 150 percent of the “highest currently allowed” floor area ratio in the county or city where the project is located. It also will provide reductions and exceptions for parking requirements. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the glitch bill into law, at which point more applications are expected to be filed, attorneys say. 

Developers have praised the Live Local Act, which provides major tax breaks to builders of mixed-income developments. To qualify, developers are required to set aside at least 40 percent of residential units to households earning no more than 120 percent of the area median income for at least 30 years. For mixed-use projects, at least 65 percent of the total square footage must be residential to qualify.