Miami Beach proposes rule to reduce size of future single-family homes

5446 North Bay Road
The home at 5446 North Bay Road prior to demolition on the left, and the lot's new spec home on the right (Credit: Aerial Photography Inc. via Todd Glaser's website)

Less than two years after Miami Beach enacted an ordinance placing limitations on the size of single family homes, the city’s land use committee has proposed a new ordinance that would place further restrictions on the size any new homes to be built.

The ordinance proposed by Commissioner Joy Malakoff passed a Land Use Committee hearing late Wednesday with supporters and opponents of the ordinance packing commission chambers to square off against each other in the latest battle over development in Miami Beach. The ordinance now moves to the city commission for discussion before being sent to the planning board.

The new proposed ordinance would reduce the maximum unit size of homes in single-family districts to 45 percent, down from the current 50 percent. With the proposed new regulation, any plans for a 5,000-square-foot home on a 10,000-square-foot lot would have to be reduced by 5 percent to 4,500 square feet. Additionally, lot coverage would be reduced from the current 30 percent to 25 percent in all single-family districts. All areas of a building’s footprint, including covered projections, will count towards lot coverage.

The proposed ordinance comes less than two years after the city reduced unit size for single-family homes from 70 percent to 50 percent. But preservationists say that ordinance has not stopped the demolition of many architecturally significant pre-1942 homes, or the construction of huge new homes that dwarf their neighbors. Miami Beach’s Design Review Board can’t stop the demolition of a pre-1942 home deemed architecturally significant but can only review plans for any new home to be built on the site. Homes designated as historic fall under the authority of the city’s Historic Preservation Board.

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Preservationists and many residents of several mid-Beach neighborhoods who have organized in recent months to campaign in support of the proposed ordinance welcomed Wednesday’s vote. Daniel Ciraldo of the Miami Design Preservation League says the ordinance could save some old homes.

“It reduces the incentive to demolish the older homes just for pure profit because you are not going to get as big a home,” he told TRD. “It also ensures that even if homes are demolished, the new homes are a little more in scale in terms of an established neighborhood context.”

But developers and many homeowners who want to build larger homes on land they own are strongly opposed. Todd Glaser who has built many of the new so called spec-homes in the mid-Beach area says if the new ordinance is eventually approved, it will affect 13 homes he currently is either building or plans to build. He said that two years ago before the 2014 ordinance was passed he could build a 5,250 square foot home on a 7,500 square foot lot. If the new ordinance is passed, he told TRD, he would only be able to build a 3,375 square foot home on that size lot.

“It’s approximately a 25 percent decrease,” he said. “The 5 percent decrease in lot coverage is actually 10 percent of a home, so it is actually double the amount of square footage based on the percentage.”