Miami Beach city commissioners gather for their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday. On the agenda: choosing a team for the billion-dollar convention center district redevelopment, a legal opinion as to the legality of a petition to change the city’s charter with regards to the convention center district, setting the city’s tax rate, debating a moratorium on the demolition of architecturally-significant homes, Watson Island development plans, and selection of a new Alton Road design.
The meeting starts at 9 a.m. at City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Drive and is expected to last well into the evening.
Convention center vote
After a more than a year-long selection process, commissioners are scheduled to finally select a development team for the city’s ambitious convention center project. The city must choose between two teams of internationally preeminent developers and architects: South Beach ACE, which includes the builders of One World Trade Center in Manhattan and Pritzker-Prize winning architect Rem Koolhaas; and Portman-CMC, which includes the developers of Peachtree Center in Atlanta and starchitect Bjarke Ingels.
Wednesday’s winner will enter into negotiations with the city to develop Miami Beach’s convention center, add a privately-run hotel, build shops and restaurants, and possibly add apartments to a 52-acre site in the heart of South Beach. The plan, which has attracted world-wide attention, is expected to cost the public more than half a billion dollars, with funding coming from a special taxing district, and increase in the hotel bed tax, bonds and lease revenues.
This item is scheduled to be heard no earlier than 6 p.m.
Convention center petition
Miami Beach City Attorney Jose Smith has asked commissioners for permission seek a court order to determine whether a proposed charter amendment regarding the convention center district should apply to the project.
Commissioner Jonah Wolfson recently led a petition drive to make redevelopment of thee convention center area more difficult to pass by requiring approval rate from 60 percent of city voters to lease any land within the district. Now, only a simple majority is needed, and only for certain areas of the site.
Through the help of paid petition gatherers, and with financial support from the Fontainebleau hotel, Wolfson has gathered enough signatures to force the city to put the issue on a ballot in the form of a proposed change to the city charter, which is the city’s governing document.
Smith said in a lengthy legal brief that the proposed ballot language for the charter change is legal.
However, it has been unclear whether proposal should apply to the current convention center bid.
Wrote Smith: “While there is no case directly on point, it is doubtful that the proposed Charter Amendment can be applied retroactively to the Convention Center ... because it would impact vested rights and impose new duties and conditions on the proposers as well as upon the City.”
Smith has asked commissioners to give him permission to ask a court for confirmation of this. Commissioners will decide on Wednesday whether to approve Smith’s request.
Commissioners are scheduled to set the tax rate ceiling for the 2013-2014 budget year.
During his first budget season on the job, Miami Beach’s City Manager Jimmy Morales has proposed to keep the city’s general operating tax rate steady. However, the city’s debt service tax rate has decreased slightly.
The proposed tax rate for the 2013-2014 budget year is $6.34 per $1,000 of taxable property value, or .0039 less than last year.
But, since property values have increased in Miami Beach, many homeowners may see a slightly higher tax bill. State law caps the taxable value of homesteaded properties at 1.7 percent this year.
Taking into account the cap, the owner of a $200,000 home taking the standard homestead exemption would pay about $973 in taxes to Miami Beach. That would be an increase of about $21 compared to this year.
The tax rate and city budget are still subject to public hearings before becoming final. After commissioners set a preliminary rate, the final rate can go down but not up.
Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower has proposed a six month moratorium on the demolition of architecturally-significant single family homes as the city considers changing its development laws with regard to historic homes.
Her proposal is borne from a months-long fight to save the mansion at 42 Star Island, owned by plastic surgeon Leonard “The Boob God” Hochstein and his wife, Lisa, a cast member of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Miami. The couple has won city approval to tear down the 88-year old mansion, but have had their plans delayed by preservationists who are now fighting in court to save the home.
The case has highlighted what preservationists say is an alarming trend: More potentially-historic homes are being demolished than ever before. As a result, preservationists have been working with city leaders to change the Beach’s development laws to provide more incentives to people who restore historic homes, rather then knocking them down. An example of such an incentive would be allowing homeowners greater lot coverage to add onto historic homes.
In the meantime, Bower wants the city’s Planning Board to consider a moratorium. She has placed the issue on Wednesday’s agenda as a referral to that board.
Miami Beach commissioners will discuss surprise development plans for Watson Island, in the city of Miami. That city recently gave preliminary approval for a 500,000-square-foot shopping mall, a 700-room hotel and a 100,000-square-foot conference center on the island, accessible only from the MacArthur Causeway. Beach residents say the plan could result in a traffic nightmare on the causeway, which serves as the main entrance to South Beach.
Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Góngora said he wants the city to be involved and represented in any discussions regarding the new development.
“This isn’t a case of telling Miami what to do,” Góngora said.
But, he noted: “To burden Miami Beach with this gigantic project without considering the traffic impact on us is just plain wrong.”
He and the mayor, as well as Commissioners Jorge Exposito and Jerry Libbin, have placed discussion items Wednesday’s agenda regarding the development.
Tennis center at Flamingo Park
Miami Beach Commissioners will decide wether to accept the recommendation of a city committee not to name the new tennis center at Flamingo Park after a convicted felon.
Local tennis players and residents have fought to rename the center after signs went up declaring it the Flamingo Park Holtz Tennis Center.
Abel Holtz was an influential banker who helped build Miami Beach’s long-gone tennis stadium, and gave the city a loan to construct the old Flamingo Park tennis center. He also was convicted in the mid-1990s of lying to a grand jury about secret payments he made to former Beach mayor Alex Daoud.
Miami Beach Chief Deputy City Attorney Raul Aguila has said that the city is obligated to name the tennis center after Holtz, who is still alive, because of a 1983 contract between Holtz and his former bank.
The city’s Neighborhood/Community Affairs Committee has recommended renaming the center the “Flamingo Park Tennis Center” and that the city put up a plaque honoring the Holtz family’s contributions to the city. The plaque would be placed with an already-planned tennis ball sculpture. The spat has also led to a recommendation to change the city’s naming ordinance so that a public referendum isn’t required when naming city facilities after their location.
Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the recommendations Wednesday.
Miami Beach Commissioners will choose from three alternative road designs for a controversial Alton Road project.
Residents have fought the state-planned improvements, saying the configuration would lead to speeding through their neighborhood, so they’ve come up with various alternatives.
All of the new plans would create four 11-foot-wide travel lanes, with eight-foot-wide parking spaces on either side, and wider sidewalks. One plan calls for 13-foot wide sidewalks. Another alternative includes nine-foot sidewalks and a 21-foot median between the north and southbound lanes. The third alternative includes 11-foot sidewalks with a 17-foot median separating traffic.
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