The Palmetto Bay Village Council has tentatively approved changes to the way the village approves minor variances from land-use rules.
Municipalities have a zoning code that establishes the design standards that ensure community aesthetics and uniformity of development. Property owners who want to build a home that may not entirely comply with the village's zoning code may request a variance. Staff or the Village Council review the variance application.
On Monday night, the Village Council unanimously approved the new law, which deals with variance applications that go through staff instead of the Village Council. The initiative was sponsored by Councilman Patrick Fiore.
“I just thought that what we had was too restrictive,” Fiore told the Miami Herald. “I think this gives more leeway to our professional staff to do it administratively and people don’t have to come for a whole full-blown public hearing just to move a few inches. People pay $1,200 for a public hearing. You are paying for the cost of the whole process in that case. So things can be done administratively to help the residents who want to improve their home without paying.”
Under the new law, multifamily residential and commercial properties that do not undergo the site-plan process in front of the council can go through an administrative-variance review. Previously, only single-family homes and duplexes were eligible for administrative review.
The approved ordinance also allows for people seeking more deviation from the property’s development criteria to go through an administrative review. Applicants who wish to deviate by up to 10 percent from the property’s allowed height, buffer, setback and other development criteria can do so through staff instead of through a public hearing in front of the council. Previously, only variance applications seeking a maximum of 5 percent deviation were allowed to go through administrative hearing.
Palmetto Bay Planning and Zoning Director Darby Delsalle said that, for example, properties allowed a setback of 15 feet can seek a variance of up to 1.5 feet through staff instead of through council. A setback is the distance between the building and the property line.
The new law also removes criteria that gives staff broader discretion when determining whether to grant a variance, said Delsalle.
Neighbors living right next to the property on which a variance may be granted have to submit a written consent to the village that they agree with the changes. In addition, after staff's review of the variance application, the village will mail notices to nearby residents regarding the proposed changes, and it will also post a notice on the property.
The Village Council, however, postponed voting on a similar ordinance that deals with the variance-review process when applications have to go through a public hearing in front of the council instead of through staff.
The Village Council will take a final vote on the administrative-review process changes at the next meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 6.