Beach commissioners take up ‘party homes’
03/04/2014 12:01 AM
03/05/2014 11:10 AM
Miami Beach commissioners will take up a controversial tennis contract and the outlawing of advertisements for so-called “party homes” when they meet Wednesday for their regular commission meeting.
Other items on the agenda include discussions about whether Alton Road should have medians, and traffic and noise concerns over a new restaurant in the South of Fifth Street neighborhood.
There’s also a referral to committee to discuss allowing alcohol sales in movie theaters. Commissioners say the Regal on Lincoln Road wants to be allowed to serve alcohol in some theaters.
The meeting begins with a public comment session at 8:30 a.m. Commissioners take up the regular agenda by 9 a.m. They meet in commission chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr.
Here’s a deeper look at some of the agenda items. Check out www.MiamiHerald.com throughout the day Wednesday for updates.
Commissioners are expected to forgo a competitive bidding process to select a new tennis management company — a move that somewhat goes against the recommendation of City Manager Jimmy Morales.
Morales has said he prefers a public process wherein companies would submit competitive proposals to manage the city’s tennis centers.
The city already did that, but commissioners threw out all of the responses after the current operator, Green Square, ranked last. Supporters of the company packed commission chambers to lobby elected officials to retain Green Square, despite having fared poorly in the competitive bid process.
Given the huge public support for Green Square, commissioners in September 2013 decided to reject all bids and continue on a month-to-month basis with the company.
Commissioner Michael Grieco, elected in November, said the previous commission’s decision to throw out all bids “was driven by preelection politics and it was not driven by equity.” He added that he stands by the previous bid process and rankings.
So Grieco and a mostly new commission voted in February to award the tennis center management contract to Miami Beach Tennis Management, the company that had ranked first in the original bid process.
However, because commissioners had previously decided to scrap the process, they would essentially be awarding the contract in absence of a formal bid procedure. Later in the February meeting, the city’s legal counsel told commissioners that they needed a recommendation from the city manager before they could waive competitive bidding. The recommendation does not have to be in favor of a bid waiver, according to the city.
So later in the same meeting, commissioners voted to undo their award of the contract to Miami Beach Tennis Management until the city manager could produce a written recommendation.
Now, Morales has written an opinion not to waive competitive bidding. But he wrote that he also stands by his original recommendation, which was to negotiate a new contract with top-ranked Miami Beach Tennis Management.
Illegal Rental Ads
Miami Beach wants to make it illegal to simply advertise the short-term rental of a single family home. The city outlaws rentals that are shorter than six months and one day as a way of discouraging “party houses.”
Commissioner Ed Tobin, who advocated for the issue, called it “one more tool” to discourage the disruptive rentals.
Promoters have been known to rent out fancy homes for loud parties that create traffic jams and bother neighbors. The city even has a special team of code compliance officers to deal with the problem of short-term rentals.
From 2012 to 2013, the team issued 189 notices of violations, according to a city memo on the matter. Of those, 81 percent were upheld at special master hearings. The city has found that 18.3 percent of those cases involve repeat offenders.
“One of the challenges faced by code staff has been the level of proof required by the special master; where the advertisement of the illegal short-term rental may only be used as part of the body of evidence to adjudicate illegal short-term rentals,” according to the memo.
Fines are heftiest when homes are rented out for commercial use, ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 for repeat violations. The new ordinance would prohibit a special master from waiving or amending the fines.
The item would need to pass two public hearings to become final.
The Florida Department of Transportation has been working on Alton Road to help relieve flooding in the area. At the request of a resident group, the state agreed to put medians in the road to make it more pedestrian friendly.
Now, businesses say the medians will impede access to storefronts and they want the medians removed.
Commissioner Tobin put the item on the agenda for discussion.
South of Fifth Restaurant
In the South of Fifth neighborhood, plans to build a rooftop restaurant at the foot of the Continuum condo has residents concerned about noise and parking, Commissioner Grieco said. He put the item on the agenda for discussion.
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