Bay Harbor Islands officials and residents gathered Tuesday for a public workshop about the possibility of correcting what town staff say was a mistake in its zoning code, but no action was taken.
Currently, the code includes balconies in its total building coverage calculations in the RM3 district, which encompasses five waterfront buildings on the Eastern Island. That has the effect of allowing slightly smaller buildings than would be allowed if balconies were not included in the calculations.
But according to assistant town attorney Frank Simone, this practice cannot be found anywhere else in Miami-Dade County, including the town’s other two districts.
“I think it was missed here because nowhere else does this occur,” Simone said.
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The zoning code amendment would remove balconies from the equation, a change supported by Pininfarina, a well-known Italian architecture design firm planning to build in the RM3 district.
“All we are looking for is flexibility in design,” said Steve Wernick, attorney representing the contract purchaser for the property.
However, not everyone sees the present code as a mistake.
Some residents in attendance toted signs that read “Save our Small Town” and “Stop Over-development.”
“I would argue that it is not us who made the mistake,” resident Juan Llarena said. “It is Miami Beach, Surfside and Bal Harbour.”
Resident Hector Gualda added that he was attracted to Bay Harbor Islands because of the town’s uniqueness.
“I didn’t move to any of those areas” he said. “I moved here because of the small-town charm.”
New condo development projects have made residents increasingly wary of legislation regarding planning and zoning. Their fears of construction noise, obscured views and parking are echoed at each council meeting.
And so when the zoning code amendment was proposed at the September meeting, some residents raised objections and the proposal was tabled in favor of the workshop.
The primary concerns addressed Tuesday were that developers would build spacious balconies that would block waterfront views and create encroachment into the setback, which they fear will allow neighboring balconies to get too close.
“You’d be having a tea party with your neighbor,” resident Francis Neuhut said.
But the members of the town planning and zoning board present contended that their concerns were overblown.
“I think people are making a bigger deal of this than it is,” board chair Steven Hurwitz said.
Others said they welcomed the change if it will allow Pininfarina to carry out its vision, although no plans have been released. They see a future for Bay Harbor Islands as a luxury vacation destination similar to Bal Harbour.
“These people will get us in the game,” said Martin Kaplan, who owns property in the town.
Ultimately, Town Council members agreed that they could support the zoning code amendment.
“I think it should be consistent with the RM1 and RM2,” Mayor Robert Yaffe said. “I would like to see the larger terraces”
Councilman Isaac Salver said he believes Pininfarina coming to the town will be a “great opportunity.”
“I am grateful that a company like Pininfarina is interested in doing an upscale project within the guidelines that we have set forth,” he said.
The proposed amendment will be considered at the council meeting 7 p.m. Monday on the second floor of Town Hall, 9665 Bay Harbor Terr.