Bay Harbor Islands council members agreed Monday to a change in land-use rules that could allow slightly larger condo towers.
The town council on Monday tentatively approved an ordinance to revise the code’s definition of total building coverage for properties in the RM3 district, which is comprised of five waterfront buildings on the Eastern Island.
If the ordinance is adopted on final reading, balconies would be removed from the equation as they are in the town’s two other districts. Town staff has said that its inclusion was likely a mistake since no other zoning code in the county includes this practice.
“We found it very unusual that the definition includes that provision,” said town planner Michael Miller.
But there has been considerable opposition from residents, who fear this change could mean obscured views and neighboring balconies too close for comfort.
When residents discussed their reservations, ultimately, it came back to the legislation’s implications on the property at 1135 103rd St., which is under contract to be purchased and developed by P3 Investments.
P3 Investments is the driving force behind this legislation, and its team has been a constant presence at town meetings.
Some residents are reluctant to support the code amendment because they fear it will give the developer more liberty with design plans. Encroachment into the setback was a prevalent concern at last Tuesday’s public workshop, which was well-attended by the property’s neighbors.
So the neighbors were less than thrilled when the P3 team came back to the Monday meeting with an additional request.
An attorney representing the contract purchaser, Steve Wernick of Akerman LLP, asked the Town Council for a clause that would allow, on a case-by-case basis, for “balconies to encroach into the front and rear areas subject to the Planning and Zoning board.”
But some saw this as opening the door for “spot zoning.”
Resident Hector Gualda says while he could “accept” the proposed code amendment, he did not want there to be the possibility of encroachment into the setbacks. Gualda, who lives next door to the property, says any encroachment could affect the view from his apartment.
“Don’t turn it into a gray code,” Gualda said. “Keep it black and white.”
Wernick’s request also did not sit well with Councilwoman Stephanie Bruder.
“Either play in the box that is there or go home,” Bruder said.
However, Councilman Joshua Fuller saw some merit in Wernick’s suggestion and instead proposed an amendment that would allow the Planning and Zoning board to disregard the zoning code to recommend minor modifications.
Fuller says this will prevent developers from having to come back to the board with a completely new design to accommodate the board’s suggestions. An example, he says, would be if the board wanted to add a ladder for safety.
But Bruder was still not on board.
The Planning and Zoning Board is “appointed, and we are elected,” Bruder said. “We have to answer to the community.”
Council members considered the code amendment with Fuller’s proposal, but it was voted down 4-2 with Fuller and Mayor Robert Yaffe in support. Councilman Isaac Salver was absent.
“I am standing with no encroachment,” Councilwoman Kelly Reid said. “They have so much room in the RM3 that two or three feet into the setback is really negligible.”
The council then unanimously passed the version of the amendment which would not permit encroachment into the setback.
For the code to be amended, council members must pass the ordinance on second reading at the Nov. 10 meeting.