The Miami Beach Commission deferred most of an ordinance that would limit the size of new homes built in the city, passing only increased setback requirements for the homes.
In an unanimous vote, the commission put off by at least six months any significant action on the proposal, which has pitted those advocating for property rights against those who want to protect the Beach from disproportionately large single-family homes.
The commission passed, however, increased setback requirements for single-family homes. According to the new guidelines, which were passed in a second and final reading, two-story homes must be set back 30 feet, instead of the current 20 feet, from the front of their properties. Side setbacks, for both two- and one-story homes larger than 6,000 square feet, will increase to 10 feet from 7 ½ feet.
“We feel very strongly that the setbacks are absolutely urgent,” said Commissioner Joy Malakoff, who sponsored the ordinance.
Setbacks, she said, are meant to preserve privacy between homes, enhance compatibility across neighborhoods and conserve green space that will absorb rainwater and prevent flooding amid rising sea levels.
The other measures that comprised the ordinance, which were deferred for a minimum of six months, suggested scaling back:
▪ “Unit size,” or the total square footage of the home, from 50 to 45 percent of the property;
▪ Total lot coverage, or a home’s footprint, from 30 percent to 25 percent;
▪ Maximum roof height for one-story houses to 18 feet for sloped roofs and 15 feet for flat roofs.
Proponents of the ordinance, a majority of whom sported stickers saying, “Stop McMansions,” say the aesthetic flair of Miami Beach is compromised by the large, modern homes that replace historic, Art Deco-style structures.
Opponents, however, say preservation impedes valuable development and infringe on property rights.
“These preservationists that want to save these homes … they’re not savable,” said Ralph Choeff, an architect who has designed numerous Miami Beach homes in recent years.
Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who voted in favor of the ordinance on first reading in December, said “there is value in maintaining who we are and what our homes look like. Her own Miami Beach residence is a restored structure, she said.
“I’d still make 100 percent return on my investment if I decided to put it on the market, but I’m not a pig about it,” she said.
This is not the first time in recent history that building limitations for single-family homes has been discussed in City Hall.
In February 2014, Commissioner Michael Grieco pointed out, the commission voted to eliminate city-sanctioned leeway in maximum unit sizes and established the current limit of 50 percent. Previously, a house on a 10,000-square-foot lot could be as big as 7,000 square feet, or 70 percent of the property.
According to data culled by city planner Tom Mooney, fewer than 10 percent of the city’s nearly 5,000 homes exceed 45 percent unit size, or 45 percent of the property.