The Miami Shores Village Council on Tuesday approved two amendments submitted by the finance department for the 2015 fiscal year budget. The first change reappropriated $650,000 for unfinished projects. This transferred funds from last year’s budget into the new budget to pay for projects still in progress.
The second amendment increased revenues and fund transfers to reverse the 2014 budgetary deficit, which reflected changes in the previous fiscal year’s budget to keep all line items balanced. Village Manager Tom Benton called the the amendment, “a routine housekeeping item.”
Miami Shores also presented a certificate of appreciation to members of the Unity Ball, the fundraiser gala held on Nov.1. Councilwoman Ivonne Ledesma said these residents “worked hard to celebrate diversity in our community.”
“A hundred percent of all the proceeds went to benefit local community organizations that provide and create programs to educate, culturally stimulate and support inclusive practices,” said Ledesma, who said the gala raised over $90,000. “I really wanted to thank you for your effort. This was a great community event.”
Police Chief Kevin Lystad requested two items for the council to consider. The first consideration, which was approved without discussion, authorized village staff to apply for the Federal Drug Control And System Improvement Formula Grant program, which the village applies for every year.
The chief’s second request came with a heavier cost: $125,000 to pay for programs, equipment and service that include a police car, traffic control storage shed, computer voice stress analyzer, emergency staging tent for disaster preparedness and K-9 unit.
Vice Mayor Jesse Walters questioned Lystad on what would be included in the $55,000 line amount for the K-9 unit.
“For that amount of money what we’d end up getting is a vehicle specially outfitted for a K-9 unit, the K-9 dog, which is about $12,000, and the training and the equipment necessary for a handler,” Lystad said.
His request passed without dissent.
FENCE HEIGHT POLICY
Ledesma revisited the village’s fence height policy, an item she originally introduced to council last meeting. One resident, who supported her motion, gathered 150 signatures requesting a review of the current policy.
Village rules permit a home to have a five-foot fence in the rear and side and a three-and-a-half foot fence in the front. Ledesma asked the council to consider increasing the back height to six feet. Staff indicated that an estimated 90 percent of residents who inquire about permits ask about installing six foot fences. Last month, there were about 18 applicants who wanted the six-foot height instead of five feet.
“The six feet high fences are basically the standard,” she said. “Our code enforcement officer says that he has to stop approximately two fence installations per month with property owners attempting to install six-feet fences without a permit.”
Councilman Hunt Davis called himself not “diametrically opposed” to reviewing the policy, but said it was the consideration was the local equivalent to “raising the speed limit because people want to speed.”
“It’s a decision that we made numerous times in the last few years as far as high we wanted our fences,” Davis said. “We just did a complete code rewrite that had the fence height issue in there.”
Davis reminded council that this consideration was more than simply fence height and suggested that the members of the Planning and Zoning board were best suited to determine if the fence height should be increased.
Councilman Jim McCoy asked to send the reconsideration to PNZ as a re-evaluation and require them to come back with a recommendation. The council agreed to review the village’s fence policies and reconsider height, fences screening and materials.
MIAMI SHORES MOTEL
In other business, Walters introduced a discussion on the Miami Shores Motel, which he called “an eyesore.”
“There’s recently been a rape there and there’s been some other horrific crimes,” Walters said. “The people that live in close proximity to it are very upset and concerned.”
Before the item was discussed, McCoy asked legal advice from Village Attorney Richard Sarafan, about the appropriateness of an issue that he considered quasi-judicial. At this time, there are multiple pending code violation cases against the motel, at 10500 Biscayne Blvd.
Walters continued with counsel’s advice, opting to discuss potential redevelopment of the area. Tom Benton updated the council.
The manager recalled that six months ago, motel management discussed a growing interest to build an upscale five-story full-service hotel. Conceptual plans were shown to staff, but no further discussions were held. He indicated before anything was approved, zoning changes and other issues would need to be explored. The current area is zoned for a hotel.
“Since January, at least three architects have come and visited with myself and [Miami Shores zoning director] David Dacquisto,” Benton said. “I have not had any follow up discussions other than the one meeting with these three different independent architects.”