In July, Miami Beach became the first Florida city to ban Styrofoam, also known as polystyrene, from city parks, city vendors and restaurants that operate on city sidewalks, including busy Lincoln Road.
The city follows a growing nationwide trend that has municipalities banning plastic and polystyrene containers to prevent plastic pollution along parks and waterways. Supporters of the ban say inappropriate disposal of the products harms land and marine wildlife, clogs storm sewers, interferes with landfill operations and breeds mosquitoes.
On Tuesday, North Miami Beach council members discussed a similar measure, but backed away.
Instead, North Miami Beach commissioners voted to undertake a one-year educational campaign to discourage use of polystyrene packaging.
Commissioners provided no money for the effort, however.
At first, the resolution was pulled from discussion by Councilwoman Barbara Kramer.
“There were concerns from my colleagues and myself that even though it says here clearly, just to ‘urge,’ I want to make sure that if this gets out, or is the newspaper, that we would like everyone to do this, but I don’t want to deter any new businesses from coming here,” said Kramer.
Council member Anthony DeFillipo, who originally wanted a citywide ban, said the educational campaign is one step forward in protecting the environment.
“There were concerns my colleagues had about the period of time so we made it a one-year period, something that is doable for our community,” said DeFillipo.
But Michael DeFilippi, an activist who leads cleanup campaigns to remove plastic debris from the Miami-Dade County waterways and was one of the leaders that spearheaded the Miami Beach ban, said he was disappointed.
“Originally, North Miami Beach had a resolution which would’ve prohibited the sale and usage of polystyrene at city facilities and special events. They’ve completely changed direction,” said DeFilippi. “Initially they could’ve led by example without mandating any businesses to do it. Now they are going in the educational path, with no mention of city facilities or special events. I’m not sure what scared them.”
There is no funding for the educational campaign, but the city plans to spread the word on the city’s website, newsletters, the library, and youth and summer camp programs.
In other news, the council voted unanimously 7-0, to approve a variance to waive 20 feet of the required 25 feet setback to build a new headquarters for a Jiu-Jitsu business, at 16348 NE 26th Ave., near the Eastern Shores neighborhood.
The Lasarte Law Firm and attorney Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, who also is a state senator, represented Valente Brothers Jiu-Jitsu. The lawyers requested site plan modifications to demolish the current one-story, 5,400-square-foot office building and replace it with building nearly twice that size. The plan calls for an 11,000-square-foot, one-story building.
“For me, knowing the Valentes for the last 14 years, it is truly a real honor for them to decide to make North Miami Beach their home. It’s a true blessing for our community. It’s a beautiful building for the area, and the fact that I know the caliber of people that train there, I can assure everyone that our city is a much better place for having this school here, “ said Mayor George Vallejo.
The city’s budget hearings are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Sept. 9 and Sept. 23 at City Hall.
City officials also are encouraging residents to attend a series of meetings to discuss strategic plans for North Miami Beach. The schedule:
• Sept. 15, 6:30 p.m. at the McDonald Center, 17051 NE 19th Ave.
• Sept. 22, 6:30 p.m. at the Eden Isles Clubhouse, 16975 NE 35th Ave.
• Oct. 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the Highland Village Community Center, 13551 NE 21st Ave.
For questions, call the city’s Planning and Zoning Division at 305-948-2966.