Bay Harbor Islands residents raise overdevelopment fears

Bay Harbor Islands residents and town officials expressed concerns over the transfer of development rights of over 80 units to three new building projects at a monthly meeting on Feb. 11.

Fear of over-development was on the minds of those who spoke out against the approval of these transactions.

“Until what point do you continue to approve projects and TDRs?” said Susan Luck, Bay Harbor Islands resident.

The transfer of development rights — created for historical preservation and the creation and preservation of public open spaces in urban areas — was first allowed in Bay Harbor Islands in 2005. Essentially, it allows property owners to sell their entitled development rights of the air above open spaces or undeveloped buildings.

Some Bay Harbor Islands citizens fear bigger and denser projects being built because of the use of TDRs.

“I think we are thoughtful citizens. We are being mindful of the community we are growing old in,” Luck said.

Some town officials justified the use of a TDR program as being controlled.

“We have very low height limits. We have low density limits. You have very small lots. There is only so much you can build here,” said town planner Michael Miller.

Miller spoke in response to concerns by some town council members such as Councilwoman Stephanie Bruder, who questioned him on whether the town was being mindful of avoiding a seesaw effect with one side of the island developed more heavily than the other.

Resident and professional designer Teri D’Amico questioned town officials on the origin of the TDRs.

“If we are doing responsible development, then we should know where the TDRs are coming from,” D’Amico said.

D’Amico is among a group of citizens who have advocated against the misuse of TDRs in Bay Harbor Islands in recent months.

She, as well as fellow resident Kelly Reid, expressed growing concerns by the Planning and Zoning Board over the approval of projects that are dependent on the approval of TDRs.

“There is a big communication gap between you and the [Planning and Zoning Board], and I implore you to bridge that gap,” Reid said.

Assistant town attorney Frank Simone reminded all involved that the Planning and Zoning Board is a board with very limited jurisdiction.

“Their role is merely to determine whether it fits within the code — harmonious,” Simone said. “It’s an art and a science.”

However, some council members still agreed that the concerns should be addressed.

In a 5-2 vote, the council approved the sale of 23 TDRs from the town to an approved development project at 9261 East Bay Harbor Dr. In 4-3 votes, the town also approved the transfer of 24 TDRs to an approved project at 1025-1035 92nd St. and 34 TDRs to an approved project at 9940 West Bay Harbor Dr.

In related business, Councilman Yaffe requested discussion of the addition of entrance features to new multifamily development projects, in addition to the need for guest parking.

“Where are visitors going to park?” Yaffe urged.

The parking issue has been one of the driving forces for those opposed to the new developments being proposed and approved recently. The fear is that projects are being built that will house more units than the town can provide parking for.

Concerns were expressed, however, that these items were discussed after the approval of so many projects and TDR transactions.

Town staff members were directed to come back with a proposed change to the town’s ordinance addressing both issues.

In other business, Vice Mayor Jordan Leonard introduced a new Domestic Partnership and Family Coverage town ordinance that would give benefits to living partners of employees without having to be married, provided they are registered with Miami-Dade County.

Upon first reading and after some discussion among council and staff members, the ordinance passed unanimously.