Historic home, license-plate readers on Miami Beach’s agenda

Miami Beach commissioners meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall for their regular monthly meeting. On the agenda are proposals to deny historic designation for the mansion at 42 Star Island, create an historic overlay district along Alton Road, help tamp down on corruption, and more.

42 Star Island

Commissioner Jonah Wolfson is asking fellow commissioners to reconsider a decision by the city’s Historic Preservation Board to pursue historic designation for the home at 42 Star Island. The white mansion overlooking the MacArthur Causeway has been at the center of a feud between preservationists who want to protect the home, and the celebrity couple that owns it. The owners — plastic surgeon Leonard Hochstein and his wife, Lisa, who is a cast member of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Miami — want to tear down the home to build a new one.

Alton Road historic district

Miami Beach Commissioners will decide whether to set a hearing date to consider implementing a historic overlay district along the east side of Alton Road between Sixth and 11th streets, 14th and 15th streets and 17th Street to the Collins Canal.

Some of the proposals would restrict the height and types of development allowed in the area, limit the types of uses allowed and require conditional use permits for business that are 10,000-square feet of bigger.

The idea for an overlay district was considered as far back as 2009. It’s coming up again because of a companion parking ordinance that is related to the overlay district. The parking proposal would allow developments that meet certain criteria to provide fewer parking spaces. Richard Lorber, the city’s acting planning director, said that the developer of the old South Shore Hospital site wants to take advantage of the reduced parking requirements for that mixed-use project.


Commissioners Michael Góngora and Jerry Libbin, both of whom are running for mayor, have separate proposals to address transparency and corruption in city business.

Góngora is asking commissioners to send a referral to the Finance Committee to discuss adding a budget item to hire an inspector general.

Góngora said that he got the idea from a conversation with new City Manager Jimmy Morales, who suggested creating the position. Góngora says the position would work much in the same way that the city’s special masters work: they’re paid by the city but work independently from it.

“I believe if we had some outside, independent person that was in charge of investigating these claims, I believe that the employees would be more comfortable reporting it,” Góngora said.

Libbin, meanwhile, wants to change the city’s rules so that commissioners have to publicly announce voting conflicts.

The city requires commissioners to file a memo explaining any conflict-of-interest issues that prevent them from voting on an agenda item. As the rules now stand, that memo is read into the meeting record, usually by the city clerk, before discussion on the item begins.

Libbin’s proposal would also require commissioners, if they’re in attendance at the meeting, to publicly state “the nature of the officer’s interest in the matter from which he is abstaining from participation.”

License plate readers

The Miami Beach Police Department wants to use $95,000 from the department’s forfeiture fund to buy and install license plate readers along the Venetian Causeway.

The readers would be able to read motor vehicle tags at any time, and the tag information would be compared to a database of messages that would range from vehicles or drivers involved in felonies to traffic related offenses, according to a memo from Morales to commissioners.

Residents of the causeway have asked the city to also install surveillance cameras at the drawbridge for emergency situations.

Earlier this year, a man died after it took almost 30 minutes for Miami Beach Fire Rescue to reach his home on the Venetian Islands. The man’s widow said that rescue workers told her they were delayed because the bridge had been up. A city investigation revealed that the dispatcher didn’t alert rescue workers to the call for help until 14 minutes after it came in.

The city says they already have procedures for dealing with the bridge in emergency situations, and isn’t recommending installing the cameras there.

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