Bay Harbor Islands residents rejected a measure to allow taller buildings on the tips of the east island, dealing a blow to the two developers who spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying for its passage.
More than 60 percent of voters said no to the proposed amendment, which would have changed the town’s maximum property height from 75 feet to 120 feet, or 11 stories, on six plots of land. There were 1,122 no votes and 643 yes votes.
As a result, the town-wide, 75-foot limit will remain in effect, though residents and the Town Council can still approve taller buildings on a case-by-case basis.
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Luxury real estate developers Valerio Morabito and Ugo Colombo lobbied the Town Council to put the question on the ballot after purchasing the Bay Harbor Continental for $20.5 million last November, then demolishing it. The design they wanted to build — a 120-foot-tall luxury condo tower — was taller than the town charter permitted.
They spent $50,000 campaigning for the measure, and they hired lawyer Neisen Kasdin, a former Miami Beach mayor, to draft the language.
“You always try to build the best possible building for the site,” Morabito told the Herald last month. “This was the best legal approach to do what we wanted to do.”
On Election Day, residents pushed back, choosing to keep the town’s height limits as they are.
The measure was a source of tension in the weeks before the election. At a meeting between Morabito and residents of Island Pointe, a condominium included in the amendment, several expressed concerns that the new condo tower would obstruct their views of Biscayne Bay and, in doing so, diminish property values.
The vote is the latest iteration of a years-long clash between developers and preservationists on Bay Harbor Islands. The town is known for its historic MiMo architecture, but a luxury-condo boom has placed several of those mid-century buildings in the path of the bulldozer. In 2014, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the east island — one of the town’s two islands, connected by the Broad Causeway — to a list of the 11 most endangered historic places in the country.