Miami Beach

Miami Beach commissioners talk North Beach traffic

City Manager Jimmy Morales, Commissioner Joy Malakoff, Mayor Philip Levine, Commissioner Micky Steinberg, and City Clerk Rafael Granado pose for a photo before Wednesday’s commission meeting. City commissioners and staff wore costumes from different periods of Miami Beach’s history in the spirit of the city’s upcoming centennial celebration.
City Manager Jimmy Morales, Commissioner Joy Malakoff, Mayor Philip Levine, Commissioner Micky Steinberg, and City Clerk Rafael Granado pose for a photo before Wednesday’s commission meeting. City commissioners and staff wore costumes from different periods of Miami Beach’s history in the spirit of the city’s upcoming centennial celebration. Miami Herald Staff

The Miami Beach city commission wants to have the 63rd Street drawbridge locked down during rush hour.

At Wednesday’s city commission meeting, Commissioner Micky Steinberg raised the issue that frequently causes headaches for drivers in North Beach. Traffic snarls are inevitable when the drawbridge is raised for boats traveling through Indian Creek during peak traffic hours.

“Unfortunately, during rush hour, it can go up as much as three to four times a regular day, non-holiday, non-weekend,” she said. “That’s a bit excessive for us trying to make traffic flow in our city.”

Michael Liebrum, of the local U.S. Coast Guard bridge administration branch, told the commission that if it wants a formal regulation developed, the city needs to make its request to the Coast Guard as soon as it can because the process takes about a year.

“Our regulation process is rather long. If we don’t get started now, it’ll never happen,” he said.

Commissioner Michael Grieco echoed Steinberg’s concerns as he decried the traffic snarls created during rush hour when a boat wants to cross.

“I can make an official request. Don’t lock down the city for one boat,” he said. “I mean, that’s what ends up happening. For one person on one boat, hundreds of people are negatively impacted.”

The city administration will determine the hours it will request to keep the bridge down.

Similarly, Grieco requested the city work with organizers of the annual boat show to coordinate better times to lift the bridge while the yachts move in and out of the creek.

Other business included:

▪ Commissioners approved a new contract for City Manager Jimmy Morales, who’s getting a raise. Morales was hired to run the city’s administration in April 2013 under a two-year contract for a salary of $255,000. On Wednesday, commissioners approved a four-year contract for an annual salary of $262,650 with a one-time $25,500 non-pensionable bonus to be given March 31. Morales would get 20 weeks of severance pay should he be fired without cause.

▪ The city settled a dispute with the Miami Beach Community Church and and developer South Beach Tristar, LLC. The Lincoln Road church wants to lease its courtyard, a swath of green space fronting Lincoln Road, to the developer to build a retail store.

The church would get $100 million from the deal. The project got the greenlight from the Historic Preservation Board last fall despite the revelation that the developer had given the church a $500,000 donation the day before the congregation voted on the matter, as reported in the Miami New Times.

After the project got the green light from the city’s Historic Preservation Board (HPB) without considering the donation, the Miami Design Preservation League appealed to the city’s Special Master, or a city-appointed judge who hears matters related to code compliance and land use. That judge ruled the HPB had made a mistake when it didn’t consider the donation.

The church and developer appealed the decision, and the matter went into mediation. According to the settlement approved Wednesday, the developer has to take measures to protect the church during construction. The church is also required to set aside $2.5 million toward protection, repair and restoration of the church.

▪ To commemorate the city’s upcoming centennial celebration, Morales encouraged city employees to dress up in period clothing from different decades in Miami Beach’s history. Some came in slick, pastel-and-cream colored outfits from the 1980s. Others wore pinstripe suits from the 1920s. Morales wore an Elvis suit for the first half of the day.

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