Miami Beach

Town postpones decision on change to development rules

Bay Harbor Islands commissioners postponed action last week on a proposal that would increase the size of buildings that developers can put on a given piece of land.

The zoning code amendment would remove exterior balconies from being calculated as part of the total building coverage in the RM3 district, which encompasses five waterfront buildings on the East Island. Currently, the district allows for building on 40 percent of the property.

A town study revealed that Bay Harbor Islands was unique in its practice of including balconies in its calculations.

“We researched other communities around us and we couldn’t find any other community that had such a standard,” town planner Craig Miller said.

But the proposal met resistance from some residents, who feared what this would mean for town aesthetics.

“I am opposed to changing it because when you increase the footprint of a building you increase noise and block views,” said Juan Llarena, a resident in the district.

Council members agreed to plan a workshop that would invite the planning and zoning board to provide input. No date was set for the workshop at the meeting.

“I would like to hear from the planning and zoning committee and what their recommendations are,” said councilwoman Stephanie Bruder. “They are the architects that we have appointed.”

The proposed code amendment proposal added fuel to what has become a contentious issue in Bay Harbor Islands. Controversy about development was elevated when a national historic-preservation group called Bay Harbor Islands’ East Island “one of America’s 11 most endangered historic places” in July.

Some residents see the proposed code amendment as another threat to the East Island. Resident Hector Gualda urged council members to “stop posturing themselves for negative attention.”

“Those couple of people that asked for this do not depend on you to preserve the quality of life in this town,” Gualda said. “Let’s be clear on this. … Why is there an obligation on your part to consider requests from a developer that has nothing to do with our life here?”

In other business, the town also held its first hearing on the 2015 budget.

Kathleen Kennedy was one of the two residents who addressed the council at the hearing, and requested the budget set aside money for body cameras for policemen. She also thanked finance director Alan Short for reviewing the budget with her.

“He gave me an hour of his time in his busy schedule,” she said. “We went over the budget together and I suggest that every citizen do that. I was very satisfied with his explanations.”

The next budget hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 22 on the second floor of Town Hall, 9665 Bay Harbor Terr.