Miami Beach

Miami Beach considers tougher penalties for littering

New style garbage can used on Miami Beach demonstrated by heavy equipment operator, Ruben Arocha Friday Dec. 19, 2014.
New style garbage can used on Miami Beach demonstrated by heavy equipment operator, Ruben Arocha Friday Dec. 19, 2014. MIAMI HERALD FILE

Miami Beach may criminalize littering in an effort to deter beachgoers from using the sand as an ashtray and leaving behind cans and bottles.

On Wednesday, the City Commission also covered topics including incentives for preserving historic homes, a citywide ban on Styrofoam and plans for an accessible beach.

The main item

An ordinance making littering in the city’s parks and beaches a second-degree misdemeanor passed a initial vote.

Commissioner Michael Grieco proposed the measure. Mayor Philip Levine and commissioners Ed Tobin, Micky Steinberg and Jonah Wolfson supported it, although some of them wanted to see more options for enforcement on second reading.

Commissioners Joy Malakoff and Deede Weithorn voted against it, saying they felt that people should not have to pay a criminal penalty for littering. Weithorn questioned if a tougher law would actually change bad habits.

“You can’t legislate behavior,” she said.

Grieco was adamant that something needs to be done to prevent people from dropping cigarette butts, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles and bags on the ground in the city’s most treasured areas.

“I don’t know how frequently everybody up here goes to the beach. It’s a dump,” he said. “Go out to the beach at 5 p.m. It’s a dump.”

The matter will come back to the commission in October.

Other business

▪ A series of land-use items meant to create incentives for preserving old architecturally significant homes passed. Brought by Malakoff and supported by preservationists, the changes allow less lot coverage when building a new home for property owners who want to demolish homes built before 1942 and deemed architecturally significant.

▪ A citywide ban on polystyrene products (Styrofoam) received final approval Wednesday. Stores and restaurants will be banned from using polystyrene, with few exceptions. The city will reach out to businesses to explain the new prohibition through March. A warning period will ensue, then full enforcement with fines will begin in a year. The item was proposed by Grieco.

▪ Plans for an accessible beach and wellness center at Allison Park are moving forward. The park project was spearheaded by Sabrina Cohen, whose foundation supports adaptive fitness programs and research to help those living with paralysis. Commissioners gave their blessing for the planning process to continue after seeing concepts for the park.

They said it

You said it

The next meeting

▪ When: 5:01 p.m., Sept. 10; First budget hearing

▪ Where: 1700 Convention Center Dr., third floor