Miami Beach will consider a $6.5 million facelift to North Shore Open Space Park that will includes new walking paths, lighting, shade structures and landscaping.
On Wednesday, the city commission’s finance committee reviewed a concept developed with city staff and international architecture firm West 8. After noting the continuing maintenance costs for a renovated park would total about $360,000, or about $150,000 more than it currently costs, the committee agreed to take the concept to the full commission.
The beachfront park lies on Collins Avenue from 78th Street to 87th Terrace.
Carmen Sanchez, deputy planning director, told commissioners the city has a vision for the park that includes a new beach walk made of recycled rubber, removal of invasive plants and lighting along longer walking paths throughout the park, all to attract people more consistently throughout the week.
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“There’s weekend overuse and weekend underuse of the park,” Sanchez said.
The money for the renovation comes from a $10 million payment from a developer who is seeking to redevelop the property directly north of the park, at 8701 Collins Ave. Commissioners have decided to spend about $6.5 million on the park and keep the rest for future North Beach projects.
Parking impact fees
In other business, the committee also discussed the strategy for collecting unpaid parking impact fees meant to improve the city’s parking facilities.
There is a program where developers can pay a fee for each parking space they cannot provide for new construction. For a change in use of an existing building, like a restaurant adding more seats, there is a smaller annual fee to be paid.
Miami Beach hopes to collect about $7 million of the $19 million that went uncollected due to billing issues during the past 20 years from businesses. The administration is recommending writing off about $13 million of the fees — which were supposed to be paid by businesses like South Beach hotels and restaurants — due to the statute of limitations, the businesses have closed or the fee was miscalculated in the past.
Assistant City Manager Joe Jimenez, who along with Sanchez oversaw the eight-month internal review of the fee program, asked for direction on how go after the money that was not billed or billed incorrectly.
In a city where finding a parking spot is a common headache, some of these businesses include:
▪ Edgewater Hotel - $950,000
▪ Victor Hotel - $430,000
▪ Apple Hotel - $720,000
▪ SoHo Beach House - $460,000
Yearly fees, establishment has closed
▪ Gold’s Gym - $217,650
▪ Taverna Opa - $270,900
▪ Clarke’s - $72,800
The committee asked staffers to pursue the fees that should be easy to get, including about $3.8 million in escrow accounts, and decided to give the city’s newly-formed audit committee the task of carefully analyzing the rest of the accounts on a case-by-case basis to determine a fair plan to collect.
Commissioner Ed Tobin suggested the city should hire an outside agency to examine the accounts so city staffers don’t have to.
“We need to hire an outside firm that understands and let them get on this,” he said.
Commissioners Micky Steinberg and Michael Grieco suggested using a collection agency to pursue some of the businesses who may have close locations on the Beach but still operate elsewhere.
Sidewalk cafe fees
A possible increase to the fees restaurant owners have to pay for sidewalk cafes was discussed. The committee decided to revisit the matter during next year’s budget talks, in the fall of 2015, where it may consider a $5 per-square-foot rent increase, which is currently set at $20. Representatives from several of these cafes, which are popular on Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive in South Beach, asked commissioners to consider the long-term impacts any increase would have on businesses.
Marlo Courtney, chairman of the Ocean Drive Association, told commissioners that they should be careful not to price cafes out of the area with rent hikes. Steven Gombinski, president of the Lincoln Road Property Owners Association, echoed Courtney.
“A reasonable amount should be the subject of further conversation,” he said.
Grieco, who was present but does not have a vote on the committee, said he opposes any kind of increase until after a few large projects along Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road are completed in the coming years.
“I think even a modest increase is poor timing,” he said. “I want to put a pause on this until after the projects are done.”
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