Some residents are upset about a ballot question on property sales and leases of publicly-owned land for next week’s Miami Beach election, but commissioners assure the public the change is in keeping with how the city does business.
The change is simple.
As it stands, to make decisions on sales and leases longer than 10 years for city-owned property, a super majority of the Redevelopment Agency board — made up of the seven Miami Beach commissioners and Bruno Barreiro, a Miami-Dade county commissioner — must vote in favor. The planning board must vote in favor, four out of seven, as well.
The super majority six out of seven vote is written into the charter, even though ever since the incorporation of the City Commission into the RDA board in 1983, land decisions are made by the eight-member RDA board.
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The ballot measure changes the language of the charter, designating that votes on sales or leases ten years or longer must be approved by a four out of seven vote by the planning board and a seven out of eight vote from the RDA.
Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco, who proposed the ballot measure, called it a simple cleanup.
“Sometimes you have to make simple little changes to make the law consistent,” he said. “Any change of a period, a colon, a comma, a number, in the charter has to go to a referendum.”
Sales of waterfront property, or other specific areas mentioned in the charter, must still go to a city vote.
He said the success — or failure — of the measure would have zero impact on how the RDA does business. It simply makes the language consistent with the way the city does business now.
The two separate legal entities operate within City Commission meetings. Commissioners will halt their meeting, add in Barreiro, and reconvene as the RDA for RDA business. When completed, they dismiss Barreiro and resume the commission meeting.
“It’s the most innocent clean up act,” Grieco said.
Not everyone sees it the same way.
Frank Del Vecchio, city activist and former attorney, calls the measure a mistake that could create a major legal loophole. Del Vecchio said the switch from commission power to RDA power leaves an opportunity for a “clever lawyer” to challenge the city’s ownership over a piece of city property.
Del Vecchio said the lawyer could argue that only the RDA’s approval is needed to sell property, bypassing a vote from either the community or the commission.
Currently, the commission and the RDA board are comprised of the same members (save for the addition of the county commissioner on the RDA board). But because they’re independent organizations, technically, the future RDA board could be made up of members appointed by the commission, leaving Miami Beach citizens with decisions made over their land by people they didn’t vote for.
However, the law states the RDA board and the commission are one and the same, with the addition of the county commissioner for the RDA’s full board of eight.
Even though changing the makeup of the RDA’s board would require the law to change — which Grieco said was unlikely — Del Vecchio doesn’t agree with the ballot item.
“The two [entities] are separate; they have to be separate,” Del Vecchio said. “This is simply a mistake.”