Miami Beach

Petition to require voter approval of height increases in Miami Beach stalls

Miami Herald file

It turns out organizing a ballot petition to restrict increasing maximum building heights in Miami Beach is a tall order.

Activists who want to put almost every height increase in the city to a public referendum hit a stumbling block Monday when the county accepted only about half of the 4,458 required voter signatures needed to put the initiative on the November ballot.

Earlier in July, local preservationist Daniel Ciraldo submitted 4,812 signatures to change the city’s charter so that all height increases greater than three feet would have to go to referendum. On Monday, the county notified the city that only 2,300 of those signatures were certified. Signatures of people who are not registered voters living in Miami Beach were thrown out.

That leaves Ciraldo and his group, called Save Miami Beach 2016, well short of their goal. Ciraldo said he has continued to gather signatures and will push to get the requisite number before Aug. 8, the last day to put the question before voters during the presidential election Nov. 8.

“I don’t see this as a failure,” he said. “I see this as a stumbling block.”

Time is not on their side. Even if they get the signatures, they would need the City Commission to call a special meeting to formally put the question on the ballot. The commission is not scheduled to meet in August.

But now the City Commission will consider putting another question on the November ballot related to building height. Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez wants to change the charter so that if a someone wanted to build taller than the maximum zoned height, it would need six votes from the seven-member commission to pass. Currently, the threshold is five votes out of seven.

According to Wednesday’s agenda, City Attorney Raul Aguila has recommended sending a nonbinding straw ballot to the voters that would ask if the City Commission should adopt an ordinance creating the tougher voting requirement for height increases. Commissioner Michael Grieco is co-sponsoring the item.

Ciraldo said while he intends to keep pushing for the charter amendment, he sees the proposed six-vote requirement as a good compromise.

Meanwhile, Aguila has already expressed reservations about the constitutionality of Save Miami Beach 2016’s proposed charter change. He points to a Florida law that prohibits such land use and development changes from being decided through voter referendum.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech