Thursday, November 29, 2018

What If We Just Say No?

In October in a poorly advertised special meeting, the commission passed the first step of an all encompassing ordinance that would make significant changes to the Unified Land Development on the northern side of the JFK Causeway, along with changing the way the commission can spend the impact fees and for some reason, changing the dock lifts.   

The ordinance has a lot in it and it's probably a good idea to review our whole building code but it's important to remember that the ordinance as structured takes only into account the needs of the people who own the property and want to build there.  There is much left out.  

  • While the standards in building meet state and county requirements, there is nothing further about the unique resiliency requirements of our man made islands.  
  • The traffic impact is not quantified.   
  • The change to the setbacks - distance from the roadway - from 60' to 30' might improve parking but it does nothing to enhance the pedestrian experience or the use of transportation.
  • The parking proposals are reasonable for new construction but nowhere is the need for shared public parking explicitly addressed.   
  • The amount set aside for commercial use is too small for a vibrant commercial community.  
There was a workshop, poorly presented but well attended, to discuss the need for these changes.  

There is a need for most of the changes, but not all of them, and the workshop did not address the civic benefit of allowing higher buildings with a lessened setbacks nor the concerns about the impact on the village.  

Instead it seemed to be the accepted wisdom that we "need to develop the land and it needs to be profitable for the current owners."   

But what if we don't?  What if we don't change the ordinance?   What will we, the residents here in North Bay Village lose?   

Tax Base:  I've been hearing that tired argument for 20 years.  Each new project, the Lexi, the Fortress 360, the Bridgewater, the Yellow Building, all the way the back to the Grandview were going to expand the tax base and keep our taxes low.  

But they didn't.  Our taxes have gone up year over year and we rank right in the middle of Miami-Dade tax zones, with very low service - small parks, no big community activities, no real livability plan.   We are a high tax, low service village and the addition of the new condos didn't help that.  Maybe it made it worse?

Home Value:  Does the introduction of a new strip of high rises along the causeway bring up our home values?   That's questionable.  Probably it will overall but we have not seen the growth in value that Miami Shores (no high rises to speak of) or Surfside (controlled midrise buildings) have seen.  We've barely moved on the needle and our inventory does not turn over quickly.   

Enhanced Open Spaces for Community Access:  Really?  Of all the bullshit we've been fed, this is the worst.  Each of these new buildings, with the sole exception of Moda, flat out stole our bayfront access and have refused, with the collaboration of the village, to open their legally required easements to the public.  This land grab has happened in plain sight and with the soft corruption of the administration.   The public land is for private purpose only.  

The Developers Can't Make a Profit:  Oh.  The people who sold the land did and it's not our civic issue that knowing the rules, the developers bet on a certain willingness to change them.   

Back to the Question:

What if the commission simply rejects the new ordinance?  They should regardless because it is deeply flawed and at a minimum needs to be broken out into its constituent parts for consideration.   
Well, the developers still have zoning to build, just not as high as they want, and not as close to the curb as they want, and not as small as they want, and without the parking reductions they want.  

That's probably not optimal but it could give the Village some breathing room to focus on fixing the infrastructure, on opening the existing walkways, on updating the code to match the hyperlocal challenges of sea level rise, and I don't see where it would have any negative effect on the current community.   

Back to our neighboring cities - Miami Shores has increased notably more than North Bay Village.  Controlled development has been a net good for them and Surfside, which has seen a midrise construction boom, is thriving.   It seems what really brings value to the existing community is open spaces, access to places we want to go and proper planning.   So maybe we should consider it.  

Kevin Vericker
November 28, 2018

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