On June 24, the Miami City Commission will have the chance to make three small changes to correct one major oversight in the Miami 21 building code.
Item 9001 would revise the definition of “neighborhood;” require that the code’s clear, everyday language be followed; and mandate that the “Intent” be respected so that the code’s No. 1 stated goal of “preserving neighborhoods” actually happens.
First, Miami 21 now defines a neighborhood as “a partial or entire standard pedestrian shed,” meaning the distance a person can walk in five minutes. The proposed amendment would require that “the zoning administrator shall consider, at a minimum, whether the urbanized area has been designated as a Neighborhood Conservation District, or as a designated Historic District, or is commonly referred to by its residents by one of the following descriptive designations: Little Haiti, Upper East Side, Overtown, Brickell, Little Havana, West Flagler, Wynwood Art District, Miami Design District, Edgewater, Buena Vista, Morningside, Spring Garden, Silver Bluff Estates, Brickell Hammock, Alameda, Beverly Terrace, Coral Way, The Roads, Model City, Shenandoah, Allapattah, Little River.”
Second, the “Rules of Construction would be amended so that, “When resolving any provision of the Miami 21 code requiring interpretation in order to resolve issues that are not clear from the ordinary and everyday language of the code, the zoning administrator shall construe the Miami 21 code provision with reference to intent.”
Third, “The Miami 21 code is intended to respond to the existing conditions of the city, its regional context and its natural features, infrastructure and buildings, while advancing the interests of conservation and development and preserving the character of any given neighborhood by protecting homes therein against encroachment of commercial development that occurs as a result of unreasonable or arbitrary acts of government.”
To ask why these three changes are needed is to ask why residents often feel so betrayed by Miami 21. They say that what they want for their neighborhoods either is being ignored. They also say that the code’s implementation must be corrupt because they aren’t notified or taken seriously early in the planning and permitting process. In addition, they think, often correctly, that private developers put constant pressure on city staff and elected officials to allow uses or to put up more and bigger buildings than are clearly allowed in their distinct and varied neighborhoods.
These three proposed revisions, which were recommended 6-4 by the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board’s volunteer citizen-members, will reassure all residents that the right to quiet enjoyment of their unique neighborhoods is respected; and subject to the logical, gradual and predictable changes detailed in the 450 pages of Miami 21.
Anthony R. Parrish Jr. is a member of the Miami Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board.