In an effort to preserve the quintessential look and feel of Miami Beach, city commissioners are moving to extend the reach of the community’s Design Review Board and allow more architects and landscapers to sit on municipal committees. According to a recent article from The Real Deal, three Miami Beach commissioners are looking to create exemptions to the current ethics ordinance to allow for this, but first they have to win approval from the people who live there. They claim that these exemptions would then pave the way for a new ordinance that would require all single-family home plans to be reviewed by the new Design Review Board in hopes of protecting the community from new “ugly” houses and long-standing vacant lots.
As it currently stands, only homes built before 1942 or located in historic districts are reviewed by the DRB prior to any work being done. In addition to design approval, the current ordinance also requires developers to obtain a permit for new construction and pay any relevant fees. There are no regulations in place for homes built after 1942. The three commissioners pushing for the change, who also make up the Land Use Committee, claim they have had several residents voice concern over the matter.
Commissioner Joy Malakoff said that “sometimes empty lots remain on the street for months and months or even years. Eventually the property is attracting mosquitos.”
Commissioner John Elizabeth Aleman added that she can’t stand the white “ugly” modern homes, calling them “Ikea boxes,” that have been built on these lots.
Currently, the Design Review Board is quite busy with applications from homeowners and developers who want to alter their pre-1942 homes. Adding to that workload will most definitely mean more hours put in by the board, made up of architects, landscapers and activists who only receive a citywide parking decal for their efforts. The answer to this increase, according to Malakoff, is to create an architectural review panel similar to the one that exists in Coral Gables. Made up of professional architects and landscapers, home plans could quickly be reviewed, but in order for this to happen, the committee feels that a current ethics ordinance needs to be amended.
Over 20 years ago, lobbyists and powerful architects sat on Miami Beach boards, and while if one of their clients came before a board, they recused themselves, it was widely thought that they used their positions to influence policy. In an effort to control this, in 1997, Miami Beach passed an ethics ordinance banning lobbyists and architects who advocated for projects in the city from serving on boards. Now, Commissioner Michael Grieco has suggested the creation of a narrow exemption be made, allowing previously banned architects and landscape architects to volunteer for municipal boards. Approval from Miami Beach voters will be required before any changes can be made.
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