In an effort to stop the hemorrhaging of their property values, 13 property owners have filed Bert J. Harris Act claims with the City of Miami in regard the enactment of 35’ height restrictions on properties located in the MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District (50 St. to 77 St. along the Biscayne Boulevard corridor).
Appraisals accompanying the claims indicate damages could exceed $20 million.
“These property owners have been [placed] in a historic district, which already limits what they can do with their properties,” said Fran Rollason, president of the MiMo Biscayne Association. “That’s one layer of restriction there. And then, the 35’ limitation is another layer on top of that.”
The MiMo District was created in 2006, ostensibly to preserve the Miami Modern (MiMo) architectural structures along the Biscayne Boulevard corridor. The Miami Modern style has become specifically recognized, defined and then protected over the past approximate 15 years – joining Tropical Art Deco as South Florida’s most defining distinctive styles.
However, while some trumpeted the creation of the district, worries abounded that development and property owner rights would be trampled on in the City’s rush to preservation.
“In 2008 we were warned that the 35’ limitation was going to happen,” Rollason said. “The property owners came up with a compromise to endorse – a 53’ limit, which has been our position since February 2008.”
Rollason said that a resident activist with influence with Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff pushed for the 35’ limitation. Sarnoff’s district includes the historic district.
“When the Miami-21 Plan came along, Sarnoff stuck in the 35’ limitation, which was written as a guideline,” Rollason said. “But it seems to be gospel. Commissioner Sarnoff said that he would consider the development of something larger there, but that someone would have to make a presentation to him. Who is going to spend a ton of money to have plans made up under the current situation?”
Rollason said that many properties are languishing in the district because of the limitation and because of activist’s ability to influence opposition to any significant development.
Sarnoff has asserted repeatedly that the height limits will actually spur development because it prompts lower property taxes and that related measures also contained in the Miami-21 plan create a profitable new transfer of development rights program.
Property owners appear unconvinced.
“Property owners are not happy,” Rollason said.
The Bert J. Harris Act is designed to protect property owners from losing property value due to the specific act of government.
“The intent of the statute is to put property owners in the same financial condition they were in before [local government’s action],” said Jeff P. Cynamon, an attorney representing 12 of the property owners.
Cynamon said that the City of Miami has 180 days to respond from the time the claims were filed, which was in mid-October.
“The statute provides a wide array of solutions available to resolve the situation,” Cynamon said. “It encourages a resolution.”
However, the statute also provides a four-year window for property owners to file lawsuits against the city.
“I think everyone is trying to do the right thing,’ Cynamon said.
However, Cynamon said that he does not have any idea how the City of Miami will respond.