The upcoming Primary Election presents six referendum items that the Miami Beach electorate have to consider and vote on. The issues for the referendum this August range from real estate, residency requirements and the need for a new park name in South Beach. In the voting process, the public has to be educated and informed on each of the issues to allow them to make the right decisions. Each of the six items on the referendum is reviewed and explained to help voters to have a better grasp and understanding of the issues.
Referendum 1: Naming Alton Road Park “Canopy Park”
The renaming of “Alton Park” to “Canopy Park” is the first issue that the voters have to consider. The ballot will ask the voters to consider whether they want the newly opened 3-acre public park located in South Beach to be named “Canopy Park”. The park in consideration is located between West Avenue and Alton Road and stretches between Sixth and Eighth streets. The park is included as part of the referendum decision as it is one of the public benefits that were promised in the development agreement signed in the construction of the Five Park tower. Initially, the City Commission had decided to go with the name “Sunset Park” from the results collected from an online poll. However, the current suggestion is to name the new park “Canopy Park”, and voters are called upon to either endorse the name or give it a “no”.
Referendum 2: Architect on Board of Adjustment
This referendum item is a real estate issue that asks voters to decide on whether the city’s Board of Adjustment’s constitution should include an architect. The Board of Adjustment is in charge of applications for variances applied on land development laws and rules. Further, the Board decides on appeals made on administrative decisions on land use in the area. Under the current structure, the Board is made up of two citizen members, and five professionals that can represent accounting, financial consultation, law, architecture and general business professions. While it is not mandatory to include an architect, Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez made a proposition to make it a requirement to include at least one architect on each serving board. This way, it would be possible for the Board to effectively consider planning options for the city.
Referendum 3: Proof of Residency to Run for Office
This referendum item is the issue of political candidates’ proof of residency to be eligible to run for office. Under the current requirements, political candidates are required to have lived in Miami Beach for at least one year for them to qualify to run for elected office. However, this referendum requires that candidates should provide physical proof that they live in the area. Under current statutes, eligibility is based on a signed oath attesting that the candidate has lived in Miami Beach for the stipulated period of time. The currently proposed amendment is to provide physical proof in the form of a Florida ID, property tax receipt, lease agreement or a voter registration card.
Referendum 4: Converting Apartment Hotels to Residential Buildings
This referendum item seeks to provide real estate owners in the South of Fifth neighborhood an incentive to convert their apartment-hotels to residential use. This allowance in the city’s laws would give them an ability to develop buildings that have more square footage and living units. Currently, apartment hotels that are designed to have a mix of apartment units and hotel rooms are banned in the larger part in the South of Fifth neighborhood. However, there are seven such buildings that were approved and constructed before the ban came into effect. If the owners are given incentive to convert them to residential units, there will be a total of 13,888 extra square feet and 32 additional units for Miami Beach residents.
Referendum 5: Density Increase for the Health Center Land Swap
This referendum item asks Miami Beach voters whether the city should approve an increased density in a part of South Beach to accommodate developers who want to build a mixed-use structure in the Alton Road Gateway Area. This is the location of a community health center that has been noted to be in disrepair. The developers have proposed that they be allowed to build a new community health center at 663 Alton Road. The main issue that voters are asked to decide on is whether the city should approve the floor-area ratio (FAR) to be increased from the current 2.0 to 2.6 in areas between 5th and 8th streets.
Referendum 6: Requirement for Voter Approval to Vacate Streets for Increased Density
This referendum item seeks voter confirmation on whether there should be a clause in the city by-laws that should require a voter referendum before the city ‘vacates’ public property or other spaces to allow developers to increase project density. This would mean that the city would have no mandate to turn over a public space, such as a roadway, to private property developers to increase utility. The referendum addresses a loophole in the city laws that has previously allowed developers to increase their project density without voter participation and input.