Let’s Save Ocean Terrace Again

by kathrynbcomer@gmail.com

Dear neighbors,
Many thanks to those of you who have shared your responses to the revised Ocean Terrace Overlay and Claro Development’s plan for developing that area. As always, it is a pleasure to see such passionate community investment in the issues that affect us all.

We’ve learned how much you like certain aspects of what Sandor Scher has shared, particularly the proposed preservation of existing facades and street-level activation of Ocean Terrace.  At the same time, we’ve heard your serious concerns about the scale and uncertainty of this vision. The common thread throughout has been the fact that the language of the current OT Overlay ordinance is not strong and clear enough to safeguard the future of landmark area.

Based on these conversations, North Beach neighbors want to unite behind the following priorities: discover a way to moderate the height increase that was rejected by voters because it was incompatible for the area and pursue binding revisions to the ordinance as well as covenantsto guarantee the interests and needs of the community are served.

Below, we’ve outlined an overview of each priority and possible talking points based on your input; we’ve also attached a sample letter to inspire your own.  All of us have our own priorities, and NBNA’s goal is to empower each of us to stand up—with different perspectives united in a shared vision. So please take this opportunity to make your voice heard through emails and calls to Commissioners and through social media to get others involved.

Most importantly, please write and call our Commissioners and Mayor as soon as possible.  It is crucial that as many of us as possible attend the first reading of the OT Overlay Ordinance on May 11th.   In addition, consider asking the City to hold a public meeting in North Beach to generate constructive dialogue among a wide range of community stakeholders.

Information will follow regarding when and where to be on May 11th. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about any of these points or join in the developing conversation with neighbors, please reach out and follow the FB page. We will do our best to keep the community informed and connected—with your help, as always.

In solidarity,
North Beach Neighbors Alliance

We Want to Moderate the Height of the Proposed Tower to Better Fit Ocean Terrace and North Beach

New development should be appropriate for and consistent with North Beach’s scale and style; a high-rise would overwhelm Ocean Terrace and its MiMo character.

There are two central threads to this argument:

  • The proposed increase from 75 to 235 feet—a 313% increase in allowable height!—sets a dangerous precedent for North Beach just as we are pursuing a balanced Master Plan. Dover, Kohl & Partners’ draft presentation did not include plans to upzone Ocean Terrace. Instead, it encourages—with broad local support—focusing height and density in the Town Center. Another out-of-place tower on the beach could have a detrimental impact on the neighborhood’s historic charm. The height, design and massing of what would be allowed in the ordinance needs more thoughtful consideration.
  • Miami Beach voters already rejected the near-identical Ocean Terrace Overlay in the November 2015 election. While this vote was technically on Floor Area Ratio, the debate was also always about size. In fact, that word was specifically included by the Commission for the sake of clarity, and everyday voters would have taken that description in good faith. So when they rejected “the overall size” allowed by the previous Ocean Terrace Overlay, they were rejecting more than just density. The City Commission needs to listen to and to on the wishes of their constituents. If officials ignore community objections, we will bear this in mind in the next election, in terms of both candidates and ballot initiatives.

We Want to Tighten the Ordinance and Seek Binding Covenants to Guarantee the Interests and Needs of the Community are Served

Remember, the OT Overlay will apply to this area regardless of owner or developer! Although the circulated ideas may be appealing, the ordinance language does not guarantee that the results will be in line with that vision. North Beach cannot simply trust and hope for the best, as we (and many of our current Commissioners) learned all too well from the Biltmore Terrace demolition in 2014. We need stronger assurances that Ocean Terrace will truly be handled with the care it deserves—and we need it in writing.

We request binding agreements in the following areas:

  • Clarify language regarding “important” contributing structures to give the Historic Preservation Board power to protect the integrity and cohesion of this historic district. The existing contributing MiMo and Art Deco facades on Ocean Terrace and Collins Avenue should all be retained, restored and appropriately incorporated within the new development.
  • Adjust aggregation specifications to prevent possibility that aggregation of Olsen Hotel and two or more additional lots within the 73/74 Street block of Ocean Terrace could result in yet another tower.
  • Ensure that if there is a higher variance for the residential tower, there couldn’t also be a higher variance applied to a hotel.
  • Strengthen the “permitted uses” language, with covenants if necessary, to ensure activation of the street-level of Ocean Terrace with storefronts, boutiques, cafes and other hospitality outlets that will serve the community and visitors.
  • Require that existing hotels will continue to function as such.

Other questions to consider:

  • If Claro is granted such significant variances in North Beach, should they offer the community designated funds to contribute to local improvements, such as a MiMo Welcome Center, support for preservation efforts, municipal parking fund, integration of workforce housing, etc.?
  • If the City grants a height variance, will the Commissioners simultaneously place items on the November ballot asking that future height variances go to voters and affording local historic district designation to protect at-risk contributing structures in the North Shore? In this way, moving forward, the community will be assured that the wishes of the North Beach community are respected.

Contact Information