Regalado, others want straight answers about Miami 21
By Eric Kalis
Several Miami city commissioners and residents say they are frustrated by a lack of answers from city planners to questions about Miami 21, a planned revision of the city's zoning code rewrite scheduled for an initial City Commission vote in May.
District 4 Commissioner Tomás Regalado initiated a discussion about the plan during last week's commission meeting to address concerns of constituents who do not understand what the rewrite entails. City planners posted advertisements on district bus shelters promising that Miami 21 would be "coming to the neighborhood" soon even though the district is in the city's west quadrant, expected to be the last one researched by planners, Mr. Regalado said.
City residents have waited for government officials and consultant Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. to finish work on the east quadrant since the city unveiled its original plans in 2005.
"I cannot provide answers to the constituents in my district," Mr. Regalado said. "It is very uncomfortable to get complaints from people who say they have not received the answer they want. It seems public process has not been as massive as it should."
District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said he is frustrated by vague responses from city officials to his Miami 21-related inquiries. "I do not feel I have gotten good authentic answers to my memos sent to [City Manager Pete Hernandez]," Mr. Sarnoff said. "The response has to have some materiality to the question. I hear lip service as an answer."
Several residents complained that city officials have not been prompt or thorough with Miami 21 information. Silvia Wong, president of the Little River Industrial District Business Owners Group, said group members are still waiting for answers to questions submitted to the city as early as 2005.
City planning director Ana Gelabert Sanchez said her team has responded to inquiries as timely as possible but residents may not be getting the answers they want to hear. "We are not trying to be evasive," she said. "Some questions could require a certain amount of study."
Miami 21 is designed to update the zoning code by dividing the city into quadrants and focus on the relationship of one building to another rather than a building's use. Work on each quadrant was expected to take six months to complete. But a plan for the east quadrant, which includes downtown and Brickell, has not been brought to a commission vote.
Ms. Gelabert Sanchez said a plan for the east quadrant should be ready for a planning advisory board vote April 18 with commissioners casting their first votes in May.
City planners will hold an open-house meeting before the planning advisory board votes on the east quadrant, she said.
The board should be able to vote this month on an ordinance that would pause development in areas being reviewed for Miami 21, Ms. Gelabert Sanchez said. The ordinance is necessary to contain development while planners finish work on the east quadrant plan, she said. Developers who have permits for projects in the east quadrant would not be hampered by the ordinance, she said.
The ordinance has created a sense of urgency for developers, said zoning consultant Saul Cimbler. "There is a rush for developers to get permits to beat the Miami 21 clock. The projects sent for approval will not get built until 2010 or 2011."