Miami eyes vacant sites for park use
By Risa Polansky
In a city low on green space but lately flush with vacant private land as developers wait out the residential real estate slump, one Miami commissioner is suggesting empty lots be maintained as parks.
"We figure there's over 30 acres of potential park space on Biscayne Boulevard" alone, Marc Sarnoff said.
To convince landowners to jump aboard "we'd have to give them a carrot," he said — potentially tax reductions in hopes they'd pay for needs such as upkeep and insurance.
Reductions could be "dollar for dollar" the first year, he said, noting a tax rebate would probably need Miami-Dade County's approval.
City commissioners have yet to discuss the idea — they deferred the topic at a meeting last month — so details are scarce.
Mr. Sarnoff said he envisions "passive parks" with amenities such as benches or sandboxes.
"What's in it for the city is green space, beautiful green space, as opposed to cyclone fences filled with trash," he said.
The incentives could flesh out any number of ways and it could end up that the city's parks department maintains the land, Mr. Sarnoff said.
The city doesn't impose insurance requirements on vacant lot owners, Victoria Mendez, assistant city attorney, wrote in an e-mail to Mr. Sarnoff and staffers.
She also said there's no requirement to fence vacant lots.
Legal issues such as liability would need to be ironed out, said Judith Burke, a partner with Shutts & Bowen who specializes in real estate, land use and zoning, but "I don't think there's anything that necessarily couldn't be done to protect both the city and the property owner."
Though still in its early stages, the concept would "allow people to create open space when we don't have the funding," Mr. Sarnoff said.
His office reports that the city pays up to $1 million per acre for parkland.