April 16, 2014

Miami 21: Development in Miami Under a Completely New Form Based Zoning Ordinance

It has been two years since Miami 21 took effect and the City of Miami has not come to a halt, as suspected by some, the City has not been overtaken by larger than life skyscrapers, as complained by others, it is simply still Miami.  Miami is similar to the legend of the Ibis, as it is the last sign of wildlife to take shelter before a hurricane hits and the first to reappear once the storm has passed.  Development in Miami is moving again, however, this time under a completely new form based zoning ordinance.

Miami 21 has all new lingo (i.e. Transects, SAPs, TODs) but the basics are still the same, floor area ratio (FLR), density and parking are the big 3 questions everyone wants to know about a  site.  Problem is that even knowing the big 3, until you apply the design guidelines to each site, there is no way of knowing if you can get anywhere close to the reaching the thresholds.  Some sites yes, some sites no.  This has ultimately created more work and due diligence in the development of sites in Miami.

In addition Miami 21 can be a bit overwhelming at first for those used to the dynamic of the previous zoning ordinance, however once you’ve studied a few sites development capacity, you figure out it actually flows. The Transect Zone charts serve as a basic cheat-sheet to the development guidelines and the diagrams are user friendly and allow you to visualize the intent of a requirement.  Not to say that Miami 21 has no kinks here and there, as no zoning ordinance ever is perfect; the City’s last zoning ordinance was in effect for 20 years and routinely required modifications and updates.  Since 1935, when the City’s first zoning code was adopted, it has seen 5 major overhauls. Miami’s evolution into a major City has successfully survived each overhaul.  So the sky has not fallen and Miami’s beautiful skyline will continue to grow as beautiful as ever under a form based code.

©2014 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved.

About the Author


Iris specializes in land use, zoning and procurement law and has been certified by the Florida Bar as an expert in City, County and Local Government Law.  


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