Municipalities Must Keep Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation Code—For Now

According to the Miami Herald, a committee of the Miami-Dade County Commission tabled a proposal on Wednesday regarding the county’s jurisdiction over historic properties. This controversial proposal would allow municipalities to “opt out” of county jurisdiction for historic preservation. Activists are concerned that the measure will weaken protection of historically or architecturally significant buildings.

The Cultural Affairs committee’s unanimous decision has postponed the measure for the time being, thus keeping it from progressing to the full commission for review. Commissioner Sally Heyman, sponsor of the proposal, is expected to bring it back to the commission for a full reading three months from now.

Heyman was asked to withdraw the measure by fellow Commissioner Barbara Jordan. The withdrawal move was strongly backed by officials who have seen preservation battles in the towns of Bay Harbor Islands and Surfside, after former Miami beach mayor Matti Bower publicly criticized it during a public hearing.

Rather than withdraw the measure, Heyman requested a three-month deferral so that the measure can be refined into what Heyman calls “a working study,” which preservationists in attendance soundly protested with a thumbs-down gesture. After a 2-2 vote, the committee failed to approve the deferral, which prompted Commissioner Xavier Suarez to propose the measure be tabled.

Preservationists contend that Heyman’s measure would gut historic preservation in Surfside and Bay Harbor Islands by turning control over to town officials who are generally hostile to historic preservation. Daneil Ciraldo of the Miami Design Preservation League calls the tabling, a “good victory,” adding that, “it’s over for now. We didn’t want this dragged out with committees and studies.”

The tabling does little to resolve the ongoing preservation battles in Surfside and Bay Harbor Islands. Next week the county preservation board will consider the historic designation of three architecturally significant buildings in Surfside.

The current Miami-Dade preservation ordinance gives the county preservation office and board jurisdiction over towns that lack their own programs. Recently, the county office began preservation efforts in Bay Harbor and Surfside in order to protect several significant Miami Modern and Art Deco buildings. Town officials and condo developers complained to Heyman, whose district comprises both towns, because many of those properties were targeted for demolition.

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