Incentives to Encourage Structural and Electrical Repairs to Multi-family Residential Buildings Endorsed by Miami Beach Planning Board

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Incentives to Encourage Structural and Electrical Repairs to Multi-family Residential Buildings Endorsed by Miami Beach Planning Board:

Proposal is one idea to improve building safety following Surfside collapse

Following the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Miami Beach joined a number of municipalities in looking at ways to prevent another occurrence including changes to the City Code. One of the proposals would incentivize the repair and rehabilitation of existing, non-conforming residential buildings by allowing them to exceed the “50% rule” which refers to the value of building improvements, provided no new floor area is added.

Non-conforming buildings are those that met all Code requirements when built but as requirements changed, the buildings no longer met them, making then legal, non-conforming structures. Under current law, if the value of improvements exceeds 50% of the value of the building, the entire building must be brought up to current code including meeting current FAR (Floor Area Ratio), height, and setback limits in order to not lose its legal, non-conforming status. In other words, all or parts of the building would have to be torn down. That provision has kept some owners from making improvements because it is difficult to not trip the 50% threshold given the cost or they elect to do them piecemeal over a period of time.

In a memo to the Board, Planning Director Tom Mooney wrote, “The proposed amendment [to the Land Development Regulations] would allow non-conforming multi-family residential buildings to exceed the 50% rule and maintain all existing non-conforming attributes provided the work includes structural, electrical, life-safety and related repairs to comply with and/or exceed the requirements of the Florida Building Code.” 

“The proposed amendment would provide an [incentive] for building owners and condo associations to implement repairs by allowing a building’s legal nonconforming status to remain (including nonconforming FAR, height, setbacks, open space, minimum and average unit size, and parking credits) even if the work exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building.”

“To ensure compliance, the amendment requires the following,” Mooney noted:
  1. All portions of the entire building shall remain fully intact and retained.
  2. The building shall meet or exceed the minimum structural, life-safety and electrical requirements of the Florida Building Code.
  3. Increases in the size of exterior window and door openings shall not be permitted unless required by the Florida Building Code.

First Assistant City Attorney Nick Kallergis emphasized the proposal is “limited to residential multi-family buildings.”

Planning Board member Alex Fernandez said, “We need to be encouraging building owners to do everything that they can to make sure the buildings are up to the standards and to the codes and to the safety codes that are necessary to ensure the safety of those who occupy these buildings.”

“I think this is critically important to provide a third alternative,” Board member Tanya Bhatt said. “Because currently you either have a building like some that we have in North Beach, for instance, that are owned actually by people in Surfside who are not repairing their buildings. We have buildings that are at risk for not conforming to current standards of safety putting their residents at risk or you have the alternative of letting the building get into such disrepair that people choose to leave and then developers come in, raze the building and put in something else so those families then get displaced. This is a third way which encourages and incentivizes, if you will, the owners, the residents, and the organizing forces of those buildings to get their acts together, to make the repairs they need to to ensure that their buildings are safe and continue about their life. It shouldn’t be a ‘risk your life every night or be displaced from your home' option and this provides a third pass, so I fully support this.”

With two members absent, the Board voted 5-0 to send a favorable recommendation to the City Commission which will hold two readings on the legislation as required.

Details of the Planning Board item are here.


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