Proposed Live Local Act amendments would remove industrial, restrict height bonuses

The Live Local Act has been hailed by some developers and economists as a means of encouraging the development of more affordable housing.

A Miami-Dade state senator has proposed a series of amendments, some of which will limit or restrict developers’ ability to utilize the zoning benefits of the Live Local Act.

State Senator Alexis Calatayud, whose district includes South Miami and Coral Gables, is sponsoring SB 328. It adds several amendments and clarifications to the Live Local Act.

Among the proposed changes to the Live Local Act:

  • Developers will no longer be able to use the Live Local Act to build projects in industrial zoned areas. As a result, the law will only apply to commercial and mixed-use zoned areas. (Single-family residential areas and industrial waterfront areas were already exempt.)
  • Developers can’t use Live Local Act provisions within a quarter-mile of a military installation and exempts “certain airport impacted areas from the act’s provisions,” according to a state senate analysis.
  • Live Local Act developers will only be entitled to build to tallest height allowed in a municipality within a quarter-mile of a project’s site. Currently, developers are entitled to the tallest height allowed by a city within a mile radius of the project.
  • If a project is “adjacent” to a building that is three stories in height, a local government can restrict the height to within 125% of the tallest adjacent building or to three stories, whichever is taller.
  • Clarifies that the maximum height and density a Live Local Act developer is entitled to does not include any bonuses, variances, and other special exceptions provided by a city or county.
  • Clarifies that Live Local Act projects are entitled to the highest floor area ratio a local area allows.
  • States that the zoning provided a Live Local Act project will be “conforming” after the 30-year period. Meaning the land will have the zoning entitlements provided under the act even after the set asides for affordable or workforce housing are no longer required.

The Live Local Act was hailed by some developers and economists as a means of encouraging the development of more affordable housing. Besides zoning bonuses, $771 million was budgeted for affordable housing programs and provided tax abatements to apartment landlords where substantial portions of the units are set aside for low and medium-income housing.

However, some municipal and county government officials denounced the law as an infringement of their sovereign ability to control zoning in their respective jurisdictions. In Miami-Dade County, Doral and Florida City enacted development moratoriums until they could create procedures that could administratively control how Live Local Act projects are built.

The SB 328 amendments are likely the first of many proposed for the Live Local Act, said Javier Vazquez, a partner at the Florida-based law firm Berger Singerman.

“I have always felt that the original law had its holes and patchwork is necessary when game-changing laws come out,” Vazquez said.

But some of those amendments will remove several zoning incentives developers are counting on to build attainable housing, said Keith Poliakoff, managing partner of Fort Lauderdale-based Government Law Group.

“It completely undermines the original intent of the Florida legislature,” Poliakoff said. “In addition to that, I have numerous clients who have previously spent millions of dollars to develop properties in compliance with the current law.”

Poliakoff was particularly critical of the new height regulations, insisting that the “adjacent” provision is too vague. “Does that mean the property next door? Across the street?” he asked.

The removal of all industrial properties from the Live Local Act was also harmful, Poliakoff said.

“Industrial properties are those you would want a mixed-use or alternative use,” he said.

The industrial provision, however, worried officials from Doral who argued that building housing in such areas may be unsafe and unhealthy for future residents.

Vazquez of Berger Singerman said legislators likely realized that residential development in an industrial area was not a great idea planning-wise. For example, school bus routes will be regularly crowded by trucks and other industrial vehicles.

“Transition and compatibility have always been important in the world of zoning,” Vazquez said. “And transitioning residential into an industrial zones creates all kinds of challenges.”

Article Link: Proposed Live Local Act amendments would remove industrial, restrict height bonuses
Author: Erik Bojnansky