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Commissioners, Support Your Constituents

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On May 11 a Miami Beach public hearing was held to discuss a new zoning ordinance that is being finalized. The event was a fresh round of lawmaking intended to redefine construction limits in the two-block neighborhood of Ocean Terrace especially to enable the wealthy investor Sandor Scher to build the high-capacity, high-rise residential and commercial complex he has been planning for some time.

What I observed at the meeting was a textbook case of the power of special interests in our politics. I watched with a sense of confusion and betrayal as one by one the Mayor and Commissioners endorsed the plans of Mr. Scher and literally ignored the sentiments of Miami Beach voters, who spoke strongly and definitively against excessive urban development in the FAR referendums of 2015, 2004, and 1997. Only Commissioner Kristen Gonzalez voted not to promote the ordinance to second reading.

Sandor Scher is an experienced commercial real estate developer with a track record of successful projects in Miami Beach. He has tremendous technical and architectural resources at his disposal, yet he implausibly insists that a 235-foot high luxury condo complex is the only way to renew Ocean Terrace. He is determined to implement his narrow vision of neighborhood revitalization over the objections of Miami Beach residents, and that has created an adversarial situation.

It simply does not have to be that way. The people whose names appear on this letter and many more who voted to reject the FAR increase last November enthusiastically welcome Mr. Scher’s interest in revitalizing Ocean Terrace. We want renovated buildings and landscapes and we are excited by the idea of new businesses and community amenities. At the same time we want to avoid overbuilding our small city. Current zoning laws prevent that.

Commissioners, we are your constituents and we expect to be your first priority. So we ask that on June 8 you abandon the new ordinance, and encourage Mr. Scher to work within existing zoning laws to create an Ocean Terrace that we can all live with.

Gregory Thomas
Miami Beach Voter and Resident

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