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Friday, November 18, 2016

Becoming historic

A lot was discussed at the "self governance" meeting last Saturday. One thing was making Coconut Grove an historic district, which is mind boggling that the oldest city/village in Miami-Dade County is not already. There are so many benefits to being an historic district, the main one being protection of our ambiance, or what's left of it. 

The one downside of being a historic district is that every time you want to make a change to the exterior of your house, you need to get the City's approval. In this case, it would be Coconut Grove's approval, if we become historic. The issue is not the actual asking for permission, it's the expense. But I don't see the expense as being so high in Coconut Grove, as we don't have too many historic buildings left. Unlike Philadelphia or New York or Charleston, our houses are younger and I think that by having historic values and laws is helpful to stop over-development and lot-splitting, the laws can be a little lax in many areas, for instance doors and windows, paint and things like that.

The Coconut Grove laws can be simple - no tear-downs without village approval. No lot splitting, no going over certain heights when building, things like that. So we can control growth and appearance by going historic but not have too many regulations.

The uptick is that property values go up in an historic district. That's just the way it is. People move into historic districts knowing that major changes cannot be made. This will have the developers on the run and the people who want to live here will move here because they love the village and want to be part of it, not flip it to the highest bidder.

One note on the other option of becoming our own city. Taxes could remain the same and possibly go down and we would receive better services simply because Coconut Grove pays for so much of the City of Miami with our taxes. So if we kept our taxes the same and not raised them, we would be sitting pretty.

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Blogger Elvis Cruz said...

Having lived in Morningside, Miami's first historic district, since before it was designated in 1984, I am familiar with this issue.

Historic regulations only apply to the exterior portion of a house which is visible from the street.

Most routine work, like new windows, doors or paint colors, is reviewed by the Historic Preservation Office and can be approved administratively. There is no cost for an administrative "certificate of appropriateness".

More intense work, like new construction, is reviewed by the Historic Preservation Board. The cost for that application is a few hundred dollars.

I can assure everyone that the benefits of historic designation far outweigh the costs.

Preventing the demolition of historic houses is one of those benefits.

Historic designation is the best thing that ever happened to Morningside, Biscayne Boulevard, and several other historic neighborhoods in Miami.

I hope it happens to Coconut Grove, and soon, before any more of that wonderful neighborhood's rich architectural history is lost.

Elvis Cruz
631 NE 57 Street
Miami, FL 33137
305 754 1420

November 18, 2016 7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given that Coconut Grove is a neighborhood and neither a city or any form of municipality, how would the preservation approval process work? Would it have to go through the actual city of Miami?

November 18, 2016 8:41 AM  
Anonymous swlip said...

Two things:

1. Secession is never going to happen unless either (a) we somehow persuade a majority of the City of Miami to let us go; or (b) the Florida legislature makes radical changes to the law. The former isn't going to happen because the rest of the City would be foolish to forfeit its piggy bank, and the latter isn't going to happen because it would sow chaos across the state. I wish people who know better would stop feeding false hopes, or that they would at least encourage people to focus their energies on something more productive.

2. Historic designation is essentially a tax on property owners, who will be prevented from getting the best value from their investments. Let's carefully consider who will bear that tax, and who the tax ultimately benefits. If history is any lesson, the people who benefit most are young, high-earning, childless professionals.

November 18, 2016 8:46 AM  
Anonymous al crespo said...

Let's see, in the last 6 years the only time that there has been even what could generously be called " an outpouring" of resident to show up at City Hall it was either to whine over not enough cops because the "entitled people" felt threatened, or because of the Battersea Woods property. Neither before of after that meeting did folks from Coconut Grove show up to express interest or concern over the City's Budget's process, or how their money was spent.

Yesterday, in what appeared to be a major manhunt for an 18 year old robber, several dozen cop cars surrounded an elementary school in the West Grove, and cops were seen forcing people out of their houses and going in those houses without a search warrant.

I would venture to say that if that had happened in the Center of North Grove, the wealthy white people would still be out in the street on cell phones calling lawyers and demanding that the District 2 Commissioner promise them that "their rights" would never again be assaulted like that.

He of course who wring his hands and tell them that he too was shocked at such behavior, and that they had his promise.

Of course, his promise is pretty much worthless, because he made really BIG promises to all those poor Black folks for their votes in order to get elected, and now he's developed amnesia about those promises.

SWLIP is absolutely right, the City of Miami will never let Coconut Grove slip out of their fingers, and they really don't even worry about it, because as recent events have shown, when it comes to self-entitled, wealthy white people, the screwing they're getting at the hands of their government is one that they've richly earned by refusing to pay attention to what government does, except when theyr narrow self-interests are involved.

Al Crespo

November 18, 2016 9:36 AM  
Blogger Elvis Cruz said...

Mr. or Ms. swlip,

I won't speak to your secession analysis, as I've not studied that issue very much, but regarding your historic designation comment:

Please be assured that there is no extra tax on a historic district or property, only the usual ad-valorem property taxes that are on any property.

Assuming you mean it is a de-facto tax, I can also assure you, again from years of personal experience, that property values tend to rise more in historic districts than in non-historic areas.

Why? Perhaps because historic districts tend to maintain a distinct character with "curb appeal".

Coconut Grove has a that distinct, historic character, but it is under attack.

November 18, 2016 10:02 AM  
Blogger Stephan Linn said...

Hello, I am from Shenandoah where a number of well meaning citizens are proposing a Historic District. I am undecided about leaving the neighborhood alone, going with Historic Preservation, or a Historic District. I am only opposed to proponents that say 'take my word for it' or go on about tax breaks and property values. I encourage everyone to read the ordinances. I provide here my summary of the actual wording of the Muni Code Chapter 23.

Historical Districts - A Summary of the Law

Without your knowledge or consent, a property owned by you may be included in a Historic District. The ordinance will then require any new construction or alteration to be approved by the Historical and Environmental Planning Board(HEPB) BEFORE the normal process of permitting for code compliance even begins.

What follows is a highly condensed version of Miami Municipal Code Chapter 23, which mitigates your property rights:
- Proposals for historical designation may be made to the HEPB by ANY person or organization.
- The HEPB is appointed by the city commission to designate historic sites or districts, and to approve certificates of appropriateness, which are needed for permits. It is comprised of FOUR architects, a business person, a real estate broker, and three interested citizens.
- For a fee of $525.00, any aggrieved party may file an appeal of a HEPB decision within 15 days.
- The city commission may affirm, modify, or reverse the board's decision by a three-fifths vote of ALL members.
- NO action taken by the board, or the city commission shall be voided by the failure of property owners to receive notice pursuant to this chapter.

November 18, 2016 11:14 AM  
Anonymous al crespo said...

Sorry for the typos in my response above, but I sometimes get angry over the blind ignorance of people who refuse to face the reality of what is being done to them because of their own cowardice, laziness or just refusal to to act like citizens.

Al Crespo

November 18, 2016 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All these folks that feel they know what is best for our community and wish to share their wisdom with the rest of us, should run for office. That way they will find out just how many voters agree with them.

November 18, 2016 4:08 PM  
Anonymous swlip said...

Elvis Cruz:

Of course historic designation is a de facto tax on property owners, for two reasons. It raises cost barriers to those who want to improve their properties. Just take a recently-introduced regulation as an example. Before I could get plans approved to build an addition to my house, the City of Miami forced me to hire an archeologist to show up with a shovel, dig a few random holes around my backyard, and certify that my yard did not appear to contain anything of archeological significance. For this joke, I was forced to pay several hundred dollars. And that's before I even got to "Go".

Historical designation imposes even more costs, all for the aesthetic demands of people who have made no contribution to my bank account.

Don't get me wrong, I like visiting places like old Charleston, Savannah, and Williamsburg, which have strong historical preservation laws. My wife owns an apartment in a city in Europe where the historical appearance requirements that would make your head explode.

But let's think carefully about who would bear the costs of historical designation in the Grove. Has anybody gone door to door in the West Grove, for example, and asked the residents if they like the idea of being restricted from developing their properties as they see fit? Would anybody here feel comfortable telling them that, sorry, but the condo dwellers from South Bayshore like your property just the way it is, and want to pass a law forcing you to keep it that way? If you can't answer that question with a definite, "Yes," then you might want to reconsider your views.

November 19, 2016 11:18 AM  
Anonymous swlip said...

I neglected to add one thing:

The most successful historical preservation efforts in the U.S. began as grassroots movements - young, urban professionals moving into decaying neighborhoods, buying up the properties, and renovating them to something approximating their original aesthetics (sometimes improving). Think of South Beach or Key West as examples. In such cases, the historical preservation laws typically followed the lead of property owners who had already recognized a market demand and had developed standards for historical preservation, not the other way around.

November 19, 2016 11:24 AM  
Blogger The Educated Contrarian said...

I've lived in the Grove for almost 20 years.

Many people believe that 'old' means 'historic'. There are tons and tons of old clapboard houses in the Grove put up be hippies high on life but low on skill. These properties simply have no architectural value, despite being old. Yes, there are some great houses from the 20's and 30's, and maybe a few prominent homes put up by architects with meandering imaginations. But I simply am not seeing what is 'historic' about much of the Grove. Even the CG Playhouse would not be worthy of saving in any reasonable City older than ours.

Save the trees and vegetation -- absolutely, I'm all in favor of enhanced fines and landscaping/preservation guidelines that extend well beyond the current standards.

But as for most of the homes -- I say good riddance!

November 20, 2016 7:04 PM  

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