A Dominating Development
A developer promises tens of millions of dollars in revenue to build an outsize project incongruous with the neighborhood. The city responds by circumventing normal public review procedures. Welcome to land use.
Miami developer Mark Siffin has proposed building two skyscraper-sized electronic billboards on top of his parking garage construction project. Rising to a total height of up to 50 stories, the flashing billboards would cast a harsh glare and be far taller than anything nearby. The purported upside of such a project? That the generated ad revenue will furnish the financing for the car lot and a stymied retail development nearby, and that both will help to revitalize the neighborhood, and provide the city with considerable parking surcharge revenue and property taxes.
Unbelievably, the city has allowed Siffin and his attorneys to formulate new ordinances cut to fit the development. Such legislation was revealed publicly only late last week, and will allow the project to bypass both state and federal laws that would have proven to be its death knell. As the Miami Herald reports, Siffin argues that his proposal—what he dubs “media towers”—is so unique that it cannot fall under normal procedures. It will now forgo the broad public review process in favor of being sent directly to the city commission, and the city is considering scheduling a final vote when the commission is out of session. Siffin, meanwhile, is pushing for his billboards to be classified as “murals,” and therefore not subject to the state and federal highway regulations that govern the zone in which the ads fall.
So no community input on a neighborhood-altering development and special circumvention of the normal rules. That sounds about right.