South Miami’s newest trend is Lot-Splitting…You Just Don’t Know It (Yet)

Grant Miller

Everyone had heard of zoning.  Sooner or later, a developer will submit an application to rezone land near your home or business, and those with nearby homes or businesses snap to attention.  Developers hire lobbyists and community advocates start advocating for neighbors.

A new use… a noise complaint… an increase in density… gets local news coverage, but typically only involves a couple parcels at any one time. 

But sometimes zoning changes can affect an entire city. 

Something is happening in South Miami that is affecting some of your neighbors that is soon going to affect almost anyone living in a single family home in the City of Pleasant Living.  That new trend is lot-splitting and if it is isn’t happening in your neighborhood it will be soon.

Art and Jessica Davis bought their home one block off 80th St and 59th Ave ten years ago to start their family.  Their abutting lots average 21,000 square feet.  In the last month, developers have applied for two of the Davis’ neighboring three lots to be split into smaller lots.  That’s a lot of changes in the Davis’ neighborhood, but why should you care?

Why should you care about lot splits?

Often developers are painted as the bad guys.  But their goal is plain and simple: maximize profits, while meeting the MINIMUM standards of the zoning code.  Developers don’t need to worry about the long-term needs of an evolving city, or the quality of life of residents.

But residents do.  And residents need the help of their elected officials to ensure that development benefits the community, not just developers. Because when the developer walks away, that new development becomes ours.  We’re stuck with what they’ve built.  If we don’t like it, we can’t re-gift it or donate it to Goodwill. 

Lot-Splitting is a big deal

Lots in excess of 20,000 square feet are under incredible pressure throughout South Miami because developers can hire land use attorneys to apply for a lot split and make profits that are unimaginable with a single lot.

Lot splitting is a big deal and the founders of South Miami recognized that safeguards needed to be built into the system.

So the City Code requires that the City Commission make a determination that any lot split

shall be compatible with the as-built character of the surrounding area, and shall not create adverse impacts on the surrounding area

This presents an interesting problem because each lot split that the City Commission allows changes the character of the surrounding area, so each lot split approval will inevitably result in more lot splits… and on and on and on until every lot in the city is split into smaller and smaller pieces.

Make your voice heard

The Davis’ and their neighbors are pleading with the City Commission to turn down the developers attempts to split the lots that surround their house.  Twenty-five of their neighbors have signed a petition urging the Commission to vote NO because these lot splits are not consistent with the surrounding neighborhood.  These neighbors are vehemently arguing that these lot-splits are not consistent with the reason they bought into their neighborhood and what they expected to happen in their neighborhood. 

Residents should make their voice heard about lot splitting, whether for or against, and email the Mayor and the Commissioners as the decision is going to be made at the City Commission Meeting on Tuesday, December 1 at 7pm.

Mayor Sally Philips

Vice-Mayor Robert Welsh

Commissioner Luis Gil

Commissioner Josh Liebman

Commissioner Walter Harris

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  1. These lot splits are nothing new! Commissions led by former Mayor Philip Stoddard approved of many on S.W. 80th Street, and north and south of 80th Street. Where ever you see more than 1 house on a lot where there was previously 1 house, there was a lot split, clear and simple. Many of these houses are of the large white, concrete box style which was also not in the character of the surrounding area. We now have a hodgepodge of new homes on recently created lots with much smaller setbacks than the pre-existing conditions and character of the surrounding area. That also means less desperately needed previous land surrounding homes. The lack of pervious area around a very large new house is also a violation of “character of the surrounding area ” when existing homes have much larger setbacks.
    As a concerned and involved citizen I spoke against this during my time as a Planning Board member and also when I was not on the Board. I believe that lot splits which were not within the character of the surrounding area, as mandated by our Land Development Code, were approved illegally by previous Commissions. Residents could have banded together to sue the City for violating code. The Commission allowed new lots to be created which were smaller than those in the surrounding area, regardless of the minimum lot size required for that particular zoning category. For instance, the frontage of the lots in my immediate area is 100 linear feet, not the minimum of 75ft; therefore, it would be illegal, according to our Code, to allow anything less than 100 linear feet . The purpose of our LDC is to protect our neighborhoods, which unfortunately has been obviated by previous Commissions. Shame on them for ignoring what our Code has to say about character of the surrounding area. I witnessed and protested against this heinous and scoff law practice for years. It is a cancer in City government which must be kept in check and ultimately removed. Things have been done wrongly in this city, and that does not justify the continuance of bad practice.
    Elections have consequences and residents in neighborhoods that have been degraded by bad lot splits suffer those consequences. So does the natural environment. Lots have been razed with impunity to make way for very large structures.
    The lot split is a less restrictive land use in a residential zoning district. It will require a 5/5 vote to approve the application thanks to all of us voters who voted to retain that protection for our residential zoning categories.
    Please take notice of the fact that it was Commissioner Josh Liebman who sponsored the ballot question to abolish the 5/5. Mr. Liebman has always given me the impression that he is hard wired into special interests in spite of so much glib talk that I have heard for years. Look at the voting record of Mr. Liebman and others who have consistently voted to approve of everything that every developer wants and you will know the truth. Glib talk does not cancel out votes which degrade our neighborhoods, and our quality of life. Same thing with former Mayor Philip Stoddard and others always voting to give every developer what they want. It is by their votes that ye shall know them, not their campaign jargon.

    P.S. The new zoning categories created by developer’s attorneys within our down town business district are also not within the character of the surrounding area or even the abutting area. The element of character has been ignored and we will have an ugly hodgepodge of height, density, and architecture as a result of electeds whose number one priority appears to be $$$$$$$ with no cohesive or creative redevelopment plan for a beautiful and harmonious downtown business district. Will outsiders be attracted to such unplanned randomness and overburdened infrastructure? Will our downtown thrive with such inconsistent building projects? I believe that certain electeds, both past and present, do not consider the devastating effects of unintended consequences. They dream only of $$$$$$.

  2. I am informed that first reading is this Tuesday. Get your comments in now! Posting here and forwarding to elected officials will be most effective. Send to their government address if you want your comments to become a part of public record, subject to a request for public information.

  3. The steady and continuous eroding of our Land Development Code by puppets of special interests has been going on for the past 10 years and I agree with Ms. Fisher! The consequence of poor and sold out leadership is more flooding of our streets, more traffic and a negative impact of our quality of life. Hopefully, with the change of SM’s election date to November, more voters will be involved and cast ballots for real public servants.

  4. Aside from the clear detrimental effects of lot splitting, shoe box type cookie cutter houses are just plain ugly.
    Add South Miami’s deteriorated downtown, a container house on the corner of 62 ave and 64th street, which no one would like to see next door to their home, a Dollar store, which no one wants to see next door and shazaam… we have one third rate city.


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