Florida Legislation Threatens Historic Coastal Architecture

Published Date: March 7, 2024

A controversial bill granting developers more authority to demolish historic buildings near Florida’s coast without local government intervention is on its way to Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk.

The Florida House passed the measure with an 86-29 vote, drawing objections from city officials and historic preservationists. They fear the bill could endanger iconic Art Deco architecture in Miami Beach and impact vulnerable coastal communities in the Tampa Bay area. The legislation, which has been revised since last year, exempts certain areas like St. Augustine, Key West, and parts of Palm Beach from the new rules. However, concerns persist about the potential impact on Mid-Beach and North Beach neighborhoods in Miami Beach, where Art Deco hotels like the Faena and Casablanca reside.

The bill aims to limit the authority of local historic preservation boards, such as the one in Miami Beach. These boards dictate the fate of historic structures slated for demolition and mandate preservation efforts during reconstruction. Supporters argue that the changes are necessary to ensure building safety and resilience against coastal flooding. They claim that local governments sometimes hinder these efforts by obstructing the demolition of old structures.

However, critics, including Miami Beach Commissioner Alex Fernandez and preservationists, contend that local communities should have the final say in matters concerning their historical and architectural heritage. They argue that the bill undermines local autonomy and could lead to hasty demolitions and unchecked development. The legislation applies to buildings located partially seaward of the state’s coastal construction control line and sets demolition criteria based on FEMA flood codes, structural safety, and local government orders.

While the Senate approved the bill with minimal opposition, amendments proposed to address preservation concerns were rejected. Critics worry that the bill’s provisions could disproportionately benefit certain developers and organizations, raising questions about its underlying motivations. As the bill awaits Governor DeSantis’ signature, the debate over balancing historic preservation with coastal development continues, underscoring the complex challenges facing Florida’s coastal communities.

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Original Article by Ana Ceballos- Tampa Bay Times

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