Item Coversheet

New Business and Commission Requests - R9  AA


TO:Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Commission 
FROM:Alina T. Hudak, City Manager 
DATE:October  13, 2021





The Administration has no objection to the request to refer an Ordinance prohibiting towing as a Conditional Use in the Sunset Harbor I-1 zoning district to the Planning Board.


On June 23, 2021, at the request of Commissioner Michael Gongora, the City Commission referred a discussion to the Land Use and Sustainability Committee (LUSC) regarding a proposed amendment to eliminate towing services as a conditional use in the I-1 district in Sunset Harbour and instead make it a prohibited use (C4H). On July 12, 2021 the LUSC discussed the proposal and recommended the following:

1. An Ordinance be referred to the Planning Board to eliminate towing services as a conditional use in the I-1 district in Sunset Harbour.

2. The City Commission issue no more than two towing permits citywide.


Attached is a map showing the different zoning districts in the Sunset Harbor neighborhood, which is bounded by 20th Street on the north, Alton Road on the east, Dade Boulevard on the south and Biscayne Bay on the west. In addition to Sunset Harbor, Terminal Island is the only other area of the City that contains an I-1, light industrial, zoning district.

Under the City Code, the only district where towing is permitted in the City is as a conditional use within the I-1 district. Specifically, Sec. 142-483(12) sets forth the following:

Towing services: Lots reviewed pursuant to the conditional use process shall also comply with the following criteria:
(a) A schedule of hours of vehicle storage and of hours of operation shall be submitted for review and approval by the planning board.
(b) If the towing yard is proposed to be within 100 feet of a property line of a lot upon which there is a residential use, the planning board shall analyze the impact of such storage and/or parking on the residential use. The analysis shall include, but not be limited to, visual impacts, noise, odors, effect of egress and ingress and any other relevant factor that may have an impact of the residential use.
(c) Towing yards must be fully screened from view as seen from any right-of-way or adjoining property, when viewed from five feet six inches above grade, with an opaque wood fence, masonry wall or other opaque screening device not less than six feet in height.
(d) Parking spaces, backup areas and drives shall be appropriately dimensioned for the type of vehicles being parked or stored.
(e) Towing yards shall be required to satisfy the landscaping requirements of subsection 126-6(2), and shall be subject to the design review procedures, requirements and criteria as set forth in chapter 118, article VI

Currently there are two (2) towing uses in the City, both of which are located in Sunset Harbour:

1. Beach Towing (1451 Dade Boulevard). This towing operation is located within the CD-2 (Commercial, Medium Intensity) zoning district and is legal non-conforming. As legal non-conforming use, this particular entity cannot expand or relocate within a CD-2 district.

2. Tremont Towing (1747 Bay Road). This towing operation is located within the I-1 (Light Industrial) zoning district and is conforming as it has an active Conditional Use Permit (CUP) that was issued in 2016 (PB0416-0010).

As noted above, the only towing uses in the City are located in the Sunset Harbor neighborhood, and one of the establishments is located within a zoning district where towing is no longer permitted. Towing is an essential use within the City, both for parking enforcement and emergency purposes. Having towing services available within the City is beneficial to residents and visitors alike, as retrieving a vehicle from a remote location across the bay is challenging and cumbersome.

The LUSC has recommended that Sec. 142-483(12) of the Land Development Regulations of the City Code, as noted more specifically in the background section above, be eliminated. This proposal to remove towing as a conditional use in the I-1 district in Sunset Harbor would leave Terminal Island as the only location for a future towing use to be located.

The Fleet Management, Police and Parking Departments have expressed the following concerns with regard to any proposal to limit towing services to Terminal Island:

1. Logistics of Existing Fleet Management Vehicle Maintenance Operation. The only site on Terminal Island where a towing operation could, potentially, occur, is the City fleet management and vehicle maintenance site, which is already exceedingly challenged in terms of space and access. Additionally, the previously vacant sites (Fisher Island Employee Parking and Related Office parcel) are nearing completion and/or about to break ground. Once these adjacent sites are at full operational capacity, access to Terminal Island will become more challenging.

2. Security related concerns involving City operations.
• Terminal Island is a primary refueling depot. Towing, or any other similar use, could impede the ability of Police and Fire vehicles to re-fuel.
• Terminal Island is the primary location for public safety vehicles that are in need of repair to be serviced. There are security related concerns in terms of ensuring that people coming to the site to retrieve a towed vehicle do not have the opportunity to rummage through, and or damage police and fire, as well as other City vehicles that are currently in for servicing.
• There is a general concern with the interactions between our City police officers and those coming to retrieve their towed vehicles, which would likely require Police to have some type of staffing on Terminal Island to ensure that there will be no disturbances.

From a land use perspective, the Planning Department has concerns with modifying the I-1 zoning district category in a manner that limits towing to a single site (Terminal Island) and creates a legal non-conforming use (Tremont Towing). Additionally, the use of towing services is well placed within the I-1 district, and the requirement for CUP approval ensures that both the existing towing entity with a CUP (Tremont), as well as any potential future towing uses, would be carefully regulated and controlled within the I-1 district.


The subject amendment is not proposed for referral to the Planning Board on behalf of a private applicant or third party. Pursuant to section 118-162(c) of the Land Development Regulations of the City Code, amendments to the City Code require the payment of the applicable fees in section 118-7 and Appendix A. These fees may be waived by a five-sevenths (5/7ths) vote of the City Commission, based upon at least one of the following circumstances:

1. The City Manager determines, in writing, that the proposed amendment is necessary due to a change in federal or state law, and/or to implement best practices in urban planning;

2. Upon written recommendation of the city manager acknowledging a documented financial hardship of a property owner(s) or developer(s); and/or

3. If requested, in writing, by a non-profit organization, neighborhood association, or homeowner's association for property owned by any such organization or association, so long as the request demonstrates that a public purpose is achieved by enacting the applicable amendment.

As it pertains to waiver criteria number 1, the proposed amendment is not necessary due to a change in federal or state law. Additionally, the City Manager has not determined that the proposed amendment implements best practices in urban planning. As such, the proposed referral does not meet waiver criteria number 1.

The proposed referral also does not meet waiver criteria 2, as a documented financial hardship has not been provided. As it pertains to waiver criteria 3, the Administration is not aware of any non-profit organization, neighborhood association, or homeowner's association that owns property in the I-1 district that would be affected by the proposed Ordinance. As such, waiver criteria 3 would not be applicable.

Accordingly, if the subject ordinance is referred to the Planning Board it would be subject to the applicable planning board fees. In this instance, it will entail a budget transfer to cover the fees, which are anticipated to be approximately $15,000.00.


Enhance Residents Quality of Life


Pursuant to the direction of the Land Use and Sustainability Committee, the Administration recommends that the City Commission refer an Ordinance prohibiting towing as a Conditional Use in the Sunset Harbor I-1 zoning district to the Planning Board.

Applicable Area

South Beach
Is this a "Residents Right to Know" item, pursuant to City Code Section 2-14? Does this item utilize G.O. Bond Funds?
Yes No 
Legislative Tracking
Commissioner Michael Gongora

Sunset Harbor Zoning - MAP