MAY 18, 2012


Flat Iron Park in the Mary Brickell area 5 months after the big PR ceremony of dedication took place.

The City of Miami has always maintained a conflicted position about city parks.  The politicians proclaim that they are all in favor of parks, except when put to the test, where they usually vote to undermine the methods that would finance the creation of a really quality park system.

In my lifetime I’ve witnessed the size of Bayfront Park - the city’s premiere park - whittled down with the creation of Bayside, the Amphitheater, the Intercontinental Hotel and office building next to it, and the condo to the south of it.  All the space taken by these buildings used to be part of Bayfront Park when I was a little boy.

At the forefront of the fight for city parks in Miami has been Steve Hagen.  It’s pretty much been a thankless effort, and one that I must admit I myself have only paid occasional attention to.

On Wednesday, I got a copy of the below letter that Hagen wrote about the persistent financing problem that exists for funding new parks in the City of Miami.

I would urge you to rad the letter, sign the petition - I did - and pay a little more attention to what folks like Commissioner Sarnoff - who claims to be a big park proponent - are really up to with some of his schemes.

May 16, 2012

Carson Bise, President

Tischler Bise

4701 Sangamore Rd, Suite S240

Bethesda, MD 20816



Dear Mr Bise,


As immediate past chair of the Parks and Public Space Committee of Miami Neighborhoods United from 2003 to 2011, I offer the following observations about what needs to be corrected in the flawed Impact Fee Plan and Calculation Schedule of the City of Miami, in regard to park land.   

Per your presentation to the public on March 12, 2012, we understand the concept that impact fees for parks should start with a base of park land and facilities which  are most likely to be replicated in the future.    In other words, you look at the total park inventory and then strip out parks and facilities which are not likely to be duplicated.


On the current plan in force since 2005, you striped out all parks under three acres and all waterfront parks, a 2/3 loss of park land for your base calculations, resulting in .9 acres per thousand residents upon which park fees are based instead of 3.1acres per thousand residents our actual inventory to population ratio in 2005 when Tischler Bise offered your professional guidance to the City of Miami.  


I suggest that by stripping away waterfront parks and major facilities you are not just reducing the green space calculations, but in reality you are going against the long established path of the leadership and the park culture of Miami or lack of it.    


Understand that Parks in Miami are no longer called or zoned as parks.  This occurred about a year after Miami adopted your Impact Fee Plan.

Parks are now called and zoned as Civic Spaces.   By this definition, all of waterfront Bayside Park also known as a festival market place on the water, Bicentennial Park and all of Virginia Key must be included in your calculations as Miami has taken the position to zone them as Civic Spaces, with opportunities to be built upon, covering as much as 25% of the area with buildings and even more space for parking and other hard surfaced play courts and walkways.    Miami leadership has devalued what residents have traditionally called parks.


Indeed, since 2002, all the Commissions have taken the position that Bicentennial Park is really one large civic space, no different than a non waterfront park because they are allowing a third of it to be covered with buildings and hard surfaces, violating an ordinance that prohibits them from using a waterfront park for non water dependent facilities.   


If various Commissions thought that waterfront park was so valuable and could not be replaced and should not therefore be included in your 2005 base calculations for park impact fees, then surely they have eliminated that argument.   


Likewise for Virginia Key.  Commissioners have proposed building multiple baseball fields on this waterfront land,  therefore, the City, by classifying this as Civic Space with the opportunity to place upon it facilities that could be built anywhere, do not value it as waterfront land, therefore all of Virginia Key must be included in your base calculations for park land.


Since 2005, about 70% of Grapeland Park has been covered with a costly water park facility so again the City is intent on using park land to construct place just about any type of facility, be it water front park land or not.  


Since 2005, Little Haiti Park has been created using bond dollars, but 50% of it is covered with cultural facilities. Again, using park land building as building sites.


I could list more facilities that have been built in parks since 2005.   In fact, Miami has a long history of placing all types and sizes of facilitates in all their parks with no regard as to the size or location of the park.


There is no evidence this practice will stop as MNU has submitted legislation for park protections, with not even an acknowledgment from the City.     


Again, Miami 21 allows 25% of ANY park ANYWHERE to be covered with buildings and Miami 21 does not even mention that parking for a building takes more space than the building and when you add additional space for hard surfaced play courts and walkways 50% or more of the green park ceases to

to exist.


All of this in a City that ranks dead last of all high density cities in the entire US in terms of park acreage per resident as calculated by the Trust for Public



Unless Miami agrees to strict protections for all its parks and makes amends for harm to our parks since 2005, there is indeed no ground for Tischler Bise nor the City to eliminate 2/3 of our parks from park land base calculations.


Therefore, I  ask that you as the impact fee contractor to count all the acreage of all our parks, sorry, "civic spaces", even the land that City Hall sits upon, traffic circles and medians in your base calculations given the above evidence that Miami leadership, over decades, has made no differentiation between waterfront land nor any other land and indeed they have built facilities of all sizes and descriptions upon parks of all sizes and purposes and there is clear evidence this will not stop because there are no protections for lands residents view as parks, yet in reality,  parks as most people consider them, no longer exist in Miami 21 the new zoning law of Miami..  


I and others request that your base calculations should approach 3.1 acres per thousand residents as that is what it was in 2005, according the City''s own calculations, when you first took on the task of first professionally evaluating Miami Impact Fees.      


In addition, we want all Retail, Commercial, Motel and Hotel developers to pay park land impact fees on the basis of units equal to at least a rate of at least one third of what a single family home would pay.


We want all residential units to pay on the basis of bedrooms with 1.6 persons per bedroom or studio.    Stop classifying all high rise condos as one unit at 1.6 person per unit.   This policy is undercharging high rise developers and buyers. 


We want to make it possible, even preferable, for a developer who would be responsible for a half acre of park land or more to be able to purchase and improve the park land according to city standards, earning a 20% reduction in the park fees they would pay (far less than the administrative fees the City would incur) and then deed the park to the City instead of paying park impact fees to the City, thus assuring that new park land is opened at the same time the developer earns the Certificate of Occupancy on their development. .


We want the plan to require the City to maintain a separate account for each category of Park Fees and that the City make monthly reports to the Parks Department and to the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board as to receipts and expenditures of those fees.   

In regard to fees for park facilities, it appears the City may have painted themselves into a corner by adding the expensive gym under the expressway, so now there is the argument that gyms  might should also be included into base facility calculations. .After all, wouldn't every neighborhood benefit from and desire to have a gym?     This facility is on less than three acres, so it is really a neighborhood park/facility and not a 3 acre facility which the City has argued in the existing plan is the minimum size needed to draw residents from one district to another district to justify taking fees from one of the seven impact fee districts to another district. 


We also want to see the requirement that fees collected for land purchase actually be used to purchase land no matter what the stated level of service is  in the Comprehensive Plan, otherwise our  park land / population ratio would have to deteriorate to 1.3 as stated in the Comp Plan before the City could be required thru a lawsuit brought by residents, as that is the only language Miami government understands, to actually add park land. Please recommend that the Comp Plan ratio needs to be changed to 3.1 acres per thousand residents from 1.3.


As you know, per Florida Statue, fees must be “localized.”      In 2005, in your  presentation before the Commission, you compared Miami fees to some other cities, showing Miami fees would be higher.    That type of comparison is irrelevant.   Indeed, I believe your employee agreed with me at the public meeting of March 12, 2012.   


After your public meeting, a gentleman from the Downtown Development Authority agreed that if a developer was going to build in Miami's urban core, it makes no difference what fees might be in any other Florida city, so don't use them.    

Frankly, the current Impact Fee Plan is a disservice to Miami residents and the City has made its application even worse.   Just before your presentation, the Mayor fired the Parks Manager who was an excellent administrator.   I emailed him and he replied that I said things at many meetings  (to the Commission and Parks Advisory Board) he could not say.                                                                                                        


Go to the petition below and click on signatures and see that nearly 200 people agree with what I have written.


Under your current plan, not one square foot of park land has been added to Miami since 2005 using Impact Fees.  Our ratio had declined from 3.1 to 2.67 acres per thousand residents.   Is this the sign of a good plan?  


PLEASE do your very best to design a decent product this time that will actually require and deliver new park land in Miami commensurate with growth which will continue, without further depreciating our current park status as

deplorable as it is. 



Steve Hagen  

305 754 0099


Have you signed this informal online petition for more parks in Miami?



You do not have to be a voter in Miami.


Simply copy and paste the address below, read the petition, sign it and leave your comments.   

Use the IPetitions site to send to five friends or copy and use this email to send to all your friends.



Your petition will be delivered in groups of 100 to Miami Mayor Regaldo and the Miami Commissioners in time for their vote in Mayor or June of 2012.     


Read the petition to find out how Miami will lose an opportunity to collect close to 100 million dollars from developers over the next five years for new parks if our leaders fail to adjust Impact Fees for parks. Time is critical as is your signature!!!! 



Copy the link below, and it will be a permanent link to this page that you can post on Facebook, or anywhere else.