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The Silver Sands, the last remaining ocean motel on Key Biscayne, has been sold and will be razed to build a 56-unit luxury condominium by the Terra development firm according to a letter from its CEO, developer David Martin. 

Martin, who has led many upscale projects in Miami, asked for a site plan meeting with the Village Council in June. He did not reveal terms of the deal in a letter to the Village made public Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, the Village Council adopted a “Zoning in Progress” motion that makes several defensive, interim changes to the island’s zoning code. The new restrictions are aimed at curbing affordable housing projects under the Live Local Act, a law that overrides many local zoning limits for qualifying projects, but some of the changes would apply to all development. The Live Local law has led to battles in Miami Beach and Bal Harbour.

David Martin, the CEO of Terra Group, is planning a redevelopment of the Silver Sands property on Key Biscayne’s Atlantic Ocean Beach (KBI via Terra web site)

Significantly, however, Terra did not invoke the Live Local act in its letter to the Village. Some Council members feared such a move was possible once word of the Silver Sands transaction started to spread on the island. 

Instead, Martin wrote that Terra wanted to build a project that fit with the island’s existing culture.

“At Terra, we understand that overloading local infrastructure with density and intensity is not sustainable and that building environmentally responsible projects is the only way forward.” Martin  said his firm intended to build “the most climate resilient project on Key Biscayne.” 

In addition to 56 residential units, Terra plans a spa and other amenities such as a “floating” beach bar, while pointing out that current Village rules would allow a hotel on the site with up to 116 units. 

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The Council agreed to the site plan meeting, even as it voted to OK a more restrictive zoning code  Among the changes are minimum sizes for units, requirements for critical easements, and, for Live Local Projects, a minimum commercial percentage. The Council settled on a rule that would require 30% of total square footage be set aside for commercial use in mixed-use developments. 

Of particular concern to council members was preventing large shopping centers from being converted into affordable housing projects and thereby reducing retail space, already at a premium in Key Biscayne. 

“Not only do we need the commercial space, that’s a major change in density for us that nobody’s looking for. If the Galleria switches to 65%, residential,” said Vice Mayor Allison McCormick. 

“What we’re looking for is additional protections in our code,” said Council Member Brett Moss, “In the very unlikely chance that this ever comes to Key Biscayne, which is, very, very low.”

Editor-in-Chief

Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.

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Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow...