Miami-Dade County to Release Finalized Plan to Address Climate Change

On April 22, 2021, Miami-Dade County released a draft Climate Action Strategy for public comment. The full draft of the report can be found here.

Miami-Dade County often finds itself at the center of the conversation of climate change and resiliency efforts. With so much at stake, the County’s Office of Resilience prepared and released a draft Climate Action Strategy in April with the overarching goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs, and improving health and quality of life in Miami-Dade County. After considering public comment during the month of June on issues spanning approaches and proposed actions, the integration of equity, and reporting procedures, among other things, the County plans to publish the final Climate Action Strategy this month. Given that the Climate Action Strategy sets forth ambitious goals and concrete steps to increase energy efficiency in Miami-Dade County, this post serves as a rundown of its main components so that readers can get a head start in understanding what is likely to be included in the much-anticipated final strategy.

The Climate Action Strategy presents the legislative and policymaking steps whereby the County plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030. The Climate Action Strategy outlines three main focus areas targeted for improvement: Energy and Buildings, Land Use and Transportation, and Water and Waste. Multiple approaches are described in each focus area and several specific actions are provided to reach the bold goals.

Proposed approaches to improving Energy and Buildings in the County include retrofitting older buildings, expanding renewable energy sources, and constructing ultra-low energy buildings. Energy production in buildings accounts for 41% of total County emissions. Tracking and improving energy use in older buildings, along with subsidizing energy-efficient repairs in qualified low-income homes will address the 82% of housing units in Miami-Dade County targeted for energy improvement. The second approach in this focus area proposes a significant expansion of solar energy production, a source of tremendous potential in sunny Miami-Dade. Additionally, the County will promote energy efficiency in new construction with Ultra-Low Energy and Zero Energy Buildings standards.

The second focus area of Land Use and Transportation addresses the source of 55% of communitywide emissions. To improve in this area, the County hopes to reduce transportation-related fuel consumption and expand and protect green and blue spaces in the community. Reducing transportation-related fuel consumption will involve electrifying County vehicles, reducing emissions from the airport and port, and expanding low-carbon mobility options, such as cycling and electric scooters, to ultimately reduce citizens reliance on single occupant vehicles. These actions, such as expanding public transit along SMART plan corridors, double as solutions to the County’s traffic problems. The Strategy also proposes a 30% increase in tree canopy coverage by 2030, which would increase the capture of atmospheric carbon, reduce heat, and contribute to the County’s invaluable and world-renowned natural ecosystems.

The third focus area of the Strategy addresses Water and Waste. The first identified approach endeavors to convert waste into usable energy. Along with a goal of burning up to 50% of non-recyclable garbage for energy by 2030, the County is proposing major upgrades to landfills and wastewater treatment facilities to increase energy efficiency. The second approach involves reducing waste production and water consumption by 50% and 30%, respectively. To that end, the County will create a community-wide food rescue plan, implement a construction and demolition waste reduction plan, and expand utility-directed water conservation programs.

While some policies may affect development, the Strategy accounts for continued growth in the County. Environmental resiliency and strategic planning is critical to the continued success and livability of the County; the Climate Action Strategy can help get us there.

Moving Your Corporate Headquarters to Florida? Don’t Forget Your Business Incentives

With Florida’s pro-business climate and warm weather, the state has always been a target for corporate headquarter relocation and business expansion.  Couple that with the elimination of the SALT deduction and a focus on quality of life issues in the age of COVID, Florida has gone from the shortlist to the default choice for expansion and relocation.  Among the highlights of the State’s pro-business climate, Florida is a right-to-work state and has no state personal income tax, but there are also significant opportunities for Florida business relocation incentive packages that can be created for businesses.

While packages can be customized commensurate with the level of benefit to the State of Florida and the specific jurisdiction within the State, there are also a number of statewide programs that can be sought depending on the type of relocation or expansion.  Two of these statewide programs are the Capital Investment Tax Credit (CITC) and the High Impact Performance Incentive (HIPI). 

The Capital Investment Tax Credit (CITC), provides benefits of an annual credit provided for up to 20 years and used against corporate income tax.  An annual credit may be claimed for up to 20 years in an annual amount up to 5% of the eligible capital costs generated by a qualifying project.  The level of investment and the project’s Florida corporate income tax liability for the 20 years following commencement of operations determines the amount of the annual credit.  The CITC is available for the catchall relocation of corporate headquarter facilities, and specifically for the following sectors: advanced manufacturing, clean energy, biomedical technology, financial services, information technology, silicon technology, and transportation equipment manufacturing.

The High Impact Performance Incentive (HIPI), provides benefits of a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity negotiated grant.  Once approved, 50% of grant can be provided upon commencement of operations.  The balance of the awarded grant is provided once full employment and capital investment goals are met.  The HIPI is available for the catchall relocation of corporate headquarter facilities, and the following specific sectors: advanced manufacturing and semiconductors, clean energy, life sciences, financial services, information technology, and transportation equipment manufacturing.

A number of other programs are available statewide or in customized packages, such as employee training funds, sales tax exemptions, ad valorem tax exceptions, Brownfield Redevelopment Bonus Refund, research and development tax credits, and expedited permitting assistance, just to name a few.

To learn more about unlocking economic incentive opportunities related to corporate headquarter relocation or those related to specific target sectors, we encourage you to contact the authors of this article, Anthony De Yurre or Elise Holtzman Gerson, and continue to follow the Bilzin Sumberg New Miami Blog.

Industry Leaders Discuss Construction Delivery Methods and Potential Pitfalls

On March 3, 2021, Bilzin Sumberg hosted its annual South Florida Redevelopment Conference.  During one of the sessions, the leaders of our firm’s Construction Law Group, Joy Spillis Lundeen and Felix X. Rodriguez, were joined by Brad Meltzer, Chairman and CEO of Plaza Construction, and William O’Donnell, Managing Principal of Desimone Consulting Engineers, to discuss the various construction delivery methods for construction projects.  The panelists discussed the different delivery methods and pros/cons of each, focusing on the following: (1) Design-Bid-Build with a Guaranteed Maximum Price; (2) Design-Assist; (3) Design-Build; and (4) Delegated Design.
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2021 Legislature Clarifies Use of Contract Deposits by Condominium Developers

Section 718.202 of the Florida Condominium Act sought to address the extent that condominium developers could apply contract deposits to pay costs involved in construction of a project. This Section of the Condominium Act allowed deposits in excess of 10% of the purchase price to be used, with appropriate language in the sales contracts for expenditures used in the “actual construction and development” of the project. The meaning of “actual construction and development” was far from clear other than the specific prohibition on using such deposits for “salaries, commissions, expenses of salespersons or for advertising purposes” as contained in the statute. Many attorneys advised that the safest course was to limit use of deposits to actual “hard” costs of construction, e.g., brick and mortar costs.
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Post-COVID Miami: The Changing Landscape of Commercial and Residential Development

Earlier this month, Bilzin Sumberg’s South Florida Redevelopment Conference engaged hundreds of real estate developers, government staff and officials, architects, engineers, and construction professionals from 12 different states and three different countries in thoughtful discussions about the current real estate market and the future of land development in South Florida. This year’s innovative virtual platform allowed a broader audience to participate in an exploration of market trends, obstacles, and unique opportunities for real estate development and public-private partnerships in the region.

During a session focused on the changing landscape for commercial and residential development, panelists discussed pre-COVID-19 trends and how the realities of a global pandemic subsequently shifted market focus. Prior to the nationwide shutdowns in March of 2020, both office and industrial real estate were in high demand in South Florida. While activity in the industrial sector has remained relatively stable, the demand for office space in the region has grown exponentially over the past year. The shift to remote work for a large portion of the workforce and the luxury of year-round outdoor weather have driven many office employees down south.

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Mayor Levine Cava Highlights Miami-Dade County Priorities at South Florida Redevelopment Conference

At the keynote session of Bilzin Sumberg’s South Florida Redevelopment Conference, newly elected Miami-Dade Mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, shared her vision for the County in the coming years. With a long history of public service to County residents, and as the first female mayor of Miami-Dade County, Mayor Levine Cava’s participation in the Conference garnered keen interest from attendees.

As Commissioner for District 8, she invested her time in championing a better life for residents by advocating for innovative infrastructure and transportation projects, protecting the environment, creating affordable housing, and expanding economic opportunity. As Mayor, Levine Cava demonstrated how she had continued to champion these important topics in her first 100 days in office. She also detailed the County’s success in limiting COVID transmission and increasing vaccine distribution. And in a push for advancing equity and inclusion, one of her office’s first initiatives was the creation of the Office of Equity and Inclusion to assure that all the work being done by the County is accessible and operationalized through an equitable lens.

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Rapid Transit Zones: Essential to the Future of Miami-Dade County’s Development

Bilzin Sumberg’s annual South Florida Redevelopment Conference brings together in- and out-of-state developers looking to explore new concepts and innovative approaches for achieving business success in South Florida’s real estate sector, as well as engineers, architects, planners, and government officials and staff engaged in real estate development and procurement in South Florida.

At this year’s virtual conference, Land Development & Government Relations partners Anthony De Yurre and Stanley B. Price hosted a fireside chat and discussed the history of Rapid Transit Zones in Miami-Dade County, the effects of the municipal devolution, and future trends for the development of RTZs.

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Counties Beware: Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Charter Amendment Implementing Transportation Tax

In a case that should serve as a warning to all Florida counties, the Florida Supreme Court recently struck down a voter-approved Hillsborough County charter amendment that created a 30-year, one-percent sales tax that could only be used to fund public transportation. The amendment also established an oversight committee responsible for ensuring that the tax proceeds were used for public transit. Challenging the amendment, a Hillsborough County Commissioner and resident argued that the oversight committee impermissibly usurped the powers granted to the County Commission pursuant to Florida law. The Supreme Court ultimately reversed the trial court’s ruling and held that the one-percent tax could not be severed from the provision implementing an oversight board and that the entire amendment was unconstitutional, reasoning that the court could not assume that the voters would have approved the tax without the requisite controls.

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Exciting Developments in Uncertain Times: What’s in Store for Real Estate in South Florida

Observers of the South Florida real estate industry don’t go very long without seeing headlines about Miami’s hot commercial real estate market. COVID-19 perhaps has only added to the growth of the market. But even in South Florida where the pandemic hasn’t blunted the market, it has indeed shifted trends and dynamics. On February 2nd, Nitin Motwani, Managing Principal of Miami Worldcenter, and Anthony De Yurre, Partner in Bilzin Sumberg’s Land Development and Government Relations Group, discussed the movement of money and migration as it relates to real estate investment and development in the region during a virtual talk hosted by Bilzin Sumberg.

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