Bid Protests: Moving Forward Despite COVID-19?

Government agencies have been attempting to move forward with normal operations despite the shift in focus caused by COVID-19. In addition to emergency contracting measures that governments are utilizing for COVID-19-related goods and services, local governments are attempting to continue procurement processes for contracts that were in the pipeline prior to the outbreak. Because all of the services that local governments provide are essential, these governments are continuing regular business in order to avoid further crises down the road. As long as procurement processes are continued, the government will inevitably need a plan to deal with bid protests.

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Emergency Public Contracting Procedures, Part 3: Other South Florida Jurisdictions

As discussed in our previous posts on emergency contracting procedures in Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida, the spread of COVID-19 has added many new goods and services to government procurement lists. Not only are supplies needed for testing sites, but also masks and other protective gear have become necessary for transit workers and other government employees. In hopes of flattening the curve and to best serve residents, codified emergency procurement guidelines must be used. Below, we briefly summarize emergency procurement procedures in other significant South Florida jurisdictions.

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State Agency Assists Associations Dealing With COVID-19

COVID-19 has posed new challenges for community living. Condominiums, HOAs, and Cooperatives are confronting how to prevent the spread of the virus within their communities. When faced with residents who had tested positive for this disease, two high-rise condominiums in Miami, the Marinablue and the Brickell Bay Club, shut down use of common facilities and limited access to their buildings to prevent transmission of the disease. Actions like these raised questions within condominium communities and other communities relying on a statutory framework for operation regarding the associations’ authority to take such measures to prevent or reduce the spread of COVID-19. The current statutory framework appeared to limit the associations’ authority to restrict or prohibit access to common facilities only in the case of physical damage to the improvements in the community.

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CARES Act Provides Funds and Broadened Authority for Federal Government Contracts

We have been keeping you up to date on the effects of COVID-19 on local government contracting. Now, the federal government has taken a huge step forward. On March 27, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, providing billions in funds for private individuals, businesses, and government contracts. With respect to government contracts, the CARES Act provides $3.8 million for a defense health program, $1 billion for defense purchases pursuant to the Defense Production Act of 1950 over the next two years, and funds to improve information technology services at numerous federal government departments. These funds will provide a host of opportunities for existing and prospective government contractors.

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Emergency Public Contracting Procedures, Part 2: State of Florida

As we explained in our previous installment of this series, the impact of Covid-19 continues to create an acute strain on all areas of society. The declaration of a state of emergency by the governor and all of the resulting governmental orders demonstrate that this is a time in which emergency contracting regulations can be used. Since time is a limiting factor, it is crucial to employ the State regulations that allow for streamlined emergency procurement.

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Emergency Public Contracting Procedures, Part 1: Miami-Dade County

The coronavirus pandemic is taxing government services and infrastructure in numerous ways, and many of the resulting shortages are well-publicized in the media.  Some of those needs are intuitive—increased hospital capacity, medical supplies, and hand sanitizer, for example.  Others are more hidden, but just as critical—such as the need for additional, specialized janitorial services to clean public buses and buildings, or emergency repairs to sewer infrastructure related to the stresses caused by greater water use and the flushing of bleach and other chemicals down the drain.  In the normal course, the government would conduct a competitive bidding process, often followed by a legislative-approval process, prior to entering into a contract for goods, services, or the design and construction of public facilities.  The public-procurement process is often a lengthy one, and during a true public emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic, time is the public’s most limited resource.  Fortunately, most procurement regulations include exceptions to the competitive process for public emergencies, thereby permitting public agencies to enter into contracts with the private sector for the goods, services, and facilities it urgently requires, without the need to go through a lengthy procurement process.  This will be the first of several blog posts dedicated to this topic, with a focus on the emergency-procurement procedures available to Miami-Dade County.  For up-to-date information on Miami-Dade County’s response to coronavirus, including the Mayor’s declaration of a state of emergency, please refer to the County’s response website.

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Decrease in Florida Sales Tax on Commercial Rent

Effective as of January 1, 2020, the Florida state sales tax rate applicable to the lease of commercial real property has decreased from 5.7% to 5.5%.  Therefore, the state will levy a 5.5% sales tax on all rent collected from commercial properties in Florida.

This new state sales tax rate, however, does not impact county surtax rates.  Because individual counties may impose a discretionary sales surtax, the surtax rate of the county where the rental property is located must be factored in when calculating the total sales tax rate.  For example, in Miami-Dade County the surtax rate is 1%.  Therefore, the combined sales tax rate on rent collected from commercial properties in Miami-Dade County is 6.5% (5.5% state sales tax + 1% Miami-Dade County surtax).

Florida Zoning Appeals Law: Miami Beach “Ban” on Single Family Short-Term Rentals Ruled Illegal

In recent years, online platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway have made it easier for property owners to enter into the short-term rental market, which allows property owners to generate supplemental income and defray the cost of maintaining their real estate. The emergence of this “industry,” however, has faced resistance from neighboring property owners and local governments over concerns that transient occupancy negatively impacts property values, as well as general concerns for the health, safety, and welfare of the community.

In response to these concerns, the City of Miami Beach (in the exercise of its police power) enacted two ordinances that, “for all practical purposes, banned short-term rentals on Miami Beach” for single-family homes. Both ordinances prohibited the rental of properties for terms of six (6) months or less, with limited exceptions not pertinent to the issues at hand. As a penalty, if a property owner rented for a period of less than six (6) months and one (1) day in violation of the ordinances, then that property owner would be subject to escalating fines of $20,000.00 for the first offense, $40,000.00 for the second, $60,000.00 for the third, $80,000.00 for the fourth, and $100,000.00 for all offenses thereafter.

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Coral Gables Zoning Law: Mixed Use Development Overview

The clear evolution of infill real estate redevelopment in South Florida and Greater Miami is towards a true mixed-use environment that makes areas desirable places to work, live, and play.  Coral Gables, with its vibrant commercial areas, is an example of a municipality within Greater Miami-Dade County that is leading this charge through a specific mixed-use zoning code overlay to promote these “placemaking” pedestrian friendly projects.  More and more, significant knowledge of these mixed-use standards is critical to the success of any Coral Gables real estate development project.

Coral Gables’ own objectives and policies of the Coral Gables Comprehensive Plan, recognize the importance of mixed-use development.  For example, Objective FLU-1.1., states that a goal of the plan is to preserve Coral Gables as a “placemaker” where the balance of existing and future uses is maintained to achieve a high quality living environment. Policy FLU-1.9.1, encourages balanced mixed-use development in the central business district and adjoining commercial areas to promote pedestrian activity and provide for specific commitments to design excellence and long-term economic and cultural vitality.  Additionally, Policy HOU-1.5.2 sets out the specific City goal to “encourage residential mixed use as a means of increasing housing supply within the Downtown/Central Business District/Mixed Use Development Overlay Area, thereby promoting increase in commercial and retail activity, increased use of transit, reduction of auto dependency, in association with minimizing visual and physical impacts of nearby lower density areas.”

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