|By Jenny Staletovich, The Miami Herald|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
In the land of boom and bust where no real estate proposition seems too outlandish --
The villa flotilla, its creators say, would be sustainable and completely off the grid, tricked out to survive hurricanes, storm surge and any other water hazard mother nature might throw its way. Chic 6,000-square-foot, concrete-and-glass villas would come with pools, boathouses or docks, desalinization systems, solar and hydrogen-powered generators and optional beaches on their own 10,000-square-foot concrete and Styrofoam islands.
Asking price? About
If this sounds like a joke, think again. This, as the Dutch say, ain't no grap.
"We're serious people," said
Still, it's hard not to be skeptical.
"It's both fantastic and fantastical," said North Miami Beach City Planner
Behrens won't say exactly how much the company has invested so far but suggested it is enough to take the plan seriously.
"Look who I'm sitting next to," he said during an interview, pointing to
Together Dutch Docklands and Olthius' firm, Waterstudio.NL, have completed between 800 and 1,000 floating houses in
The team believes that by building an extreme example of a floating house in
So can you get a mortgage? Buy windstorm insurance? Declare a homestead exemption?
Yes, yes and yes, Barsh said. Practically speaking, the barge-like structures are considered houses, not boats, she said. A 2013
"Before, there was a lack of clarity," Barsh said. The court decision "opened up an opportunity for this development to go forward."
Barsh, who also represents rock-mining interests, says such projects could potentially provide a valuable way to reuse rock pits scattered throughout
But what would it mean for the manatees that lumber through the saltwater lake, which is designated critical habitat?
Protections would remain in place, the team said. And the islands, with specially contoured undersides, could provide a habitat for sea life, Behrens said.
Still, making the project fit local laws could be tricky. In a preliminary review by the
"If it's a permanent-type fixture, then it will be assessed as property," property appraiser spokesman
Over the next 100 years, scientists predict climate change will alter water on a global scale. Seas will swell and coasts will shrink. Weather will become more extreme, with stronger hurricanes, harder rains and higher floods. Even routine tides will rise. And almost nowhere else will those effects likely be more dire than in
So solving the problems of coastal living in the 21st century could be lucrative.
The floating islands, he pointed out, do nothing to solve larger climate problems for cities in
"It's an inexorable, decade-by-decade phenomenon," he said.
Considering other Dutch designs -- protective dunes tunneled out to hold parking, parks that become ponds and highways that float -- a rock-pit-turned-floating-housing by using drilling rig technology might not seem so farfetched.
In recent months, the last new project on
"That area was rich in rock pits, quarries and concrete manufacturing," explained historian
The porous limestone mines fill with water from the area's high water table. The new lakes provided even more waterfront property to an area already rich with water views, creating a developer's dream -- and possibly an environmentalist's nightmare.
In addition to worries about marine life, building on the lake may raise concerns about water quality and potential effects on the nearby
"We have a history in
Gimenez, the public relations executive who is also a land use attorney, said the Dutch team has already met with the
Gimenez also said floating islands are better than the alternative: filling the lake and building highrises. Once mined, rock pits are sometimes refilled with construction and demolition debris. Developers in
But getting a variance from a county ordinance regulating waterways could be a feat, since so few are granted, said land use and environmental attorney
"Let's face it, [what developer] wouldn't rather replace a houseboat with a houseboat office," he said. "All of a sudden you don't have the bay anymore. You just have dock space after dock space after dock space with offices."
Behrens, a former banker who grew up in
"It's a step-by-step approach," he said. "But we're Dutch. ...We know how to stay and how to make success."
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