MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -

Preservationists in Miami Beach are fighting to save the city's historic homes from demolition.

The issue that's being debated is whether a single-family home can be designated a historic building without the owner's consent, and it's currently one of the most heated issues in the city, pitting those with the means to buy up and build bigger with those who want to preserve the history and flavor of Miami Beach.

"This is a matter of celebrities and deep pockets and lawyers and lawyers and architects and engineers to destroy the flavor of Miami Beach. I don't think its fair," said Jeannette Varela.

Varela has renovated and saved several almost century-old mansions. Daniel Ciraldo hopes to keep his island home from towering new neighbors.

"If we continue in this level of demolition, we're going to lose so many of those homes that are so characteristic of Miami Beach, that helped define Miami Beach, and we really think that in the end, that will reduce property values," Ciraldo said.

A city committee met Wednesday and advanced legal protections for architecturally significant homes built before 1942.

The poster mansion for the issue is one on Star Island, built in 1925 by Florida’s first registered architect. It was about to be torn down for progress by the owner, a so called "Real Housewife of Miami" and her husband, until historic preservationists took it to court, where it is still today.

"People moved into those areas because of the special character. Once you start demolishing those historically-significant homes, then that character is lost," said William Cary with the Miami Beach Planning Department.