Last night Judge Bronwyn C. Miller issued her very well reasoned 32 page ruling in favor of Grove Isle and all owners.
Preserve Grove Isle was originally formed by Alan Goldfarb, Bob Wilder, and Chuck Kaplanek and Jerome Shaw. There are many other supporters of PGI who have been helpful in pursuing our legal rights. After learning of the developer’s attempt to shutter our club on May 1, PGI immediately retained Glen Waldman and Jeff Lam to commence a lawsuit against the developer.
This lawsuit was initiated on April 22, 2015. A few days subsequent to that the association filed its intervention action to enjoin the shutting of the club. The temporary injunction that has been in place from May 15-Aug 15 has been extended by the court’s ruling.
A brief summary of the ruling:
- The Developer is prohibited from closing or demolishing the existing Club Facilities until valid building permits are issued.
- During any possible construction by the Developer, the Developer shall continue to provide Club services and amenities on Grove Isle to the unit owners, as commensurate to existing facilities as is possible, including restaurant facilities and services; tiki bar; pool and a minimum of eight tennis courts. The Developer shall work in good faith to build and complete new Club Facilities in advance of construction of other components of redevelopment in order to minimize or eliminate the timeframe within which permanent Club Facilities are unavailable to unit owners.
- The Developer shall make available to all existing and future unit owners/unit owners the new Club Facilities upon their completion on an equal basis.
In short, the Club, including the restaurant, pool, tiki bar and tennis courts, must remain open on Grove Isle and available to the residents of Grove Isle at all times. No closure or demolition of the current Club can occur prior to the issue of building permits for new development. If such permits are issued, temporary Club facilities or permanent Club facilities must be made available on Grove Isle. New Club facilities must be made available to existing and future unit owners.
All issues pertaining to the zoning aspect will continued to be handled by Tony Recio, of Weiss, Sorotta. This is a major victory for our entire island and will allow us to continue to enjoy our island paradise.
A copy of the ruling may be downloaded by clicking on the image below.
Grove Isle residents turned out in force today to hear that the Developer’s motion to dismiss our injunction was denied. One hundred and twenty islanders filled the courtroom and proceedings only finished at 5pm. The hearing will continue on Wednesday (4/29) at 10.30am in the same courtroom. We encouraged you to join us then to help Preserve Grove Isle.
For latest update please see http://eepurl.com/bldCeH
Grove Isle Update — Key Points:
Grove Isle Update — The Detail:
With the Developer’s decision to first close parking access and now to permanently close the Grove Isle Club, including its hotel, restaurant, pool, spa and related amenities, residents of the Grove Isle Condominium Association have initiated legal action to prevent closure of the Club. This legal initiative is to protect the rights of ALL residents against the shuttering of the Club. We envision that upon closure, in the absence of a demolition permit that has not been issued by the City, the structure of the Club—surrounded by a chain link fence– will be allowed to decay. The grounds will not be tended. Not only will this property become an eyesore, health and safety issues are likely to arise if the Club building is abandoned for a prolonged period of time.
As residents of Grove Isle, we are protected by the legal documents that established Grove Isle in its current form. These documents committed the Club to provide amenities to all of the condominium owners and residents. This commitment now belongs to the Developer per these legal documents, as recorded by the City and signed by the City of Miami.
The Club is a for-profit commercial operation currently serving both Grove Isle Condominium Association members as well as members from off-island. The Grove Isle Condominium Association, a non-profit organization, is a corporation independent of the Club. Under Miami 21—the current zoning law—the Club could not be built on Grove Isle today because Grove Isle is zoned T5-R, and is limited to residential use. However, because the Club has been in existence for decades before Miami 21 became law, it can exist in its current form in its current location. It is grandfathered to continue its operation. But if it is closed for more than 180 days or if there is attempt to move it to another location on the island, it will lose its grandfather status. This is the urgency for prevention of closure of the Club. Furthermore, there is no approval for a new club, and zoning restrictions will prevent such construction.
We have also learned from a number of residents that they have been approached by agents of the developer. The strategy is to Divide and Conquer. The claim is that residents of Bldg 1 and 2 stand to gain from this development but a vocal group in Bldg 3 are interfering with building plans, and that this new development, particularly the 18 story tower, will be great for Grove Isle. In the meantime, the developer is going to keep punishing the island residents for blocking his development until they submit. Of course, no mention has been made of the three year construction time line, the movement of demolition debris and construction materials necessary to build the equivalent of one of the existing Grove Isle buildings, the environmental damage, the decreased property valuations and the anti-development sentiment expressed at the recent candidate forum by all residents. And the legal barriers have been reinterpreted as supporting the rights of development (if this were the case, development would have started two years ago!)
The continued action of the Board of Directors of the Grove Isle Condominium Association in preventing this development is greatly appreciated by all residents.
All Miami District 2 Candidate Commissioners were invited to talk to Grove Isle yesterday. It was a great evening which laid out clear priorities and concerns for everyone on the island.
Unfortunately candidate Mrs. Sarnoff, wife of the present Commissioner Mark Sarnoff, was unable to attend.
Many thanks again to all involved.
Please make time to meet the District 2 Commission candidates at the Grove Isle Forum.
This will be held in GI Building II’s Card Room at 7:00pm of Wednesday April 15, 2015.
Please forward any questions you would like to ask the candidates to your building manager by Wednesday morning.
Having closed shared club and residents parking lots on the island, despite easements to the contrary, the developer has now circulated an open letter regarding the future of the Grove Isle Club, which he owns and operates for the benefit of residents of Grove Isle. In this letter, the developer has asked residents to make a false choice between membership options which effectively compromises their rights and closes the club. Just how low can you go?
The Board of Directors has distributed the following message to residents: “We suggest owners consider withholding any response to the Club letter seeking a membership choice while our legal team evaluates the potential effect on our rights. You will receive further information early next week.” PGI concurs with the Board and believes – especially in the absence of notification to members that the Club would close – that this request of the Club’s owners is deceptive and serves to minimize the responsibility for the abandonment of the Grove Isle Club by the Club owner. A copy of the Board’s response may be accessed [by clicking here].
PGI strongly believes that residents should not respond to the developer’s proposed options.
Furthermore, with the commissioner candidates for District #2 visiting Grove Isle on 15 April, it will be important to direct to them specific questions concerning development of Grove Isle, the North Grove and Coconut Grove in general.
This is an important opportunity to change the current dynamics by finding politicians that seem more in step with our values.
We provide the following background on this issue for your ease of reference:
Grove Isle residents recently received an update from the island’s Board of Directors.
The key points of this update are as follows:
A copy of the Board’s memo follows below (click image to open document).
And now bicycles…
The developer has now demanded that Building III’s bike room be emptied — and residents have been given seven days to vacate this space.
During Monday’s Board of Directors’ meeting, Tony Recio of Weiss Serota, presented a much appreciated legal update regarding the developer’s various plans for the island. Excerpts of this meeting, which include comments regarding the mediation process and parking saga, may be reviewed by clicking this [link] or the image below.
The Developer has emailed the residents of Grove Isle, bemoaning the fact that he has been unable to work with the Board of Directors of the Grove Isle Condominium Association and requesting collaboration with the Grove Isle residents.
It has been two years to the week that the Developer quietly purchased 4 Grove Isle and he can show no tangible progress regarding his project(s) for Grove Isle.
It is now two years to the week that the Developer purchased 4 Grove Isle, and no tangible progress has been made in the demolition of the existing hotel, spa and restaurant and the construction of ultra-luxury condominiums and new club that has been proposed in multiple versions. He claims to be concerned about the legal expenses to which Grove Isle residents have been subjected. He espouses that he has the legal right to develop his property and that the vast majority of Grove Isle residents are excited about the new development and a new club. This is in contradiction to the fact that a door-to-door survey with signatures proves that residents by a wide margin REJECT the new development.
There is no mention of the negative messages that the Developer has transmitted to the Grove Isle residents and Board. He initiated in secret an 18 story condominium tower based on his interpretation of the Settlement Agreement of 1977; during the mediation with the Condo Association initiated by Commissioner Sarnoff, the Developer secretly requested rezoning of a section of his parcel with the City of Miami so that he could construct a high-rise condominium tower (see post of 18 August 2014); most recently, he notified the Board late on a Friday afternoon that tow trucks would remove all cars from his property at 6 am on Monday—despite an easement that makes parking on his property available to the condo association residents. The tow trucks arrived with a police escort, but an injunction blocked their activity (see post of 22-23 February 2015). Is this punitive action what he means by “collaboration”? Is this developer a credible partner with whom we can build our hopes and futures on Grove Isle?
What the developer fails to acknowledge is that, absent the Settlement Agreement of 1977, he would indeed have the right to build residential structures compliant with the current zoning law, Miami 21. Rest assured, if there were no legal barriers to the development of 4 Grove Isle, it would not matter to him at all whether the residents of Grove Isle were for, against or neutral. Construction would have commenced long ago. To date, our Board and our attorneys Weiss Serota have properly pointed out to the City of Miami that (1) the Developer has no vested rights to build a fourth 18 story tower—and hence his decision to move toward a horizontal Miami 21-compliant structure; and (2) the Developer cannot move the non-conforming Club to a new location because the property is zoned T-5R—for residential use—whereas the Club is for profit and serves the public, including those on Grove Isle.
It is not certain what the next step is, but messing with City requirements for parking on the island and calling for a united effort to turn the island into a construction site for multiple years represent a bizarre strategy. In the interim, PGI is joined at the hip with the Board of Directors of the Grove Isle Condominium Association.
Yesterday the developer sent out the March Grove Isle Club calendar. On the back is a notice that complimentary valet parking is now being offered to all Club members. This appears like a retreat on the developer’s previous position (see previous posts).
This last development shows at best poor planning and communication from the developer, or at worst an attempt to manipulate the feelings of as many people on the island as possible.
The simple fact is that Grove Isle could not have been built without enough parking spaces. An agreed number of shared spaces (our research shows this to be 111 spots) was/is a city requirement.
We trust that the Grove Isle Board will continue to robustly deal with this dispute.
Extremely rapid action by our Board and lawyers halted the latest parking action by the 4 Grove Isle developer. An emergency injunction was issued in our favor at 8.19pm on Sunday. This court order was shown to the police at 6.00am this morning. The police then ordered the developer’s tow trucks off the island. The Board expects the matter to be addressed in court later this week.
A copy of the Board’s latest memo regarding this matter follows below (click image to open).
The Grove Isle Condo Association received notice at 4.55 pm Friday (2/20) from the developer of changes to parking availability on Grove Isle. We are informed that these changes are effective as of 6am Monday (2/23). We attach copies of the relevant notices below for your ease of reference (click image to open) . The matter has been referred to the Island’s lawyers and the Board has advised residents to “take no action until further notice.”
The goal of Preserve Grove Isle is to provide to residents of Grove Isle and the public in general accurate and objective information related to the history of development and the legal issues related to proposed development of 4 Grove Isle. We have worked to provide accurate and detailed information to make certain that the issues before Grove Isle, Grove Isle Associates (the Developer) and the City of Miami are transparent. After all, “sunshine” is what makes Miami, and sunshine on these issues is good for the public interest.
Please scroll down to read a summary of our research.
To this end, under the “Documents” tab on the home page, we have made available public documents, including contracts, filings, permits, and plans related to the proposed development of 4 Grove Isle. Some of these documents are very old, dating back into the 1970’s, whereas others are recent. These documents provide the legal basis for our claim that the Settlement Agreement of 1977, signed by the City of Miami, the then owner/developers and those from Coconut Grove who originally opposed the proposed plan of development of Sailboat Key on Fair Isle, limits further development of Grove Isle.
In summary, the documents show:
1] Grove Isle’s original development was complicated by legal and political action. The local community was in total opposition to the development and expressly the overdevelopment of an undeveloped island with its plan to build four 40 story towers with 2000 units and 1500 parking spaces.
2] The process resulted in a compromise that shaped the island as we see it now. After significant litigation, the Settlement of 1977 defined what would be allowed and the location of all of the elements, including the club on the eastern shore of the island.
3] Building permits were issued, three 18 story towers and one five story tower were built and certificates of occupancy issued—all within the constraints of the Settlement of 1977.
4] Sale of 4 Grove Isle in March 2013 and plan to build an 18 story residential tower on the site of the hotel/restaurant/club—after over 30 years without change on the island.
5] Weiss-Serota Memorandum of Law claiming the absence of vested rights to build an 18 story tower based on the Settlement of 1977 and the importance of current zoning law, Miami 21.
For access to the PGI document archive please go to the DOCUMENTS section of this web site. .
The Grove Isle Board maintains its view that flaws seen in the developer’s latest plans should not be ignored by the City. The Board’s lawyers had previously appealed the City’s Planning Administrator’s decision and argued that developer’s plan was non-compliant with Miami21 planning regulations (click for earlier post). To which the City has replied that its approval was part of a private process between itself and the developer. As a result, the Grove Isle Board has stated that it intends to challenge this determination in order to protect the rights of the island’s residents.
As announced on this site on 15 January, the Board of Directors of the Grove Isle Condominium Association received notice that the Developer had received approval of the five story plan submitted to the City of Miami. The City Zoning Administrator determined that the proposed five story plan for 62 condominiums and a new club is consistent with Miami 21, the current zoning law. The Board of Directors, through their attorneys Weiss Serota, appealed this determination on 31 December.
In summary, the appeal argues that the current zoning, T5-R, for 4 Grove Isle is 100% residential. The current club is a for profit facility open to the public, including those that do not reside at 4 Grove Isle (i.e. those residing at 1, 2 and 3 Grove Isle). In its current location, it is non-conforming regarding the zoning ordinances since it was built and opened long before Miami 21. However, to relocate it to a site on tennis courts facing the marina, it must conform to Miami 21. And as a commercial entity—restaurant, store, spa, etc.—it does not conform to Miami 21 since Miami 21 requires only residential units in this location (zoned T5-R).
We look forward to hearing the response and will share it when it is available
Grove Isle Residents Association recently reported that the City of Miami’s Zoning Administrator has determined that the latest five story proposal for 4 Grove Isle is consistent with its zoning regulations, known as Miami 21. Grove Isle’s lawyers are appealing this administrative decision. The decision on compliance with current zoning laws is completely independent of the terms of the 1977 Settlement Agreement—the agreement signed by the City to allow development of Grove Isle.
Meanwhile the developer’s request for a demolition permit for 4 Grove Isle is still pending before the city. Grove Isle’s Association has reconfirmed that they will also challenge this request. Demolition without agreement on a final solution for 4 Grove Isle risks substantially damaging values and amenities for residents of Grove Isle if a debris field/bulldozed site is generated without a building permit for planned development.
A big thank you goes out to all the residents that participated in the Grove Isle Condominium Board elections last week. These votes have now led to a significant modification of the Board and its elected officers. This Board is well placed to robustly address the challenges being presented to our island community.
Please click on the image below to see the detailed results of the poll.
We are very grateful for the commitment shown by current and past members of the Board to ensure that Grove Isle remains a wonderful place.
Although this PRESERVE GROVE ISLE website was initiated as a response to the potential development of 4 Grove Isle into residential condominiums, one can interpret the goal of preserving Grove Isle more broadly by promoting the participation of the residents of Grove Isle in dealing with some of the major issues before us.
These issues include, but are not limited to, (1) the development of 4 Grove Isle, horizontally, vertically or not at all; (2) the strategy for interacting with the developer (e.g. mediation); (3) rebuilding of the infrastructure of Grove Isle under the control of the Board; (4) assessments for continued improvements; (5) Re-appeal of the Dues suit to force the owners of 4 Grove Isle to participate in maintenance costs on Grove Isle, moving forward and reimbursement for back costs; (6) general housekeeping issues for the buildings and property; (7) development of a strategy for the protection/enhancement of property values on Grove Isle.
To this end, the Board of the Grove Isle Condominium Association plays a critical decision-making role. The Board is elected annually, and that election is coming up in two weeks. There are nine board members, three from each building. The new board will elect a chairman. It is our understanding that all of those candidates for a Board seat will have a brief description of their background distributed shortly by the Condominium Association. WE ENCOURAGE EVERY CANDIDATE TO PROVIDE, BEYOND THAT BRIEF DESCRIPTION, THEIR APPROACH TO DEALING WITH THE ISSUES LISTED ABOVE. This can be done directly on this website so that the residents, the voters, have the appropriate data to make an informed decision.
In the current environment, members of the Board have considerable responsibility, expend considerable effort, and work as unpaid volunteers. In this form of representative governance, we need to all participate and be properly informed.
This is the time to let the Board know how you feel.
First the Tower (18 stories); Second, the resized Tower (12 stories). And now, a Third (perhaps not last…), the wrap-around five story residential condominiums and club.
The developer of 4 Grove Isle has submitted new architectural plans to the City of Miami. The developer is now seeking approval to build two adjacent 80 ft. high residential buildings. The proposed structure wraps along the coast of the island from approximately the position of the current Spa, past the hotel and current pool, to the southeast corner off Building 3. In addition, the new proposed “Jetsons Spaceship” club occupies the position of four current tennis courts and possibly the yacht club. The Board and legal counsel are following these new events with vigilance. The submitted plans are also available in the manager’s office of Building 1 and 3.
It must be emphasized that the Developer has NOT received permission to move forward on any development. This is an exercise to gain support for the developer from Grove Isle residents.
Your attention is drawn to the fact that a number of issues still remain unanswered:
At the request of the Developer—now the Club owner, an informational meeting was held for the Grove Isle Club membership about the future plans for the Club. If would appear that this was a work-around the Grove Isle Board so that the Developer’s associates had direct access to a subset of the residents. Neither the Developer nor his real estate lawyers were in attendance.
Call to Order
Discussion was limited to the Grove Isle Club. All other discussions were “off limits.” The general goal of this meeting was for the developer to “make nice” to the residents, with an attempt to attract their support for his project. For the record, a description of the high points of the meeting follows but there was little of substance that relates to his progress on the overall plan.
The developer has owned and operated the Grove Isle Club for approximately 1½ years, and the consensus has been that this club, dilapidated from the start, has only deteriorated further. Furthermore , the hotel, part of 4 Grove Isle, has also received poor reviews on Tripadvisor. These recent external reviews speak poorly of the entire property, including the tennis courts, the spa, etc. The Grove Isle Board has requested improved maintenance, and the opening of this informational meeting was moderated by a lawyer representing the Club. She stressed that the Developer was committed to bringing the current facilities up to normal standards. A representative of the Club listed a number of items that have been either in the process of being repaired or have been fixed. Our understanding is that a significant amount of repairs remain outstanding.
Timing of demolition of Club Facilities
The lawyer, who was representing the Developer, emphasized that the proposed demolition has not been approved and permitted by the city. She was not able to state when an application for demolition would be submitted. She acknowledged that no demolition or construction could be initiated without the proper permitting. She stated that the Grove Isle Board is being kept abreast of any developments.
New Club Facilities
The architects presented their plan for the new Grove Isle Club. It is four stories, 66 feet in height, and has parking located on the bottom floor—for a total of five floors. The program includes a restaurant for 130 occupants, a bar, a card room, a spa, and a variety of other amenities. There are two outdoor pools: a family pool and a second adult pool. This proposed Club would be compliant with Miami 21, and would be located on the position of the current spa and 2-3 tennis courts between Buildings 2 and 3, facing the marina. (Please note that the Developer has asked the City of Miami to rezone the part of the property where the current hotel/restaurant/spa are located to allow for the construction of a residential condominium tower.)
Alternative club facilities during construction
During construction, Grove Isle Club members would have Social and Fitness privileges at the Biltmore Hotel. This hotel is located about 5½ miles from Grove Isle. Please note that the Biltmore memberships are operated on an individual basis whereas Grove Club membership is on a residential unit basis (thus includes family and children).
Club dues during construction
For those who prefer not to retain their membership during the construction period, membership dues would be suspended. However, it was clear that membership in new club would be a requirement of residency on Grove Isle, as it is currently.
Update Club Rules after construction
Residents would still be required to be members of the Club. There would be some modernization of the rules. There was no mention of potential changes in the cost of annual dues.
During the question and answer period, the membership in attendance recognized this presentation for what it was: An attempt to win over the support of the Grove Isle residents, going around the Board, and to propose a beautiful, elegant new club to replace a poorly maintained existing club for which the residents of Grove Isle are required to pay approximately $1 million per year to belong. Many comments from the audience emphasized the purpose of this meeting: the seduction of the residents with this new facility, with the hope of distracting them from the real issue: the presence, scope and location of the new proposed residential condominiums. The strategy appeared obvious to all members in attendance: the new Grove Isle Club would be relocated for a marina view on the land currently occupied by some of the tennis courts, and the current location of the Club/hotel/pools would be reserved for as yet undefined new residential condominiums. Some important issues were raised about the Club itself: Could such an elegant club with high end facilities be supported by the closed membership of residents? What will happen to the cost of dues in the future (it is highly unusual for a for-profit company to provide amenities for a condo association, particularly when membership is required)? Some stated that this ultramodern glitzy facility, likened to a space ship by some, is completely out of character with the current buildings and property.
In all, the membership appeared angry and adversarial. The architects, to their credit, have tried to approach this design in a professional way. The underlying issue was that they were being used by the Developer to sell his primary project—i.e. the plans for residential condominiums. This project is still entangled in many legal obstacles. Would the developer elect to build the new club facilities on the current footprint of the Club in the absence of permits for the new condominiums? Surely not.
Overall, this was a sideshow in the continuing saga of the attempt to develop 4 Grove Isle. It is the belief of many that whether development of the island occurs will be based on legal issues, including the Settlement of 1977, current zoning laws (Miami 21) and market forces that may play a greater role as Miami luxury construction over-expands. There continues to be little support from residents of Grove Isle for any further development.
It has been a quiet summer on the development front vis a vis Grove Isle—at least on the public side. As a reminder, the developer has taken a three pronged approach to move his agenda forward: (1) Mediation with the Board of Directors. The first (and only) meeting was held in June, with the understanding that the Board requested more detailed plans that have not since been received; (2) the developer’s initiation of litigation against the City of Miami to move his application for an 18 story tower forward; this application is based on one side of an interpretation of the Settlement of 1977 that led to the development of Grove Isle; (3) the developer’s application to have a portion of 4 Grove Isle rezoned from T5 to T6-8, thus allowing for building of a condo tower under current zoning law, Miami 21. In the mix of these activities was also a proposal by the developer to limit the height of the tower to 12 stories and 168 feet. In the meantime, many competing luxury condo tower projects are either in construction or past the permitting phase in Miami, with construction imminent.
Members of the Grove Isle Club—essentially all residents of Grove Isle—have been invited to a informational meeting at the Club on October 10 at 4 pm by the developer. As indicated below in the invitation, among the agenda items included are the timing of demolition of certain club facilities, new club facilities, alternative club facilities during construction. It is unfortunate that the developer has elected a time that makes attendance by members difficult: at 4 pm, members who have their primary residence at Grove Isle are still at work; and the snowbirds are not scheduled to start arriving until the beginning of November.
The Board of Directors of the Grove Isle Condominium Association immediately sent out an announcement to all residents of Grove Isle. This announcement, copied below, specifically emphasizes that the City of Miami has not issued a permit for demolition to the developer. Furthermore, it was confirmed that this informational meeting has been called by the developer and not the Condo Association.
In our effort to keep everyone abreast of the potential development of 4 Grove Isle with a residential tower of luxury condominiums, we provide this information in the interest of transparency. We thank the Board for their continued vigilance.
Committee to Preserve Grove Isle
The Grove Isle Condo Association has recently updated residents with details regarding the Developer’s new plan for the island. The new proposal foresees a tower of 168 feet and 12 stories high. As such, it represents a 20% height reduction from his original proposal. It is important to note that this height information is meaningless, as no other data (for example, building volume and footprint) has been provided, despite requests for more information made months ago in the mediation process.
It appears that the Developer’s application to rezone his section of the island has not yet been confirmed for hearing by the City’s Planning and Zoning Appeals Board. Rezoning part of Grove Isle is an attempt to force the City’s hand and throw out Miami21’s relevance in the North Grove. It’s a slippery slope — a decision to allow rezoning 4 Grove Isle may facilitate the eventual rezoning of the whole North Coconut Grove coastline.
A copy of the latest Board memo is available below (click image to open).
In July, Grove Isle Associates LLP submitted the document (see below) requesting rezoning of approximately half of 4 Grove Isle—specifically the 3 acres currently occupied by the hotel/restaurant/spa. In contrast to a variance, where an owner requests a waiver from the current zoning law (i.e. Miami21), this is a request to rezone this portion of the property from T5 to T6-8, thus allowing the building of a condominium tower along the plans originally proposed. Such a tower would then be in compliance with Miami 21. There is no request to rezone the other 4 acres, now zoned as T5.
Rationale: The primary argument for rezoning half of 4 Grove Isle is that the adjacent buildings (i.e. 1,2,3 Grove Isle) are high density buildings, and changing the zoning of 4 Grove Isle will not significantly change the character of the island. The application argues that existing buildings at Grove Isle are in effect T6-8 buildings, the proposed T 6-8 development on 4 Grove Isle property would fit with the neighborhood. Therefore, they argue that the zone change is harmonious and consistent with the surrounding Grove Isle buildings. However, 1,2 and 3 Grove Isle are non-compliant with Miami 21, having been built before proper zoning controls were in place. One might argue now that allowing high density buildings on Grove Isle in 1977 was an error caused by the absence of strict zoning laws and the pro-development attitude at the time. Urban planners would now properly propose that high density/high rises do not belong on the waterfront but should be set back from the waterfront so that there is a gradual continuum from the waterfront of low rise, then medium rise then high rise development. Indeed, this is one of the fundamental principles of Miami 21—with a goal of avoiding the Miami Beach and north situation of beach front high rises.
The Rezoning Process: For this rezoning application, the Planning Department of the City of Miami is only charged with reviewing the rezoning application and not in the larger sense of how the rezoning and new development is linked to the 1977 SSA or the 5 year litigation history from 1973-77 that lead to the 1977 Settlement Agreement. Any rezoning must be in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan of the City of Miami. City Council has the ultimate decision-making responsibility on rezoning.
Implications for rezoning: Rezoning will lead to construction of a large luxury condominium tower. All of the issues of access to the island, damage to the causeway, storage of materials, etc will greatly impact not only Grove Isle but residents of North Grove and Coconut Grove. See earlier post of 25 June.
Rezoning Benefits Whom? Will rezoning of 4 Grove Isle benefit you? The public will see no benefits.
Indeed, the public will no longer have access to a public restaurant and boutique hotel. There will be no aesthetic contribution to the region and a negative contribution to the environment, including Biscayne Bay. There will be no benefits to the residents of Grove Isle. Property values are already sagging in a market in which the rest of Miami continues an upward trend. The developers will be the sole beneficiaries, as measured financially. In sum, this is all about money. The developers recently bought this property with the idea of quick, fast track financial gain.
Implications: Rezoning represents a legal approach to circumventing zoning laws. The process is significantly different than that employed for application of a variance. Miami has a long history of being pro-development, and changes to the zoning of Grove Isle could portend efforts to rezone much of the waterfront on the nearby mainland in the North Grove, thus allowing contiguous high rise development from downtown Coconut Grove to Brickell. This would logically complete high density development all along western Biscayne Bay.
But is it good for Miami in the long run? Grove Isle is the canary in the coal mine—Could this be the beginning of a domino effect of high density development in areas zoned otherwise?
The 4 Grove Isle Developer has now submitted an alternative plan for the island to the City of Miami. The new application mentions a 12 story tower on a development area which excludes the tennis club. As such, this is a more sophisticated attempt to split the island and test the resolve of the community against further high density development.
Rezoning is required as the project will still not be in keeping with the Miami21 planning regime — a structure which should provide a foundation for real estate decisions. Furthermore, it is not yet clear what effect this will have on club amenities or how the developer intends to overcome the serious logistic and environmental constraints of the island.
Needless to say local residents, both on and off the island, and the real estate market have been ‘spooked’ by this project. Perhaps it is also partly responsible for the recent high profile departure from our neighbourhood…
For further detail on this update please click on the Board memo image below. Please also share your insights on this topic in the comment section below.
The Grove Isle Condominium Board recently issued two updates (please click on memo images at end) regarding the status of the mediation process with the developer. The Board entered into these discussions at the suggestion of City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. The process has been paused so that far greater information regarding the developer’s proposals and methods are made clear. The Board has yet to receive this information.
The Board has also discovered that the developer has put forward an application to allow the installation of construction fencing associated with the demolition of the Grove Isle Hotel and Club. This move is surprising as it is not yet clear what or where exactly the developer is going to build or demolish. Some fear that these parallel moves could be construed as a demonstration of bad faith in the mediation process or that this process is not being taken seriously.
Perhaps it would be useful to know what the Officials at Miami City Hall and City of Miami District Commissioner Marc Sarnoff think about of all of this…
Although there remain many legal, environmental and political issues to be resolved before any development can proceed on Grove Isle, we believe the logistical issues of developing a large new project on the far side of a small island, already with over 500+ residential condominiums, quite daunting. To obtain detailed analysis and expert consideration from a third party removed from this discussion, we queried an experienced construction engineer in order to obtain a professional opinion. The comments made regard either the developer’s Plan A (the tower) or Plan B (five story horizontal development), both of roughly equivalent size. We specifically wished to learn the options that any contractor would have for the demolition phase, the construction phase, and the completion phase.
The challenge is that this is a large project proposed on a very tight, thin and long slice of Grove Isle. This island, connected to the mainland by a two lane causeway that is rated for 15 tons, is fully occupied and the primary residence for many families. Plan A is positioned on the exact opposite side of the island from the causeway entrance. The island is surrounded by Biscayne Bay, and the bay is about 2-4 feet deep within a half mile of the island perimeter except where dredging was performed to approximately eight feet many decades ago in the marina area.
Preparation phase: During the preparation phase space for the trucks, supplies, workers’ parking will be reserved and secured. Presumably, chain linked fencing and lighting will be installed to minimize theft and vandalism of construction materials. There will be signage for resident traffic detours, placement of construction trailers, and the need to reserve a large area for outgoing debris and incoming building materials. Given that 4 Grove Isle covers about 40% of the circumference of the island, all of these activities will necessarily be in close proximity of 1, 2 and 3 Grove Isle.
Demolition phase: During the demolition phase, the existing hotel, club building, spa, roadways, parking structures and other related structures will be demolished, and the debris, asphalt, concrete, glass and metal removed. As a crude estimate, our consultant suggests that this will involve the removal off-island of about 15,000 tons of debris. Given the 15 ton limit of the causeway, approximately 1000 dump truck runs will be required if removal is by land. If removal is by sea, standard dump barges would be used. These barges, which hold about 2400 tons of debris, draw 14 feet of water. Six or seven barges would be required. However, nowhere in Biscayne Bay is the water depth 14 feet. Either a channel would need to be dredged from the ocean to approximately 16 feet deep or many more but much smaller barges that draw considerably less water could be used. Nonetheless, there is currently no channel to the island to support even medium size barges. See the image of the government chart of Biscayne Bay below. Grove Isle is shown within the large red circle. A number of the depth readings, also circled in red, are indicated in feet.
Construction phase: In this phase, the 18 story tower (Plan A) or multiple lower sized buildings (Plan B) will be constructed on the development site. This involves the building of the foundation, preparation of elevator shafts, and assembly of the steel framework. Next, concrete is poured for floors, and exterior windows and facades installed. When tight to weather, the interior walls are built, and the plumbing, electrical and HVAC installed. Finally, interior walls are tiled or painted, appliances and cabinetry installed, and floors laid with wood, carpet or stone. Modern construction techniques usually perform many of these activities in parallel, from the lower floors to the top floors, in sequence. This entails the delivery to the island and to the construction site specifically of about 30,000 tons of materials, including cement, steel, glass, mechanicals, HVAC, etc. Again, from the analysis above, this will require over 2000 trailer trucks and cement trucks or many specialty barges to accomplish importation of these materials. Furthermore, new roads and parking areas will need to be built.
Completion phase: There will be a “clean up and furnishings phase” where all the construction infrastructure will be removed and the luxury property prepared for sale. Many of these apartments will be custom designed by new owners working with their own group of decorators, contractors and subcontractors. The windows, glass walls, mechanicals, railings, paint and all the interior common furnishings are loaded at this phase. Depending on how well these new units sell, this period could be relatively short (six months) to multiple years. All new residents will need to move in and load their personal furniture and furnishings.
Duration: The duration of this development can be approximated using a construction “time line.” The estimate for a project of this scope, with its attendant logistical issues, is at best 2.5 to 3 years for preparation and building construction. This assumes NO legal or unexpected events, unforeseen environmental issues, and the absence of labor strikes. Custom design and modifications of each unit by their owner could take at least an additional year. If the developer were to obtain all permits necessary to begin construction in early 2016—one and a half years from now—the project would be completed by 2020. In the interim, much of the island would be a construction site. The effect on sales of existing condos is uncertain but there is no reason to believe that construction on this scale would enhance valuations. More likely, turnover of condos during this period would be decreased and price per square foot would diminish. After 2020, valuations become more difficult to predict.
Preserve Grove Isle
Note: All values and statements cited above are based on our opinions and estimates
Mediation proceedings finally began today regarding the proposed high density development at 4 Grove Isle. Representatives of the involved parties including the City of Miami met this morning to begin the process. It is not yet clear what exactly this non-binding mediation is supposed to deliver.
Separately another potential challenge to Grove Isle’s environment has appeared in the light of the battle to build the Beckham Soccer stadium in downtown Miami. The City Commissioners have recently approved Resolution 14-00422 which gives the city “the ability to sell or lease submerged lands to buyers who own or have a lease on the contiguous shoreline WITHOUT a referendum.” The Tropical Audubon Society has been fighting this idea for some time as it “puts Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve Resources at risk”.
The resolution’s passing may also impact Grove Isle — as it could help the developer with the dredging task in order to move tens of thousands of tons of material on and off the island.
The Preserve Grove Isle campaign (PGI) is responding to local queries regarding the developer’s proposal for the 4 Grove Isle site. Families living on the island have insisted that PGI share with the neighborhood some of the main concerns regarding the project.
A copy of the document being distributed follows below:
Urgent Neighborhood Notice
A fourth highrise on Grove Isle has been proposed
Does this affect you? Should you and your community be involved?
Although the sale of this property and its proposed development has been kept secret from our community, our goal has been to make the plan, its legal basis and its details transparent so that the communities impacted may participate in relevant discussions.
The detail: a developer wants to demolish Grove Isle’s club, boutique hotel, restaurant, lounge, spa and pool, in favor of an ultra-modern glass and concrete 18 story building on the northeast side of the island.
We thought you would like to be aware that the proposal will likely:
We have made legal progress with the city to the point that this development plan is on hold for further review. This gives us and the wider community time to reflect on the full impact of this development proposal on the residents of the island, of North Coconut Grove and Coconut Grove in general and to make our voices heard.
Many existing residents and neighbors are fighting the developer’s plan and have given us, the “Preserve Grove Isle” movement, their support to carry our message to the Coconut Grove neighborhoods and civic associations. Our opinion poll shows that the majority of residents of the island are against all high density development.
Please contact us to help stop or at least shape what is being proposed for our neighborhood via our e-mail address:
Tell us how your neighborhood could participate in this issue and control its impact on the north grove. Please take a moment to object to the proposal by writing letters to Miami and environmental officials immediately.
CITY OF MIAMI
Mayor Tomas Regalado: firstname.lastname@example.org 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami, Florida 33133
District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff: email@example.com 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami, Florida 33133 305-250-5333
Assistant City Manager: Alice Bravo (firstname.lastname@example.org) Planning Director Francisco Garcia: email@example.com 444 SW 2nd Avenue, 3rd Floor Miami, Florida 33130 305-416-1470 General Number for Planning Department: 305-416-1400
Assistant Director: Luciana Gonzalez (LGonzalez@miamigov.com )
Zoning Chief: Paula De Carolis (firstname.lastname@example.org )
Zoning Administrator Irene Hegedus: email@example.com 444 SW 2nd Avenue, 4th Floor Miami, Florida 33130 305-416-1491
Land Development, Chief Antonio E. Perez (AEPerez@miamigov.com) 444 SW 2nd Ave 3rd Floor Miami, FL 33130
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Biscayne Bay Environmental Center – Pamela Sweeney 305-795-3486
Sean McCrackine 305-372-6789
TROPICAL AUDUBON SOCIETY
Laura Reynolds & Susan Shapiro 305-667-7337
Grove isle was planned in the 1970’s, built in the early 1980’s, and has remained unchanged for the past 30+ years. This developer believes that a settlement for development with the city of Miami in 1977 that allowed construction of what is currently on the island now allows the demolition of the hotel and building of a new highrise tower under zoning laws operative at the time of the settlement. Others now contest that any development, if any at all is allowed, must conform to current zoning laws—Miami 21. It is crucial that a robust public planning review process under Miami 21 is undertaken whereby the developer is required to provide all the requisite information so that the planning department and the public have an opportunity to review and comment on that information. This is a legal matter that is currently in dispute.
Attorneys representing our Association and working with the Board, presented their thoughts on the proposed development on Grove Isle and the status of on-going litigation to the Association members that were able to attend on Monday evening. This meeting was well attended and the presentation enlightening. In initial comments, Gilberto Pastoriza of Weiss Serota confirmed that he was hired by the Association to investigate the legal basis for the rapid development of the tower proposal (now known as Plan A) by the current owners of 4 Grove Isle, with Mr. Avila as the spokesperson for this consortium.
Mr Pastoriza emphasized that this development, unbeknownst to the members of the Association, was on a fast track for approval by the city. “The train was going full speed. Our job was to stop the train.” Indeed, with their preparation of the Memorandum questioning the legality of vested rights from the Settlement of 1977 and its distribution to city officials, the developer’s plan is now on hold by the City. This presentation, which was in depth, was successful and informational. They mentioned that there are various points of view from Association members, including those most concerned about amenities, those most concerned about protracted construction, and those most concerned about any construction on Grove Isle in general.
It also became clear that the Association members are dependent on a second party, the owners of 4 Grove Isle, to provide them most of the amenities that the Association enjoys (e.g. tennis courts, fitness center/spa, restaurant) and yet the owners, who operate these facilities at a profit, may (or may not—that is a legal issue) have the right to discontinue such amenities. Mr. Avila’s Plan B includes discontinuation of many of the amenities that the Association members have enjoyed over the past 30+ years but is said to be within the current zoning ordinances of Miami 21. In addition, John Lukacs of Hinshaw & Culbertson, who also represents the Association, discussed the reversal by the appellate court of the pending suit by the Association against the Club (i.e. 4 Grove Isle), and this suit will be litigated once again, hopefully to the advantage of the Association and its members.
The lawyers claimed that the Association members on Grove Isle do NOT have to choose between two bad choices, Plan A (the tower) versus Plan B (5 five story buildings occupying much of the land that is owned by the developer). They emphasized that we have other options….and we, the residents of Grove Isle, are empowered to decide what we want for our future here.
It is now clear from the predictions of the recent poll that a majority of the residents on the island want no development based on what they have seen and heard. “The Grove Isle opinion poll continues to assess the views of Association members and is surpassing our expectations.” It seems as the entire island is waking up to the fact that they really enjoy this island “the way it is”. Like the old adage, “you take your health for granted until you lose it,” we don’t always appreciate something important in our lives—including the ambience of Grove Isle–until we are about to lose it.
We will be headed for a requested mediation (non binding) with the city, the developer and Grove Isle representatives on 21 April. It is very possible that this start date may be delayed. We feel that this mediation will expose the “no further development position” to all, based upon the opinion poll in progress.
Please keep your letters and e-mails going out to the Miami administrators and elected officials….they are very valuable. You will find this info on this site at this location (click here).
Thank you for the many, many comments and opinions on this PGI website. It shows the interest and unity of the Grove Isle residents. It is times such as this that bring a community together.
The Grove Isle Condominium Board today issued an update on the status of the litigation that was initiated in July 2009. This litigation addresses
Recently a three-judge panel of the Third District Court of Appeal said the Grove Isle Association lawsuit was wrongfully dismissed with prejudice by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge John Schlesinger. Please see the attached document from the Board to read further about the current status of this case (please click on image to open document).
Dear Fellow Neighbors
We are all getting bombarded with lots of information about the potential changes of our wonderful island home. We are delighted that residents are very interested in our future. For this reason we would like to get a sense of how YOU feel.
To accomplish this goal one of your neighbors will come around to ask your opinion YES or NO in terms of whether you wish to have any high density construction on the island or not. We all realize that this topic is of paramount importance to the future life style and setting of Grove Isle.
Please note that the Condominium Association lawyers will present an information meeting for all Grove Isle owners on Monday 7 April. Further information regarding this is included in the document attached below.
Thank you for your support to protect our Grove Isle. Please check the communication section for all the latest thoughts, information and developments regarding our collective home.
The Grove Isle Condominium Association Board has forwarded residents a copy of the latest memorandum from their lawyers Weiss Serota Helfman. It is based on conclusions regarding the developer’s presentation at the Club last week. They added that Commissioner Sarnoff has asked for non-binding mediation between the Grove Isle Association and the developer. The City Attorney is to wait for completion of this mediation process before rendering a new Opinion Letter. A meeting with Grove Isle owners and our Association attorneys is now being organised. Residents will be advised of details of a possible meeting early next week.
The Board also confirmed that the Florida Appellate Court on Wednesday revived the Association lawsuit against the previous developer and Club operator. The attorneys are preparing a review of the case that will also be distributed to residents next week. Please check the communication section for additional information on this topic.