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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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…
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).