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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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…
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.