Grove Isle owners oppose proposed island development
It has been a tough road for Grove Isle owners since a new developer acquired an interest in commercial properties on the island in 2013. It has changed the way of life for residents.
For almost two years, my firm represented a group of homeowners who are not opposed to the redevelopment of the island, but oppose the development project approved by the city of Miami. The new development of 65 arena-style condos will leave homeowners without the amenities they paid for, and many will lose sunlight, breeze, and view while being masked in the dark.
Meanwhile, the continent will be inundated with noise and light pollution from floor-to-ceiling glass walls and several rooftop entertainment venues. Concrete will replace green spaces on a third of the island. The owners were only made aware of this in 2015, after the plans were approved and the promoter announced that the Club House and hotel were closed, which were also open to the public.
There were no public hearings; public input has not been solicited, although several mainland and city associations have been linked by a long-standing and bitterly contested alliance with the land.
Even though the approved plans were not in line with the pledge, its restrictions convinced Miami-Dade County to forgo the required shoreline development approval instituted to protect established neighborhoods. The owners were forced to plead their grievances. In 2015, Judge Bronwyn Miller, then a judge of the Circuit Court, ruled in favor of the owners, mandating the developer to build a hotel with at least 26 rooms and a club house, and to adjust his plan so as to “does not affect the density” of the island as per the alliance. The developer should reduce the number of condominiums. However, he ignored the final court order and continued to secure permit approvals while depleting homeowners’ cash reserves to continue the fight.
While allowing the equipment to deteriorate, the developer increased dues by around 166% until it shut it down completely in August 2019. Eight months later, when most of us were locked up in Due to COVID, the demolition took place without addressing life safety concerns, such as the badly damaged sea wall and a structurally compromised bridge – especially since it was intended for use by construction equipment. Calls to city administrators were answered with, “This is a private bridge. Therefore, residents had no other recourse but to hire Pistorino & Alam engineers to inspect the bridge. Its report concluded: “The bridge requires immediate shoring because the safety of people is threatened. The nature of the failure would be… a sudden collapse of a road span when a vehicle is present.
Prior to this report, the proponent had not applied for a permit for repairs to bridges or dikes and had rushed to demolish existing structures. Its demolition caused months of construction silt runoff in the bay and a year of “one vehicle at a time” on the bridge, causing traffic jams on South Bayshore Drive.
The public works department demanded that the developer re-platinum prior to construction on the single deck block and establish a separate condominium association. Instead, the city suggested that the homeowners association and the developer negotiate to undermine the restrictions on the engagement. This regulation created a new exception which must be legislated and not at the discretion of the administration.
Since the Surfside condo collapse, fear of building within 24 feet of an existing 40-year-old condo tower has increased. The similarities between the Champlain Towers and Grove Isle should be too frightening to ignore: both feature buildings not meeting 40-year recertification requirements when reports detail structural deficiencies; both are or were close to a new development and said the construction methods [to be used for new development] minimize the effects on neighboring buildings.
If this Grove Isle development is allowed to proceed as is, it will be tantamount to sacrificing the value of countless lives for the sake of maximizing a developer’s profits.
Rosario Kennedy is a former commissioner and vice-mayor of the city of Miami. She is CEO of Rosario Kennedy & Associates.