Mayor Vows To Improve Sonoma Bay

Developing Company Cornerstone Builders Not Answering Calls


Article Courtesy of  WPBF.COM

July 31, 2009

RIVIERA BEACH , Fla. -- A condominium complex crisis in Riviera Beach is now on the front burner for the city's mayor.

Thursday night, WPBF took viewers inside the Riviera Beach development Sonoma Bay and introduced them to neighbors who said the crime has gotten out of control.

Now, some of those residents are calling on the city to do something about it. They said they've tried desperately to reach the developer, Coral Gables-based Cornerstone Builders, to come into the property and start taking action. Unfortunately, those residents can't get a hold of the company, and neither can WPBF.

Homeowners in Sonoma Bay said they have been living in fear, equating their community to a war zone. One resident didn't want his identity revealed on camera, but he described how he was bruised and bloodied by several neighbors over a simple parking spot.

Police said laws are being broken inside Sonoma Bay all the time, and they said they're also looking into violations by the developer.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Riviera Beach Police Department Chief Clarence Williams ordered a cease and desist of providing Section 8 housing, saying, "the master site plan approved by the City Council indicates that no part of the planned unit development shall be utilized for subsidized rental housing."

"I think my unit is down to less than $50,000, and it was $250,000," said homeowner Keith DiLisio. "I know some people who paid over $300,000."

DiLisio said he recognizes the tough times in the economy, but he said it was after crime increased that foreclosures went up and more Section 8 tenants moved in that the value of his home plummeted. He said he has pleaded with the developer to take action, but he has never gotten a response.

"There's a lot of finger pointing in this type of situation," DiLisio said. "The builder would point fingers to the management company. The management company would point fingers to the builder. Then, the builder would point fingers to the police department (and) nothing gets done. It's basically biding your time."

WPBF even tried calling Cornerstone, leaving several messages over the last week. When WPBF tried early Friday, the number had been disconnected.

WPBF sat down with Mayor Thomas Masters inside the clubhouse at Sonoma Bay . He said he has met with residents and with Cornerstone about the subsidized rentals.

"What we expect is everyone to keep their word," Masters said. "If you've promised something and you've signed contracts and there were some agreements between the city and yourself, then we expect for you to keep your word."

Masters said the city wants to partner with Cornerstone to fix the problems and make Sonoma Bay a safer community, but he placed some responsibility on the residents.

"You have to ask those people, 'Do you feel safe here?'" Masters said. "They're still here. I tell people, 'Hey, if it's good enough and you're still here, then that tells me you're comfortable and you feel safe.' Because, why would you continue to be in a situation that you're not safe and put your children in harm's way and put yourself in harm's way?"

Residents said they feel trapped and unable to get out of Sonoma Bay . They said all they can do is hope that things get better. Meanwhile, Masters said help is on the way.

"If it means making camp here, I will stay here until these problems, whatever the problems are, until they vanish," he said. "Everyone deserves a right to live in a community where they feel safe, sound and secured."

Masters said he will do whatever it takes to improve the quality of life in Sonoma Bay , even if it means setting up camp for several months inside of the community.

Homeowners have also complained that they are still paying homeowner's association fees even though it's run by the developer. Sonoma Bay is required to have 90 percent of the community be made up of homeowners before control is handed off to a homeowner's association.

Friday morning, residents received a letter saying that the homeowner's association contract had ended and was allowed to expire by the managing company, Prime Management. It said nothing about the identity of the new manager. The number on the letter for residents to call regarding services is the same number for Cornerstone Builders -- the one that is disconnected.

Sonoma Bay Residents Say Crime, Foreclosures Mar Area