Owners regain control of condo

The condo owners at Castle Beach Club have regained their political voice in the building's destiny after Sunday's board elections.

Article Courtesy of the Miami Herald

Published November 18, 2005


For the first time in seven months, condominium owners in the troubled Castle Beach Club have regained political control over their dilapidated building.

Court-ordered condominium elections on Sunday produced a new board -- one promptly ratified by the same Miami-Dade judge who suspended the previous board when the city ordered the residents to evacuate the 527-unit building.

The city cited multiple life-safety code violations that went unrepaired as bitter disputes between the condo board and other residents flared.

A court-appointed receiver who had control over the building still manages its finances, but now the five newly elected condo representatives have regained an important voice in its future.

''This means a return to democracy in the building, because for the first time in seven months we finally have a voice in matters concerning our building,'' said attorney Angel Leal, one of the new board members. ``It's important because this means for the first time there is some light at the end of the tunnel.''

The other new members of the board are: Elizabeth Izquierdo, Sergio Purrinos, Juan Gonzalez and Margarita Suarez-Rivas.

Since the evacuation at 5445 Collins Ave., hundreds of residents have suffered under the financial burden of maintenance fees, mortgage payments and special building assessments for apartments in which they can't live. Many risk losing their units to foreclosure.

The new board, which must answer to court receiver Robert Stone on financial matters for an unspecified transition period, faces daunting challenges.

One of the two engineers hired by the receiver, John Pistorino, has estimated that it would take $25 million to bring the building up to code. The second engineer hired by Stone, Reymundo Miranda, has developed a $4 million plan that he says could cover the minimum repairs while still allowing residents to return to their apartments.

The other repairs would be dealt with later under Miranda's plan.

''We expect the new board will meet with engineers next week and establish the initial funding requirement for first phase of the rehab plan,'' said Joseph Ganguzza, an attorney who represents the five new board members and many of the owners who supported them. ``With that phase, we hope to get the building open, hopefully in a time frame of six weeks.''

The funding for that initial phase will likely come from a special assessment because of the difficulty in obtaining financing, Ganguzza said.

Because the building has been declared unsafe by the city and the fact that some unit owners have begun to default on their maintenance fees, few lenders are willing to consider financing the multimillion-dollar repairs.