Courtesy of The Miami Herald
Published June 5, 2015
A judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit filed by
Aventura residents against a developer who wants to build two condo towers
near their exclusive communities instead of sticking to the single-family
homes he had planned.
|Developer Gary Cohen has proposed
constructing a 160-unit condo complex, called Privé at
Island Estates, on an eight-acre vacant island in the
Intracoastal Waterway. A bridge connects the land with the
island to the south, Island Estates, which houses 21
single-family luxury homes whose owners have taken issue
with the condo plans because of traffic concerns. Owners at
nearby Williams Island have also gotten involved in the
Amid a tangle of lawsuits and a well-publicized battle over
a sidewalk the developer built on Island Estates, the
homeowners sued Cohen, maintaining the developer doesn’t
have the right to build the two 16-story condo towers.
Cohen, who developed the southern island in 1998, had
originally planned to build single-family homes on the north
island. He later decided to build the condos instead.
On May 27, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley ruled that
Cohen does have vested rights to develop the land, but it is
unclear as to what exactly those rights would allow him to
build. The case will continue after Bagley decided not to
issue a summary judgment, as requested by the developer.
in the Intracoastal in the Aventura area is the subject of a legal
dispute between the island’s owner, developer Gary Cohen, and nearby
residents, who have sued Cohen after he said he was going to build
two condo towers on the island, instead of his original plan to
build single-family homes. On May 27, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge
Jerald Bagley ruled that Cohen does have vested rights to develop
the land, but it is unclear as to what exactly those rights would
allow him to build. The case will continue after Bagley decided not
to issue a summary judgment, as requested by the developer.
“The issue for the Court is whether or not that vested
right extends to building beyond the intended purpose, that is, the
single-family homes to the condominium units,’’ Bagley said in court.
“That’s where the Court believes that there is a genuine issue of material
fact, as to whether or not the rights are vested to extend beyond the
original intended purpose.’’
“He does have the right to build,” said Susan Raffanello, attorney for the
homeowners. “But the question is, ‘What does he have the right to build?’”
Gerald Richman, Cohen’s attorney, said he was pleased that the ruling firmly
established that the development rights exist, and he feels Cohen will
prevail in proving his rights to build a multi-family project.
He argued that Cohen was within his rights to change plans from
single-family to the condo.
“He made preliminary plans to build single family, but the market wasn’t
there,” said Richman. “We are very confident that the developer has complied
fully with the law, and that Privé has the right to continue its work.”
The dispute has had some notable moments in recent months. The developer
couldn’t get city permits to start building unless a second sidewalk was
constructed on the island to the south, Island Estates. Homeowners were able
to get a restraining order when sidewalk construction started, but then a
higher court overturned the restraining order.
The developer quickly laid down cement for the sidewalk, but before it could
dry, two homeowners ran their Porsche SUV over the sidewalk. Charges against
those homeowners, Dara and David Clarke, were later dropped.
Since the sidewalk has been built, the city has issued permits. Despite the
pending litigation, work on laying the foundation for the towers will begin