Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Traffic Gridlock Act of 2009 - a/k/a SB 360

On June 1st, 2009 Gov. Crist signed Senate Bill 360, a/k/a the Traffic Gridlock Act of 2009.

A popular columnist, Howard Troxler, gave SB 360 a pet name and a very appropriate one, The Katie Bar the Door and Strip Mall Act of 2009, but we prefer the Traffic Gridlock moniker. Here are his words from a recent column regarding this horrible growth management approved by developer-supported politicians:

What the state House did Wednesday was essentially to gut the Growth Management Act for big chunks of the state. Big cities and counties could allow growth without worrying about whether roads and other services can handle it. Small counties would be laid open to entire "new towns" of big development without the usual review.

The name of this bill, the House's revised version of Senate Bill 360, is ironically titled the "Community Renewal Act." It would be better titled the "Katie Bar the Door and Strip Mall Act of 2009. "There had been great hopes that Governor Crist would not sign it, but indeed he did sign it. Here is more about the bill and its ramifications.

More than 300,000 residential units sit empty across Florida, 64,588 properties were in foreclosure as of May 2009, second only to Nevada, and real estate prices are still plummeting. Nonetheless, state lawmakers are making it easier for developers to add even more. Gov. Charlie Crist signed this bill with the reasoning that it would ease government oversight and exempt many areas from a requirement that says builders must pay for road improvements if traffic generated by their projects exceeds the local capacity.

Supporters of the measure — which passed the Republican-controlled Legislature with a wide majority — say it would streamline the permitting process, concentrate development in cities and add construction jobs. Environmentalists describe it as a gift to builders that would make Florida even more vulnerable to the boom-bust real estate cycles that have already shriveled residents’ incomes and dreams.Crist signed SB 360 yesterday even though he noted that his growth management expert, Tom Pelham, who runs the state Department of Community Affairs, had misgivings about the bill. I know the calls, letters and emails to him had been massive. I guess the developers have more power here than we the people have.

The bill rewrites Florida's 25-year-old growth management law, principally by allowing developers in the most urban counties to add more housing developments without expanding roads and by allowing counties and cities to designate new urban areas that also would be exempt from certain road-building requirements. Sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton Republican and an electrical contractor, the bill passed both houses of the Legislature by wide margins. Business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Association of Realtors hailed Crist's decision.

The Chamber said the legislation ``updates Florida's growth laws without compromising environmental or land-use protections. ''In signing the bill (SB 360), Crist, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, acknowledged the divisions it has caused. He has noted that his growth management expert, Tom Pelham, who runs the state Department of Community Affairs, had misgivings about the bill...."The new law is designed to make it easier to build new residential housing, even as Florida wallows in a glut of housing caused by the foreclosure crisis.

Crist signed the bill in private with no public ceremony. His press office issued a terse news release that attributed no quotations to Crist endorsing the legislation. Florida is now even more in the grip of the real estate developers, even with the glut of foreclosures, which are continuing, and even with over 300,000 housing units empty right now. I guess they think people are at the state line waiting to get into a state with little regulation on developing.

Should Boca Raton Adopt Ethics Reform too?

Palm Beach County unveils more corruption reform proposals
By Andy Reid South Florida Sun-Sentinel September 23, 2009

As new corruption scandals rocked Broward County government Wednesday, Palm Beach County officials were already working on corruption reforms coming in response to misdeeds that plagued local government in recent years. Palm Beach County cornered the market on South Florida public corruption scandals in recent years, with three former county commissioners going off to prison since 2006 along with two former West Palm Beach officials.

Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman Wednesday unveiled more details about the county's proposed corruption reforms, some of which, as expected, remain at odds with a reform plan pushed by a coalition of business groups. That sets up the prospect of dueling referendums for how to address corruption concerns going before Palm Beach County voters -- a confusing prospect that both county officials and business leaders say they will try to avoid.In the meantime, officials contend that the reforms in the works for Palm Beach County could be a good fit for Broward, where a county commissioner, school board member and a former Miramar commissioner were arrested Wednesday on corruption charges.

Reforms proposed in Palm Beach County include: tougher ethics laws and education, forming a county Ethics Commission and hiring an inspector general to serve as a full-time government watchdog. "An inspector general type of operation is necessary," said Paul Zacks, chief assistant state attorney in the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, who helped lead a grand jury review of Palm Beach County corruption problems. "The government entities don't seem to do a real good job of self policing."Corruption scandals, and reforms that could help avoid them, are not unique to Palm Beach County, said Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana. "Not to make light of it, but it is human nature," Vana said. "Human beings will derail. ... It's good to put in safeguards."

County commissioners in July agreed to the grand jury's top proposal, establishing an Office of Inspector General. The commission also endorsed creating of an ethics commission and tougher ethics rules. The measures rolled out Wednesday by the county attorney's office are the proposed ordinances that would put those reforms in place for commission-controlled branches of county government. County commissioners would vote on the ordinances in December and the county would push for a referendum in November 2010 to broaden the reach of those reforms to cities, the school district and other branches of local government.

A coalition of business leaders last week presented a competing plan that also mirrors the grand jury recommendations, but gives more oversight power to the proposed ethics commission, instead of the County Commission.For example, the ethics commission would hire, oversee and have the power to fire the new inspector general, not the County Commission.The county proposals rolled out Wednesday are "just a start," Nieman said, with talks planned between county officials and business leaders to try to work out the differences. Business leaders have said they would need to start gathering petitions in November to force a referendum the following year. "We are embarrassed. We don't like Palm Beach County being called 'Corruption County,' " said Marty Rogol, of Leadership Palm Beach County. The business group also includes the Business Forum, Economic Council and the Voters Coalition. "This is a long-term thing ... changing the culture," he said.

Residential Foreclosures up 51% in Palm Beach County

A March 2009 report finds that the number of foreclosure filings in Palm Beach county increased 51 percent in February 2009, year-over-year, according to Default Research, a provider of preforeclosure listings. “Real estate market indicators show median home prices continuing to decline as home prices have dropped nearly 40 percent since 2006,” according to Default Research founder Serdar Bankaci said in a news release. In Palm Beach county the five cities with the most residential foreclosures are as follows: West Palm Beach (431) Lake Worth (266) Boca Raton (219) Boynton Beach (177) Delray Beach (96) Default Research noted it has also begun to see more commercial and retail foreclosures. The number of commercial foreclosures in its coverage areas increased about 35 percent between January and February.
Residential Foreclosures topped 100,000 in Tri-County area in 2008

South Florida foreclosure filings topped the 100,000 mark last year, according to Default Research, which tracks pre-foreclosure listings. Miami-Dade County led the region with 47,672 foreclosures, followed by Broward County, at 37,446, and Palm Beach County, reaching 16,743.
And while the data found that foreclosure activity actually leveled off in the fourth quarter, “we expect to see foreclosure activity remain relatively high until the third or fourth quarter of 2009,” Default Research founder Serdar Bankaci said. Overall in 2008, Miami-Dade had 4.91 percent of households entering foreclosure, followed by Broward, at 4.66 percent, and Palm Beach, with 2.62 percent. The hardest-hit cities in Palm Beach County were West Palm Beach (457), Lake Worth (275), Boca Raton (198), Boynton Beach (189) and Delray Beach (96).

Foreclosure Roundup in Boca Raton area

Congress Corporate Centre + Hotel at Yamato Rd. & I-95 (Sept. 2009)

The owner of the recently completed Congress Corporate Center in Boca Raton is facing foreclosure on that property, along with two of his hotels. Broadway Bank filed the foreclosure action against Shubh Boca Condominium and Atul Bisaria based on a $10.2 million mortgage issued in 2007. The 66,371-square-foot office is at 903 N.W. 65th St., in the Arvida Park of Commerce. Online advertising says it is available for lease at $19.50 a square foot or for purchase at $199 a square foot. In May, now-defunct Mutual Bank filed a foreclosure lawsuit against Bisaria and his Shubh Hotels Boca over the 183-unit Guest Suites of Boca Raton (formerly a/k/a Double Tree hotel). The developer bought the hotel, at 701 N.W. 53rd St., for $7 million in 2002 and took out a $28.9 million mortgage six years later for renovations.
Boca Village Corporate Centre - Yamato Rd. & Congress Ave. (Sept. 2009)

Even Ned L. Siegel and Malcolm Butters, both veteran commercial developers, haven’t escaped the recession without encountering foreclosure litigation. Key Bank named the developers in its foreclosure lawsuit against the undeveloped portion of their Boca Village Corporate Centre. It concerns a $3.1 million mortgage on a 4.4-acre parcel near Yamato Road and Congress Avenue that is zoned for 107,000 square feet of office space. CB Richard Ellis listed the site for sale for $6.8 million
Beason Square Office Condo Complex near I-95 & Congress Ave. exit (Aug. 2009)

The developer of the Beacon Square Professional Campus office condo park in Boca Raton could lose the 43 unsold units there to a foreclosure by Wachovia Bank. A subsidiary of Wells Fargo Bank, Wachovia filed the foreclosure action on Aug. 4 against Weston-based Beacon Square Professional Campus LLC and managing members David Ortiz and Harry M. Rosen, according to Palm Beach County Circuit Court records. It is based on a mortgage issued in 2004 for $16 million and last modified in June 2008 at $13.3 million. The campus – at 7777 and 7781 Beacon Square Blvd., just south of the Congress Avenue interchange at Interstate 95 – features seven buildings encompassing 156 office condo units on 34.7 acres. Only one of the buildings appears empty. It has zoning approval for two more buildings. From 2006 through July 9, Beacon Square made 14 sales for $13.8 million. That includes $5.7 million in sales that were made since the developer’s loan was modified at $13.3 million.
Yamato Crossings faces foreclosure (June 2009)

The owner of the Yamato Crossings shopping center in Boca Raton became the latest retail developer in South Florida to get hit with a foreclosure lawsuit. Fifth Third Bank filed the action against Yamato Crossing Associates and Boca Raton-based Talbott Realty, which has been hit with foreclosure lawsuits on several other commercial properties managed by its president, Gregory K. Talbott. The complaint is based on a mortgage last modified at $9.4 million in 2007. It covers the nearly 30,000-square-foot Yamato Crossings, at 202 Yamato Road, between Interstate 95 and U.S. 1. Tenants include a CVS pharmacy, Panera Bread and Regions Bank.

The city council has recently approved the construction of a bank on this site and in early 2009 the city also approved a rezoning of the site to allow for more fast food restaurants. This now appears to be an effort by the property owner to be bailed-out of an over-leveraged development. Adjacent residents in Boca Pinar opposed the rezoning as they had been promised by the city to maintain a buffer between their residential development and this retail center. Will the city now consider restoring the old zoning in order to protect the residents?
Piccadilly Square shopping center in Boca Raton are facing foreclosure (May 2009)

Miami-based FirstBank Florida filed the foreclosure action on May 26 against Fort Lauderdale-based Serinev Corp., Expression Enterprises and several lenders with additional mortgages on the property, according to Palm Beach County Circuit Court records. Built in 1970, Piccadilly Square has 44,935 square feet between two buildings at 8221 Glades Road in Boca Raton. The 4.5-acre site is just west of Florida’s Turnpike. Tenants include Dunkin’ Donuts, Allstate and International Jewelers Exchange.
199 W. Palmetto Park Rd. Office Building (April 2009)

A Boca Raton office building is the target of a foreclosure lawsuit by the families that sold the building and provided financing to its new owners. The litigation involves a 10,211-square-foot office building at 199 W. Palmetto Park Road, near Northwest Boca Raton Boulevard. Boca Raton residents Herbert L. Wachtel, Lenore Wachtel, Joel Granet, Janette Granet, Gladys Granet and Arnold Granet owned it. They sold to office for $4.4 million to Boca Raton-based SRAM Palmetto in 2005 and provided the new owner with a $5 million mortgage. On March 25, the Wachtel and Granet families filed a foreclosure lawsuit against SRAM Palmetto and Dorchester Realty, according to Palm Beach County Circuit Court records. West Palm Beach attorney Gregory D. Cook, who represents the Wachtels and Granets in their lawsuit, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Another Arvida Park of Commerce (a/k/a APOC) in Foreclosure (April 2009)

Boca Raton-based Cambridge Assets II owns the 137,066-square-foot facility, at 750 Park of Commerce Drive. The building is on 9.5 acres inside the Arvida Park of Commerce. After buying the building for $20 million in 2005, Cambridge Assets II obtained a $15 million mortgage from Artesia Mortgage Capital Corp., which later sold the loan on the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market. According to a December report on CMBS quality by Horsham, Pa.-based Realpoint, Cambridge Assets II was 60 days past due on the $14.3 million remaining on its mortgage.
770 E. Palmetto Park Rd.-Former Le Vielle Maison restaurant (March 2009)

A bankruptcy court judge has denied a company owned by Boca Raton developer Gregory K. Talbott relief from its mortgage holder, paving the way for the lender to continue with its foreclosure in county court. The 6,798-square-foot building at 770 Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton, which once housed La Vieille Maison, a restaurant is subject to the foreclosure. Boca Raton attorney Joey M. Grant, who represents 770 PPR, said his client has not decided whether to appeal the judgment. Stuart-based Seacoast National Bank won a $2.4 million judgment against 770 PPR, but its public auction to sell the property was delayed by the Chapter 11 filing. The bank subsequently sold the judgment to New York-based TJCV Land Trust, which successfully argued that 770 PPR is a single-asset debtor that is not eligible for Chapter 11 protection. It is one of six South Florida properties owned by Talbott or one of his companies facing a foreclosure action. A separate attempt to use Chapter 11 to stop a foreclosure against another Talbott-controlled property was previously dismissed from bankruptcy court.

In Jan. 2009 it was reported that one of seven foreclosure lawsuits targeting property controlled by Boca Raton developer Gregory K. Talbott could be resolved with the sale of the building to Talbott’s own lawyer. In a Jan. 26 filing to its Chapter 11 case in bankruptcy court in West Palm Beach, 770 PPR made a motion to sell its 6,798-square-foot building in Boca Raton for $3.5 million. That would resolve the $2.4 million foreclosure judgment Stuart-based Seacoast National Bank won against 770 PPR and Talbott. The proposed buyer is Boca Raton-based law firm Sweetapple & Varkas, P.A. That firm is led by Robert Sweetapple, the lawyer who represented 770 PPR and Talbott in the foreclosure case brought against them by Seacoast.
According to the contract, the purchase of the former restaurant, at 770 Palmetto Park Road, is subject to a $315,000 deposit, $2.8 million in financing and court approval. Talbott also controls 140 Associates, which is in Chapter 11, and owns the Boca Raton building where Talbott Realty is based. With a $4 million foreclosure judgment against that company, Seacoast filed a motion to dismiss the case from bankruptcy court.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Need" requirement for development upheld in Ocala area case vs. developer

Fla. Cabinet rejects development plan
By BILL KACZOR Associated Press Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet rejected a proposed 800-home development in Marion County after being told that approving it would just aid a ballot initiative to give voters veto power over such projects. Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham offered that warning before the panel's unanimous vote.

The proposed Hometown Democracy Amendment that's on the November 2010 ballot would require referendums on amendments to city and county comprehensive plans such as the one turned down by the Cabinet. The measure is opposed by business and development interests and many state and local politicians including Crist. Pelham's agency originally had approved the development in Marion County horse country but later acknowledged it had made a mistake after two citizens, Ocala residents Susan Woods and Karen Recio, appealed without help from a lawyer.

An administrative law judge also sided with the women. They argued the development was out of character for the area and failed to meet a need requirement in the midst of a glut in the housing market. Development interests now were urging the Cabinet to take away their hard-won victory, Pelham said. "To do that would send a terrible message to the citizens of this state," he said. "The message would be 'Don't bother. You can participate all you want at the local level, but up the line the system's not going to protect your rights.'"Pelham then said that would "pour more fuel on the fires of Hometown Democracy." He also pointed out local governments and developers are rushing to get comprehensive plans changed before next year's election.

Hometown Democracy co-founder Ross Burnaman watched from a front-row seat. He later said the decision did not disprove a need for the amendment to rein in rampant development and sprawl. "They had to go through 2 1/2 years of hell, and then fight off the development mafia that made a last-minute run to overturn their victory," Burnaman said. "Does that sound like it works? "It also may not be a lasting victory.

Linda Shelley, one of Pelham's predecessors who appeared on behalf of the property owners, urged the panel to delay action to give Marion County a chance to revise its need provision. That would be like changing the rules after the game's started, Pelham said, but he acknowledged the land owners could try again if that happens.

Attorney General Bill McCollum said he sympathized with the family that wants to develop its property but agreed with Pelham that reversing the department and administrative law judge would set a bad precedent.
September 15, 2009 - 4:08 p.m. PDT
Regulate growth, or not?
Do we need more homes?
By Kris Hundley, St Pete Times Staff Writer Published Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet are scheduled to decide on Tuesday whether 400 acres of rolling horse country outside Ocala can be developed into about 800 homes. It's a minor agenda matter for Florida's top elected officials, but one with major implications for the future of the state's growth management policy. The issue is simple: Does Marion County need more homes? The state's growth management agency says no.

The developers say that regardless of need, they should get to build on land that is theirs. Big guns, including the Florida Farm Bureau and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, are lobbying on the developer's behalf. Tom Pelham, head of the Department of Community Affairs, said it's no accident that an innocuous subdivision in the middle of the state has attracted such high-powered attention in Tallahassee.

"This case has become a stalking horse for special interests who want to eliminate the needs requirement," Pelham said. "But if you remove the needs requirement or weaken it, you might as well close up the growth management shop." It took two Marion County residents with no legal training and limited financial resources to bring the issue to a boiling point. Susan Woods and Karen Lynn Recio kept challenging the project after it was approved by the county and, initially, the state. Woods will be in the Cabinet chambers Tuesday, repeating what she has said for two years: In a county where home prices have plummeted and completed subdivisions stand vacant, there is no need for 800 more homes.

All of her adult life, Susan Woods has made a modest living from her passion for horses. She and her husband, Bill, teach and judge dressage, an equine routine that involves precise movements by both rider and horse. Their 11.5-acre farm west of Interstate 75 is small by Marion County standards: five horses, one rusty tractor, a home the couple built for $35,000 about 20 years ago. Bill Woods travels the state teaching dressage skills. Susan Woods, 58, maintains the horses and, to make ends meet, works part-time as a librarian.

In spring 2007, she learned of plans to turn a heavily wooded parcel just down the road from her home into a subdivision. Instead of allowing just one home for every 10 acres, the change would permit construction of two homes per acre. The land is just a fraction of the acreage amassed in Marion County by Bernard Castro, founder of Castro Convertibles sofa company, since the 1950s. His granddaughter, Terri Keogh, a lawyer in Long Island, has spearheaded the project. Woods, an amateur hydrologist who can point out the karsts and sinkholes that dot Marion County's limestone bedrock, knew one section of the 400-acre parcel regularly flooded. She couldn't stand the idea that the new development would turn her two-lane road into a four-lane highway. And with the real estate bust well under way, she couldn't understand why new homes were needed. "There's no common sense being used in this," Woods said. "It really bothered me. But I had no idea what I was getting into."

Going door to door to gather support, Woods met Recio, whose property abuts the planned development. They were reassured when the county's own staff recommended the project be rejected. The northwest section of the county where the subdivision was planned was losing population, at a rate of 2.33 percent a year, the staff report said. Planners also noted that several subdivisions in the area had more than 1,700 home sites approved but never developed. At a five-hour County Commission meeting in May 2007, dozens of residents spoke out against the proposal. Several commissioners chimed in with their own concerns. But when it came to a vote, they approved it, 3-2. Within months, the state's Department of Community Affairs, or DCA, signed off. Woods and Recio discovered they had the right to challenge the project before the Division of Administrative Hearings.

With no money to hire a lawyer, Woods took the lead in preparing for the trial-like proceeding, with Recio giving moral support. They sold T-shirts for $50 to cover photocopying costs. Their biggest expense was the helicopter rented when they found the developers had started moving dirt while the challenge was pending. After Woods' aerial photos were sent to the state, the bulldozing stopped. Woods spent hours on the phone with friendly attorneys who gave her tips on how to make her case and interrogate witnesses. "They laid out the bread crumbs for me to follow," said Woods, a graduate of Brown University. "I would be plodding along and people would appear to give me the help I needed." Woods and Recio got an enormous boost when the DCA attorney preparing for the hearing discovered that the agency had neglected to perform a "needs assessment" on the project. "One of the guys in a cubicle goofed," Woods said. "Their lawyer could have swept it under the rug, but to her credit, she didn't."

Faced with its error, the DCA reconsidered the proposal and switched its position. At a hearing in October, the state's experts argued that there was, in fact, no need for the development. "Sometimes we do make mistakes and overlook things," said Pelham, the DCA secretary. "It wasn't a matter of switching sides, it was a matter of law, of telling the truth." The judge, J.L. Johnston, agreed with Woods, Recio and the DCA. Among his findings: Approving the plan would mean that Marion County would have a 45-year supply of homes. Woods and Recio were ecstatic when they got the e-mail in February saying the judge had ruled the project should be rejected. "We thought we were done," Woods said. Then they learned the judge's decision had to be reviewed by the governor and Cabinet.

Final thumbs up or thumbs down comes on Tuesday. Keogh, who says development is inevitable on the family's parcel, is frustrated to see what she calls the family's "smart growth" project become a political football. "We got caught in the web of some policymaking by the DCA," she said. "This isn't about how much money we can reap off the land. It's about what we're going to create there that will add, or give back and set a new standard. We're long-term players." Recio, who runs her husband's horse training business, has another view: "This project is all about greed, not about need."

Last week in Tallahassee, as the parties briefed Cabinet aides about the issue, Woods got a sense of the powerful forces arrayed against her. To present its case, the developer has hired Linda Shelley, who ran the DCA under Gov. Lawton Chiles and also served as his chief of staff. In what amounted to a dress rehearsal for her argument before the Cabinet, Shelley lambasted the DCA's position as "legally incorrect, factually inconsistent, representing bad policy that is fundamentally an unfair way" to treat the county and the developer. Rather than uphold or reverse the decision of the administrative judge, Shelley proposed a third option: Put the request on hold while Marion County revamps its overall comprehensive plan. "The only difference is the applicant won't have to start over (the planning process) from scratch," Shelley said.

Left unsaid, but understood by those in the audience, was that by shelving the proposal, the developers could avoid a bigger obstacle than a couple of angry women. The Hometown Democracy initiative, expected to be on the ballot in November 2010, would give citizens a chance to vote on all major developments in their communities. Pelham said the rush by developers to have their projects approved before Hometown Democracy reaches the ballot has led to an unprecedented flood of proposals through his agency. "We're seeing large-scale plans that would allow for huge amounts of residential units — 100,000; 60,000; 30,000," he said.

"Take away the needs requirement or weaken it and the department will have no mechanism by which to check excessive development proposed far beyond any need." Woods has hired — "at a ridiculously low rate" — Ralf Brookes, a land use lawyer from Cape Coral, to represent her at Tuesday's meeting. She tried to speak during the aides' meeting last week but was overcome with emotion. "The only other time in my life I've choked up like that was at my mother's funeral," Woods said. "But this project is just so wrong, in so many ways."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.
Kris Hundley can be reached at or (727) 892-2996.
If you feel strongly about this and want to express your opinion, reference DOAH Case No. 08-1576GM and contact the Governor and Cabinet at: Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink c/o, Charles H. Bronson, Commissioner of Agriculture,, Governor Crist .

Foreclosures in Delray Beach

Bank United seeks foreclosure on Latitude Delray condos
Wednesday, September 16, 2009 Modified: Friday, September 18, 2009
South Florida Business Journal - by Brian Bandell

The Latitude Delray Beach Condominium is facing foreclosure.
Coral Gables-based BankUnited filed the foreclosure lawsuit Monday against Savion Holdings and managing members Isack Merenfeld, Jacques Abbo, Mayer Abbo and Jaime Weis, according to Palm Beach County Circuit Court records. BankUnited FSB, which regulators shut down in May, had given Savion Holdings a $23.3 million mortgage in 2005. A year later, the bank boosted the loan to $34.8 million for the project on the north side of Avenue L between South Dixie Highway and Southeast Sixth Avenue in Delray Beach.

According to the condominium documents, Latitude’s four buildings totaled 84 residential units and 68 storage units. Merenfeld said 58 units were completed. The developer sold nine units – all in 2008 – for prices ranging from $286,500 to $575,000. Merenfeld said he has not seen a copy of the complaint against him yet, so he's not sure whether he will contest it or not. He said he asked the bank to let him sell the units for less, but BankUnited has not agreed to it.
Once the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. stepped in and signed a loss-sharing agreement with the new bank, negotiating his loan became more difficult, Merenfeld said. The losses on that project would be felt mostly by the FDIC.

“We believe the arrangement between the FDIC and the bank may not be the best solution for the taxpayer, or the best alternative to get the most money out of this project,” Merenfeld said.
Fort Lauderdale attorney Arthur H. Rice, who represents BankUnited, said the lawsuit seeks the full $34.8 million outstanding under the mortgage. He has not been in contact with the developer's lawyer.

Why Is Boca Raton Losing 30 Acres of Green Space?

On 12/11/07 the city council approved an ordinance to amend the land use on approximately 30 acres of the Boca Teeca golf course (a/k/a Ocean Breeze Country Club). This land had been zoned for recreational and open space for over 30 years and city documents dating back to the time of the approval of the Boca Teeca master plan indicate that this land would remain a golf course in "perpetuity". This 2007 change was a "conditional" approval based upon city codes which provides for an 18 month period for the developer, MCZ/Centrum, to become "vested" in this development project. As of 9/25/98 this development is not vested since no permits have been issued, so under the terms of ordinance 4887 this land use is supposed to revert to the original zoning of recreation & open space. Accordingly, Save Boca Raton Green Space has requested a verification by the city that this conditional approval has expired and the land should be returned to the original zoning as recreation and open space.

Save Boca Raton Green Space & Referendum Effort

Since June 2007 the residents of Boca Raton have voiced their disapproval of this development and the most heavily impacted residents formed Save Boca Raton Green Space in order to formalize their opposition efforts. Save Boca Raton Green Space members filed a referendum petition under the terms of the city charter but the city attorney refused to allow the city clerk to process over 2,000 petitions due to Florida statutes which require more than 5 parcels of land to be impacted in order to qualify for a city wide vote under a referendum. The members of Save Boca Raton Green Space certainly felt the financial impact of this development as their "parcels" of land saw their value decline by $50,000 to $100,000 based upon the Palm Beach Co. appraiser for tax purposes as of 1/1/07. The residents certainly believed their adjacent parcels were "affected" even though the Florida statute did not define the word "Affected", so they sued the city to force the processing of the referendum effort.

The Boca Raton city attorney filed a document with the 4th district court of appeals (DCA) supporting the city of Lake Worth's efforts to stop a similar residential referendum effort in their city. This document supported the city of Lake Worth and asked the 4th DCA to define "affected" parcels as only those parcels being developed. In 2009 the 4th DCA came back with their ruling on the appeal by the city of Lake Worth in which they defined the "affected" parcels as only those being subject to the development. While Save Boca Raton Green Space and most residents with common sense certainly opposed this 4th DCA opinion, the members of Save Boca Raton Green Space determined that this judicial ruling against their efforts was not favorable and dropped their litigation to compel the city to have a city wide vote on this development.

Comprehensive Plan Challenge by Save Boca Raton Green Space

In early 2008 Save Boca Raton Green Space filed a challenge to the 2 comprehensive plan amendments by the city of Boca Raton in order to accommodate the development of 211 townhouses on a portion of the Boca Teeca/Ocean Breeze golf course. These comprehensive plan amendments were filed with the State of FL growth management oversight board for their approval, which was granted in Feb. 2008. One of these comprehensive plan amendments (ord. #4887) was for the land use change to rezone to medium density residential and the other amendment (ord. #4991) accommodated the traffic concurrency requirement by significantly increased the number of vehicle trips considering safe for the constrained 2-lane road of NW 2nd Ave. from Yamato Rd. to Jeffrey St.
In 2005 the city filed their Evaluation and Appraisal Report (E.A.R.) of the Boca Raton Comprehensive Plan and this identified NW 2nd Ave. as a failed road since the traffic exceeded the level of service standards established for a 2-lane road. These level of service standards ar established in order to provide for the health and safety of the residents and visitors traveling on the city's roads. This amendment increased the allowed traffic to almost 50% above the acceptable standard and further established an undefined interim traffic concurrency for all constrained roads within the city based upon the city's intent to approve a MultiModal Transportation District system (MMTD). It appears that the MMTD system is designed to allow for development within the city without concern for traffic standards that are normally required by the FL growth oversight agency. Virtually unlimited traffic without standards for the safety of the motorists does not seem consistent with the principals of the growth management system of the state of Florida.
In May 2008 the Florida Dept. of Administrative Hearings held the hearing on the comprehensive plan challenges and in Aug. 2008 the administrative law judge ruled in favor of the city and the developer. This ruling is a recommendation to the state of Florida oversight agency and as of this post the state authorities have not ruled on this recommendation. Could it be that not only does the state oversight authorities not want to accept the comp plan amendments, but the state authorities may also realize that there is no "need" for additional residential housing in an area that has excessive housing, including many foreclosures?
What are your thoughts on the approval of this land for development?