Sidewalk dispute on private island causes furor, arrests

An image from video shows Dara Clarke sitting while workers build a sidewalk around her near her home at the Island Estates in Aventura.
An image from video shows Dara Clarke sitting while workers build a sidewalk around her near her home at the Island Estates in Aventura. BH3

A private construction crew trying to lay down a sidewalk and Aventura homeowners protecting what they say is their land were involved in an hours-long stand-off Thursday that ended in two arrests.

During the day, homeowners on the Island Estates, an exclusive island in Aventura with 21 single-family homes, parked their cars on a 150-foot stretch of property in order to block workers hired by a developer from pouring concrete.

After the developers had some of the cars towed to a nearby parking lot, one resident, Dara Clarke, whose home lies behind the disputed land, sat in the dirt in protest, forcing the crew to work around her.

After several hours, Clarke and the other residents conceded a temporary defeat and withdrew from the property.

But later that night, she and her husband David returned to the scene in a Porsche SUV and ran over the still-wet cement with their vehicle, destroying a newly built curb and causing an estimated $3,000 worth of damage, according to a police report.

Charlie Phelan, one of the developers, said he stuck around after the workers left to keep an eye on the property. He said he witnessed the couple, with David behind the wheel, destroy about 50 feet of the curb directly in front of their house.

“After they were done, David rolled down the window and said ‘That will give you some work to do tomorrow,’” Phelan told the Miami Herald.

He then called the police, who arrested Dara Clarke after officers said she began screaming at them and shoving a cellphone in their faces. Her husband, who had left the scene, returned and was also arrested.

Dara Clarke, reached by phone Friday after securing a $7,500 bail, refused to comment on the events of the night but said she was simply defending her property rights.

“I own that property and I’m not going to give it other people,” Clarke said. “I’m still in utter shock at what happened.”

“The developers have an insane vendetta against us,” she said. “But the law is not on their side. In the United States, we have property rights, we have the Constitution and at the end of the day you don’t get to say I’m going to take your land and put a sidewalk on it because it will help me make a profit.”

Police said they matched further damage to the sidewalk to the tires of Dara Clarke’s BMW, which were covered in wet cement.

She denied yelling at the officers or shoving her cellphone at them and said she did not drive her car over the sidewalk.

The physical confrontation happened after an increasingly bitter series of courtroom battles between homeowners and the developers of Privé, a proposed two-tower, 160-unit condominium project on a neighboring island connected by bridge to Island Estates.

In order to grant the developers — BH3 and Gary Cohen — a permit to build the complex, the city of Aventura has insisted they construct a sidewalk on Island Estates to deal with increased pedestrian traffic. But three homeowners, including the Clarkes, protested that decision, saying the sidewalk would be placed on their land illegally.

A judge granted a temporary restraining order preventing construction from going forward, but that order was overturned on appeal on Wednesday and remanded back to the lower court for further examination because the developers had not been allowed to argue that a delay would damage their business interests.

The next day, the developers sent a crew to start building the sidewalk.

“The Privé developers are racing to build an illegal sidewalk on private property before the courts have another opportunity to stop them,” Susan Raffanello, an attorney for the homeowners, said in a written statement.

“This case is far from over,” Raffanello continued. “A private developer cannot simply steal property from others.”

A new hearing is set for Monday.

The developers earlier filed a $200 million lawsuit against the city of Aventura and a $225 million suit against 23 homeowners, including the Clarkes.

Dara Clarke was charged with one count of disorderly conduct, two counts of resisting an officer without violence and one count of criminal mischief causing damages of $1,000 or more. David Clarke was charged with one count of criminal mischief causing damages of $1,000 or more.

Charges against David and Dara Clarke were dismissed on September 24, 2015. On August 31, 2016, a court ordered that the court and legal records of Dara Clarke in this matter be expunged.
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