Aventura - Sunny Isles

Aventura residents speak out about Privé to commissioners

It was business as usual during Aventura’s Tuesday night commission meeting, until several residents voiced their concerns during the public comments section of the agenda.

The topic of the night: Privé at Island Estates.

The construction of Privé, a 160-unit luxury condominium project to be built over two, 16-story towers, has caused deep tensions for homeowners from Island Estates, an adjacent south island. The condo island is connected by a bridge to the single-family home island, which connects to the mainland. An increase in traffic has been the main concern for over a year.

Until March, the construction of Privé had been stalled because the city would not approve the most recent permits for the project, unless a second sidewalk was built on the south island. A group of homeowners from Island Estates had a restraining order, preventing developer Gary Cohen from building the sidewalk in front of their homes.

But in February, a higher court overturned the order so that developers could represent their case again to a lower court. During the brief time that the restraining order was lifted, the developers rushed to build the necessary paver sidewalk.

Two homeowners, Dara and David Clarke, were even arrested after running over the still-wet cement with their Porsche SUV. The two were charged with criminal mischief causing damages of $1,000 or more, but the charges were dropped by the State Attorney this week because the ownership of the land cannot be proven at this time.

Because the sidewalk has been built, the city has granted the building permit to the developers of Privé. Construction will prevail despite pending litigation against them.

Present at the commission meeting were Dara and David Clarke.

During the public comments, Dara Clarke said she was there to discuss the “actions and non-actions” of the City Commission, also proclaiming that the City Attorney, David Wolpin, is a liar.

“You need a new opinion,” Clarke said, urging the commission to speak to another attorney. “He’s wrong and he is an advocate for Gary Cohen at this point.”

During the meeting, Wolpin defended the current City Commission, explaining that they are not the entity that approved the development permit for the Privé project. He continued to say that Gary Cohen has the right to build the project by vested rights he inherited back when the county controlled the area. The City of Aventura inherited those vested rights obligations.

Wolpin also noted that a sidewalk previously exists across the street in a public utility easement on the south island of Island Estates.

Additionally, Wolpin welcomed public comments, but recommended that commissioners should not provide feedback to the residents as there is litigation pending from existing lawsuits against the city.

Other residents agreed that the building permit for Privé has been wrongfully issued.

Julia Barash, a resident of Hidden Bay and an attorney herself, said she found it “bizarre” how quickly the developers built the sidewalk during the court’s hiatus on the restraining order issue.

“I think everyone in this room, maybe even some of the commissioners in this room, can agree that Privé’s developers are ruthless,” Barash said.

She went on to say the commissioners “need to start talking to each other” in the event that a judge rules the sidewalk should have never been built.

“You have a $200 million lawsuit now,” she said, referencing the impending lawsuit the developers had issued against the city in January when they wanted to press them for the building permits. “It’s going to be $400 million. It’s only going to get worse.”

Follow @kathdevaney on Twitter.