Developers of the Privé at Island Estates condominium project have filed a $200million lawsuit against the city of Aventura to ensure that the project will be delivered to buyers on time.
The project has been stalled because the city has not approved the most recent permits for the project, which developers say is due to a zoning dispute over sidewalks.
The anticipated community comprised of two 16-story condominiums has already sold 71 of its 160 apartments, which amounts to $192million in sales and $55million in escrow. The purchasers expect their units to be available by the first quarter of 2017, according to the lawsuit.
The site for Privé’s construction is an 8-acre island located in the Intracoastal Waterway on the north island of Island Estates. It is connected by a bridge to an equally exclusive south island, which houses 21 single-family homes.
This project has caused tension for neighbors from the Island Estates Homeowners Association and Williams Island Property Owners Association for more than a year now over traffic concerns. In November 2013, residents of the adjacent Island Estates filed an ongoing lawsuit to prohibit Privé from moving forward. They complained that building multi-family high-rise condominiums on the north island would impact traffic because vehicles “would be funneled through the small road bisecting the South Island.”
Originally, the developer had planned “Casas de Oro,” a cluster of 17 single-family homes for that north island. When the plans changed to two condo towers in 2013, it brought along a need for almost 600 cars to be able to travel to and from the island and to park on it, as well as an increased need to accommodate pedestrian traffic.
When Gary Cohen, the main developer of Privé, developed the south island in 1998, he signed an agreement with the City of Aventura promising to build a second sidewalk through the south island to the mainland, if the north island were ever to be developed with residences other than single-family homes.
Last summer, Cohen installed that second sidewalk in front of 12 of the homes on the south island as zoning needs dictated. Three more homes should have gotten a sidewalk as well, but their owners filed suit, claiming that the sidewalk could cause the homeowners to suffer irreparable harm by inviting trespassers onto their property to complete construction.
A judge issued an injunction in September in favor of the homeowners, temporarily prohibiting the construction of the 4-foot paver sidewalk on those three properties without their owners’ consent. Since that ruling, the city has refused to allow Privé’s construction to commence.
The developers believe that they have satisfied the city’s requirements for a second sidewalk and want to proceed with the project immediately.
“The homeowners are trying to stall our development. That’s an abuse from the residents, and the city is sitting on its hands,” said Daniel Lebensohn, one of the developers from BH3, the real estate firm for Privé.
Lebensohn added that the delayed decision on approving the final building permits is damaging to the city’s reputation among future developers and investors interested in Aventura real estate.
But David Wolpin, the attorney for the City of Aventura, views the lawsuit as “an attempt to intimidate and coerce.”
“That attempt will not work,” he said. “The city has steadfastly followed and complied with all applicable laws in its review and action upon all applications concerning the Privé project, and will continue to do so.”
Follow @kathdevaney on Twitter.