After nine years of litigation, J. Laurence Eisenberg defeated Morningside residents who fiercely fought to kill his proposed eight-story residential building north of downtown Miami.
For almost a decade, plans to build the project on Biscayne Boulevard have been in limbo as the neighbors' fight sent the 63-unit project to the Third District Court of Appeal three times. In the latest visit, the court sided with the developer last year and sent the issue back to the Miami City Commission for reconsideration.
On Thursday, commissioners rejected the Morningside Civic Association's request to invalidate the contested 2003 permit issued by city staff. The Class II special permit gave Eisenberg the right to build an eight-story building at 5101 Biscayne Blvd.
Eisenberg has a contract to buy the development site, and the contract is contingent on obtaining the necessary approvals to start construction, said Miami attorney Susan Trench, who represents Eisenberg.
The site is owned by Chetbro Inc., which is selling the property to Eisenberg.
"Nine years later, they voted to approve the original decision of the planning and zoning director and the zoning board and granted us our Class II permit without conditions," said Trench, a partner with Arnstein & Lehr.
The Morningside association fought the project because it didn't want the building at the edge of its residential neighborhood. The neighbors claimed the permit should be revoked because the project would violate setback requirements established by the city zoning code.
Neighbor and activist Elvis Cruz compared the city meeting to "a Twilight Zone" episode.
"The city attorney told the commission they should only rule against us contrary to language in the 3rd DCA opinion," he said. "Not exactly what I would call impartial justice."
The neighbors haven't yet decided whether to file a new appeal, Cruz said.