ALM Properties, Inc.
Page printed from: Daily Business Review
Select 'Print' in your browser menu to print this document.
Morningside condo project gets city commission approvalThe Miami City Commission has backed construction of an eight-story building that has been challenged for nine years by residents of the city's Morningside neighborhood.
2013-01-15 12:00:00 AM
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.
Trench said if Cruz files an appeal, she will take action.
"If he tries to appeal, I'll try to file a motion requiring him to pay our fees when he loses that appeal because it is clear where the appellate court is on this," she said.
Trench said her client will move forward with the project even if Cruz appeals. She doubts Cruz could afford to post a bond to ask the appellate court to put the project on hold. To get a stay from the court, normally a bond is required to cover damages that the other side may suffer as a result of the stay, she noted.
Eisenberg will be able to build up to eight floors in what is called the MiMo district because his application was submitted to the city before the MiMo rules were adopted.
Under the new rules, developers can't construct buildings taller than 35 feet, which often results in two-story structures.
The historic district was created to help preserve its many buildings featuring architecture in the Miami Modernist style, which is best exemplified by the former Bacardi building on Biscayne Boulevard.