Developer Considers Options After Bid For Fort Lauderdale Hotel Rejected

, Daily Business Review



The developer of the proposed 13-story Vintro Hotel is still considering Fort Lauderdale even though the City Commission rejected its bid to build a 164-foot beachfront tower that critics said would dwarf neighbors and put some of them out of business.

Scott E. Backman, an attorney for Vintro Fort Lauderdale LLC, said his client was considering several options, including "lawsuits, going back and talking to the city and trying again, and selling the property."

"We're assessing all of our options," said Backman of Dunay Miskel Backman & Blattner in Boca Raton. "There's a whole slew of options that we are considering and have not decided on any yet."

He didn't elaborate on the nature of the suit or any potential targets.

But William Scherer, another attorney for the developer, filed a complaint Nov. 19 with the state Ethics Commission against City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, alleging an undisclosed conflict of interest.

Scherer of Conrad & Scherer in Fort Lauderdale shook up the City Commission hearing on the Vintro application with news he'd filed the complaint the same day against Trantalis for "egregious misconduct."

The complaint states Trantalis' former spouse, Richard Smith, was attempting to purchase the half-acre site for two clients while Vintro's application was pending before Trantalis and other commissioners. It states that Smith, an agent with Keller Williams Realty, was using Trantalis' escrow account and Wilton Manors law office while attempting to broker a $2 million cash deal with Backman and Vintro Hotels president Enrique Colmenares.

Smith urged Colmenares to sell because the commission would not approve the development application for 3029 Alhambra St., a block west of North Atlantic Boulevard, the complaint stated.

'Cottage Industry'

Vintro Fort Lauderdale submitted the application Sept. 18, 2012. Last April, about a month after Trantalis' election, Smith presented the offer from clients Michael Howard and Bill Balkou, according to the complaint. He also sent Backman information on a potential replacement property at 515 Sea Breeze Blvd. for Colmenares to purchase.

News of Scherer's ethics complaint led Trantalis to recuse himself from the vote, which ended with a rejection of Vintro's application.

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