Residents Scorch Mayor Scholl’s Plan to Cram 9000 Residential Units Into the Town Center District of Sunny Isles Beach

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INFINITY PROJECT
Grant Miller, Publisher

Sunny Isles Beach Mayor George “Bud” Scholl ran in 2014 on a platform that he would stand against high density development on the west side of Collins Avenue.  Now that he’s been re-elected, he’s lying down on his promises.  Or maybe he was lying all along.

Mayor Scholl was fresh off a vacation in Sicily when he breezed back into town with an idea that was so crazy it just might have worked. That is, until people found out about it. 

On July 18th, over 300 residents crammed into City Hall in reaction to a plan that Scholl was backing to allow the construction of more than 9,000 residential units and hotel rooms on the west side of Collins Avenue between 172nd Street and Sunny Isles Beach Boulevard.

Residents were angry over the dismissive attitude of the Mayor and his few remaining supporters.  “Mayor Scholl, you promised us that you would not support hi-rise buildings on the west side of Collins Avenue when you ran for Mayor in 2014,” said one resident during the public hearing.   

Scholl tried to ram the plan through the City Commission which would see the town’s population surge by more than 11,000 during the winter season. Commissioner Dana Goldman voted against the plan, which would be a death blow to the quality of life on this small barrier island.

Mayor Scholl and newly elected Commissioner Jeniffer Viscarra voted yes for Mayor’s Plan, disregarding the concerns raised by residents about overcrowding at the SIB K-8 school, public safety, hurricane evacuation, and traffic.

Commissioner Alex Lama and Vice Mayor Larisa Svechin, who were rumored to be supporters of the Mayor’s plan, decided to vote for a deferral because the heat from the angry residents was too much and they probably knew voting for this plan would hurt their political future.  In the end, the Commission voted to defer the matter to a later meeting.

Ironically, the man who controls 90 percent of the land in the Town Center District spoke out against it. Raanan Katz said, “Absolutely, I do not support this crazy plan by the Mayor.  If anyone was confused about my positions, they are simple: (1) No to the Infinity Project [in Town Center District]; and (2) No to a Plan Amendment to permit the Infinity Project.   I own 90% of the land in the Town Center and I do not want this massive upzoning even though I would financially benefit from the Mayor’s Plan.  The Mayor should go back to Sicily for a long vacation with his plan since he called himself a part-time mayor and residents of the City would be eternally grateful.”

Sunny Isles Beach Mayor Bud Scholl

The Mayor scheduled the meeting and the vote for mid-July, a time when many residents schedule out of town vacations, in order to sneak the matter through. Katz and his son, Danny Katz, head of RK Centers, lead the efforts to inform residents of the Mayor’s Plan and to mobilize their opposition.

Danny Katz gave an impassioned speech to the City Commission about maintaining the quality life in the City.  “We all know why we are here.  This is not about protecting residents in the Town Center District.  This is nothing more than effort to approve the Infinity Project that we have continuously opposed from day one.  This is not about correcting the problems with the two existing projects”, said Danny Katz.

Although the vote has been deferred for now, many in attendance were left embittered against their once seemingly progressive Mayor and his tactics.  Many residents complained that the Mayor and the City Manager, Chris Russo, manipulated the flow of people allowed into the Commission chambers, directing opponents to overflow areas, while ushering the Mayor’s supporters inside. 

“I was in line before 6 P.M. and was denied entry to the main council meeting room.  I was the first person denied entry at the metal detector.  A police officer came out and said the meeting room was already at capacity.  After he made the announcement another 15 or 20 people were allowed entry as they were friends or associates of people already inside.  The auditorium was either at capacity or it wasn’t.  The city was not prepared for the turnout of the electorate,” said concerned resident Jim Parsons in a letter to the Mayor and City Commissioners.

The upzoning plan is off the table for now, but the matter has only been delayed and not denied.  Commissioners Goldman has made her position clear and has voted no against the Mayor’s plan.   Commissioner Lama and Vice Mayor Larisa Svechin of the City Commission should heed the voices of residents and end this ill-conceived plan if it raises its ugly head again. 

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Changing the zoning of the west side of Collins Avenue would be the end of Sunny Isles Beach having any hope to retain its value as a livable tropical paradise and become a “Condo Canyon”. Mayor Scholl, be true to your promise!

  2. Sunny Isles residents should immediately examine their city charter for the procedures on recalling elected officials, then form a working committee or PAC to do so. Identify good-hearted, sincere, public-spirited citizens to replace those to be recalled.

    Scheduling the City Commission meeting for late July, filtering out the opposition from the meeting, and deferring a bad proposal to keep it alive are all classic signs of a money-motivated manipulation. One can only imagine what is happening behind the scenes. Like Deep Throat said, “Follow the money.”

  3. I am not a resident, but I am there a good deal of time!! This plan makes no regard for the quality of life for residents. This “dense concrete jungle “ has already changed the openness of Sunny Isles Beach of years ago when the east side of Collins was all motels. The congestions are mind boggling.

  4. Maybe….hmmm, someone needs to look at WHO is behind the project? Or, as we used to say in the Treasury Department…”Follow the money!” Who, or what source is the money coming from?
    US, or further east, to Northern Europe?
    Hmmmmm.

  5. As a Sunny Isles resident for the past 7 years, I’m interested in this matter. The Infinity project would be the WORST!! Idea for our already over constructed city. Shame on any mayor that would agree with this kinda project ever.

  6. Mayor Bud “Lite” Scholl is digging his own political grave by not being forthcoming regarding the Infinity project. I have lived in Sunny Isles for the past 15 years and have never heard a word about the Infinity Project until Raanan Katz sent out a letter to the residents. Shame on our small city government for trying to hide a huge project in the works knowing that the residents would not be in favor. The old expression “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” didn’t work this time. The only ones hurt should be the commissioners who vote in favor of changing the City Plan. The residents of Sunny Isles Beach will be the first to let them know.

  7. No podemos permitir,que nuestro centro comercial,donde tenemos esparcimiento,sea convertido en más aptos y hotel,habrá más caos vehicular,por llenar los bolsillos del alcalde y su gente.

  8. I been living in sunny isles 15 year,busineses slow down becase ist not many people like it used too, it used to be a lots europeans walking back an for ,is not enough people to visit the business in sunny lsles . I feel they should be more use of the extra land that is not occupied with more business and condominiums for the economy of sunny lsles. I agree with new projects, is not enough entertainment and people like it used too not enough people we need more businesses and consumers to stay inside the island and not comute. Outside but by walking thats why new projects are good for economy we have a empty summer anyways which busineses are suffering too

  9. My family has been living in sunny isles since it’s inception. My grandfather and David Samson pioneered this city with the intention of making at livable and accessible to the community. Mayor scholl is no David Samson and I am shocked to see he was re-elected without and opposition. As a lifelong resident, I will fight against this political corruption. My grandfather and David Samson are rolling in their graves. It’s time to clean sunny isles of this oligarch corruption. Put an end to Schol and his corrupt commissioners.

  10. I am disgusted with the Mayor and all the commissioners except Mrs. Goldman!! Let’s start a recall and get rid of these corrupt commissioners!! They do not represent the views of this community!!

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