Sunny Isles Beach: Violate state law or just nip it in the Bud?

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Publisher Grant Miller

Word is out that Sunny Isles Beach is a developers’ dreamland. But what about the hopes and dreams of long-time residents and small-business owners who simply wish to maintain their quality of life here? A life that drew them to this beautiful seaside town in the first place. A life that their elected officials promised to protect.

So it should come as no surprise that residents here are very concerned with overdevelopment — and that they want to nip it right in the bud while there’s still time.

The issue at hand is the proposed development of the west side of the Town Center District. Over the last several months, a growing number of residents (aka, voters and constituents) have clearly voiced that they want their city officials to put their wants and needs first – over those of big-time developers.

Recently, one member of the Sunny Isles Beach City Commission even suggested that the majority of the elected officials here are only focused on kicking this can down the road instead of complying with the law to protect the quality of life of residents from over-development. She openly shared her opinion during a discussion of a proposed meaningless moratorium on development projects in the Town Center District sponsored by Mayor Bud Scholl.

Sunny Isles Beach Mayor Bud Scholl

But how about this idea: instead of kicking trash around, let’s just get rid of it. Let’s clean up this town and the leaders who would see fit to allow such garbage to pile up along our streets – in the form of over-development along the west side of Collins Ave. Let’s keep our community clear of unsightly over-development in the Town Center District, fostered by a commission hell bent on pushing aside the concerns of residents and small business.

Let’s Follow State Law
So what’s the crux of the issue? Turns out, the density and intensity requirements in the Town Center Code exceed the density and intensity requirements in the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

Dana Goldman Commissioner

In fact, at a public hearing on August 28, Mayor Bud and three members of the city commission gave notice to state officials that the City of Sunny Isles Beach is an “independent republic” – that it is not required to follow state law, which requires the city’s zoning codes to be consistent with its comprehensive plan, the blueprint for development of land in the city.

During the public hearing, Commissioner Dana Goldman, who is a practicing attorney, strongly urged her fellow colleagues on the commission – including Mayor Bud – that they have a fiduciary duty to follow the law and reject the deceiving plan to increase the density in the Town Center District in order to approve the Infinity development project.

Mayor Bud and his supporters on the dais rejected Goldman’s proposal for the city to follow the law despite potential legal problems that they may arise in the future for the city.  With enthusiastic support from Vice Mayor Larisa Svechin, Mayor Bud, who has called himself Mr. Property Rights, has decided to take away lawful property rights by the approval of a moratorium by the City Commission for the sole purpose of finding a legal pathway to approve the  massive Infinity project, which is deemed illegal under the current Comprehensive Plan.   Commissioner Goldman was the only member of the City Commission who voted against the moratorium because she felt it was nothing but a ploy to upzone the Town Center District for the Infinity project.

Vice Mayor – Larisa Svechin

“We have a fiduciary duty to comply with state law,” Commissioner Goldman said at the meeting. “We also have a moral duty to help residents quickly who are currently living in the two existing development projects that were built based on the incorrect Town Center zoning code.”

The majority of residents at the public hearing were strongly in support of Goldman’s proposal to end the mayor’s deceptive plan to upzone the Town Center District to make way for development of the Infinity project.

Disregarding resident concerns about the plan to upzone the Town Center District to permit more than 9,000 residential and hotel units, Mayor Bud and his supporters adopted a meaningless moratorium for the District for the sole purpose of giving city officials time to justify the upzoning for the Infinity project.

“In my 40 years of experience in planning and zoning matters, I have never seen a moratorium adopted for the reason stated by the city”, said Cecilia Ward, an expert planner hired by Raanan and Danny Katz to oppose any plan to upzone the Town Center District to approve the Infinity project.

Like Commissioner Goldman, Ms. Ward warned the city commission that the city is required to make its zoning code consistent with its Comprehensive Plan. Despite warnings from Ms. Ward, state officials in 2007, and its former City Attorney Hans Ottinot, Mayor Bud is “hell bent” in changing the law to approve the Infinity project.

In fact, Mayor Bud directed the city manager to hire an engineering consultant from Fort Myers to conduct a review of his upzoning plan, which is strongly opposed by most residents and Commissioner Goldman.

A review of the public records shows that the engineering consultant was primarily hired to provide justifications for the upzoning plan that residents strongly opposed at the public hearing held on July 18, 2019.  Residents were not buying the misleading statements from Mayor Bud and his supporters on the City Commission especially when they know that the Mayor Bud has a penchant for spreading fake news on this matter.

Double Talk Bud

OK, we’re getting on the weeds a little here, but that’s what happens in a jungle… Fed up with the mayor’s double talk, one resident asked the mayor and his supporters on the city commission if they will keep their promises in the future that high rise development will not be permitted on the west of Collins Avenue, especially in the Town Center District. Mayor Bud and his supporters on the city commission did not answer the question.

While Mayor Bud refused to answer the question asked by the resident, Commissioner Goldman made it clear that her proposal would keep the promises made to the residents by ensuring no upzoning for the west side of Collins Avenue and prevents massive development projects that are not in compliance with the law.

During the hearing, Mayor Bud and Vice Mayor Larisa Svechin sought to stop Commissioner Goldman from explaining the benefits of her proposal. Their efforts failed because the residents screamed “let her talk, let her talk.”

“I urge the City Commission to follow the law and approve Commissioner Goldman’s Resolution because it will fix all the problems we are dealing with today”, said attorney Greg Coleman, who represents the Sands Pointe Condominium Association, which is led by President Maggie Gordo, a staunch opponent of any plans to approve the Infinity project or to upzone the Town Center District.

Surprised by strong opposition to his purported moratorium, Mayor Bud sought to claim that his goal was to help the residents of the existing buildings on Sunny Isles Boulevard even though the city hired an engineering consultant prior to the August 28 public hearing to review an upzoning plan for the entire Town Center District.

At one point during the public hearing, Mayor Bud was so flustered and upset by the rejection of his upzoning plan and moratorium by residents that he started to call Commissioner Goldman “Mayor Goldman” at least three times.

Maybe term-limited Mayor Bud is right about Commissioner Goldman. The residents of the city want a mayor and elected officials who will follow the law and protect their interest. Right now, Commissioner Goldman is the only one on the commission willing to fight over-development in the city and follow the law.


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15 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Grant,

    Love the work, but you have to look at the people in SIB. A reputation as “Little Moscow” has been flourishing, and with 18% of all new condo purchases going to our Baltic friends, and Russians Occupying 12.4% of residency, perhaps Mayor Bud is taking a little from someone?

    To see Raanan Katz challenging development is like seeing Oscar Mayer Challenging Hebrew National – what is he being cut out of?

    I think the dissenting voice, a lawyer that wants to keep her Bar Card and not be accused of “untoward” and unethical actions, she should be listened to – then run for office.

    I am a native that used to go to the 170th St theater, eat at Nathans, and used to go to the Castaways Bar. I watched Oceania dwarf the skyline as I taught at the Diving Locker on 163rd St. and have to ask “where did the view go?” Answer: To those people pushing Mayor Bud to block it from the rest of the community.

    How about a moratorium on new building?
    How about the time it takes to get from 163rd to the Lehman causeway during rush hour?

    How about the city stops taking away awarded contracts to qualified General Contractors and giving them to the unqualified?

  2. i Don’t live in sib however my eyes r open to the greedy builders. The over building of these monstrosity’s should have been stoped years ago. It is all about the money and people that don’t know how to say NO MORE.

    • It’s crazy how they don’t know how or when to say enough filling their pockets without any concerns of us the residents and small business owners. Very Disappointed with our elected officials

  3. What is happening in Sunny Isles is sickening > the mayor’s proposal is anti common sense > the area has already been destroyed > grew up on the private residential island of Atlantic Isle (on the Intracoastal side of Collins, just to the south of the old Castaways) > back in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, it was idyllic > worked at The Newport during it’s heyday in the late 60’s and early 70’s > then the developers decided to destroy Sunny Isles and it’s been downhill ever since > Commissioner Dana Goldman is absolutely correct and should be applauded for her insight and wisdom > hopefully she will prevail and be elected Mayor.

  4. SIB is an unsightly, overbuilt and ostentatious monument to greed and corruption.
    The only good thing is that other communities can look and learn a lesson in what NOT to do in their own communities.

  5. Interesting comments. As I see it, there is one Commissioner who is behaving like a lobbyist for a developer (RK) and that’s Dana Goldman. Doesn’t anyone think it’s odd that she continually gets praise for being the one who is going to “save our city” when, in fact, she’s acting as a lobbyist for RK? She is a puppet and is using the one-sided community newspaper to elevate her profile. She knows the Infinity project has been off the table for months, she knows that the error caused by the Edelcup/Ottinot administration will be fixed shortly and she knows that the moratorium is the right thing to do. But she’s too into the PR and applause she receives at the meetings from the masses. All this does is feed her ego. She is insufferable. People, open your eyes.

  6. It’s my understanding that this article and the prior articles in this matter were written without contacting any members of the commission which strikes me as terribly unfair. The current issue concerning the Infinity project is not the matter put before the commission at this time. The people’s concerns about over development in this town are way too late. It’s clearly over developed now, and the blame for that goes squarely on the shoulders of Norman Edelcup who was there from the beginning and is considered one of the founding fathers. It was Edelcup and company who did not have the foresight to parcel out the land more efficiently etc. Their failures are in full view and peaking now as our views are gone unless your facing east on the east side of Collins. The traffic here is horrendous at times and we have endured years of lane closures for cement mixer caravans etc. To place the over development of our city on the current commission is just wrong. As far as RK is concerned his only reason for concern is the effect it has on his strip malls. In this case the Town Center strip which he owns 90%. He could care less about any other impact on the city except how it pertains to his retail development and the parking spaces that go along with them. Dana Goldman’s one and only concern is being on the popular side of anything. Her advocacy is anywhere where it will make her more popular. She’s the definition of a political hack. SAD

  7. I think it’s worth digging a bit deeper here. RK owns about 80% of the district in question. So, it’s safe to assume that there won’t be any 9,000 units being built there..ever. But RK wants you to believe that because he is upset about competitive retail stores proposed in the Infinity (which has been off the table since January). So many of you are foolish to believe him when he tells you that lie. Also please ask yourself why Dana Goldman is ardently on the side of RK. She hesitated when asked to vote on the moratorium then voted no after attorney Ottinot vigorously shook his head “no” from his seat. Check out the video. It’s very disturbing to see that. Think about it.So, if you want to talk about a commissioner being owned by a developer and “pocketing money” you should look at Dana first. She is not who you think she is.

  8. The city has so many important issues to address and so far the one “contribution” Dana Goldman has made is to ban plastic straws. That was purely a political move to gain attention but honestly do we want a commissioner in our government who wants to take away our freedoms? In one of her articles she suggested that we need to “decrease our energy, water and fuel consumption” and need to find “alternate modes of transportation”. She wants to dictate to us what kind of everyday choices we make. This is a dangerous path for her to take. If she had any common sense she would try to make our quality of life better, not reduce or take away what we consider to be our rights in this great country. We don’t need a liberal politician spewing crazy ideas in Sunny Isles.

    • The condo real estate developers in Sunny Isles won’t admit this but they don’t support Dana Goldman. Her obsession with climate change is scaring away potential oceanfront buyers. Those that already own real estate there blame her for decreased property values when they hear her call for residents to limit resources. She is the only commissioner that has jumped on the climate change bandwagon in such a militant manner and it’s no surprise…she lacks common sense. Rather than take a broad view of what the great amenities the city has to offer, she is repeating a liberal “cause du jour” like AOC who claims Miami will be under water in a few years. She spews negativity and fear. Her policies are not good for Sunny Isles.

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