The Real Deal Miami

Lennar lawyer held fundraiser for Miami Lakes councilman: report

Councilman's proposal would let developers score permits ahead of construction plan filing

August 19, 2016 11:16AM

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Rendering of the Satori community (Inset: Tony Lama)

Rendering of the Satori community (Inset: Tony Lama)

Miami Lakes councilman Tony Lama has been championing a proposal that would help developers — including Lennar — score building permits faster in the town.

But according to a new report, an attorney who has regularly worked with Lennar in the past held a fundraiser for the councilman the same day he made his proposal.

Under Lama’s proposal, developers would be able to acquire a building permit ahead of the county recording a construction plan, potentially speeding up a project by several months.

The Miami Herald reported that Melissa Tapanes, a high school friend of Lama’s and an attorney at Bercow Radell and Fernandez, hosted a fundraising event for the councilman and gave $1,700 to cover the party’s expenses. Her firm also donated $500 to Lama’s campaign.

The fundraiser was held July 13, the same day Tama’s building permit proposal was dated, the Herald reported.

Lennar is currently planning a massive community with 484 homes called Satori on a former Miami Lakes cow pasture it purchased for $74 million this year from landowner Betty Dunn.

Though Tapanes’ firm has regularly worked with Lennar in the past, she told the Herald that her firm represented Dunn, not the homebuilder, in the deal.

Lama defended his proposal to the Herald, saying it would allow Miami Lakes to gather impact fees from developers sooner, while also accelerating the pace of new projects. He brought up Lennar’s planned community specifically during a July town council meeting as one of the developments that would benefit if the ordinance passes.

“This is the type of behind-the-scenes influence peddling that gives good government a bad name,” Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, who opposed Tama’s plan, told the Herald. “Councilman Lama was elected to represent the public’s interest, not to represent the interest of Lennar or his friend who works for Lennar’s law firm.” [Miami Herald]Sean Stewart-Muniz